(PresseBox) (Denver, Colo., )A race-long battle between front-row starters Matt Lee (Team Autotecnica) and Reed Stevens (HBR Motorsport Team USA) ended with polesitter Lee taking the Round 11 Formula BMW USA victory today at the Grand Prix of Denver by 3.790 seconds over Stevens. The win was Lee's second of the season and moves the 16-year old nine points closer to overall championship leader Robert Wickens (EuroInternational) who finished fourth today. Lee set the fastest lap of the race (1:15.356) on lap 21 of the 23-lap contest to record a new race record. John Zartarian (Gelles Racing) finished on the final step of the Round 11 podium after starting from the fifth starting position.
Lee and Stevens made excellent starts as third-place starter Wickens did not get away cleanly and fell back to seventh. As the front two traded the lead and opened up a gap on the rest of the 24-car field Zartarian, Daniel Morad (AIM Autosport), Simona de Silvestro (EuroInternational) and Jordan Dick (Team Apex Racing USA) battled for the top-five positions. On lap 14 Lee squeezed by Stevens in turn three for the final pass between the two for the day. The next lap saw contact between Dick and de Silvestro that put Dick out of the race. De Silvestro was able to continue for three more laps, ultimately finishing 21st, one position ahead of Dick. Today's finish was only the third time de Silvestro has finished out of the top-five this season retaining her third place in the overall points standings. Zartarian held onto third in the closing stages of the race as a charging Wickens fought back to finish fourth.
Morad's fifth place finish made him the highest-finishing Rookie driver. The remaining top-five finishing Rookie drivers were Sebastian Saavedra (P7), Robert Thorne (P9), David Garza (P10 and Maxime Pelletier (P14).
The most improved driver of the race was Ryan Phinny (Hearn Motorsports) who made up 12 places from his 18th starting position to finish 6th.
Lee's win secures him the second position in the Overall championship and decreases Wickens' lead to only nine points. De Silvestro stands third, only 22 points behind Lee. Stevens moves up to fourth and Stefano Coletti (EuroInternational) who returned to the Formula BMW Germany championship rounds out the top-five.
The Rookie points are now the tightest of the season. Gaining 20 points with the best Rookie finish today Morad moves to second place in a tie with Sebastian Saavedra (Gelles Racing), four points behind Rookie points leader David Garza (EuroInternational). Maxime Pelletier (Gelles Racing) and Jordan Dick stand fourth and fifth respectively.
"It was a big battle between me and Reed today," said Lee. "I managed to get by him close to the end and pull away. Most all of my car was excellent today, but it was a little bit slow on the straights. Hopefully we can fix the speed and I can get a good start in tomorrow's race. My win today brought me quite close to Robert Wickens in the points and I hope I will win the championship."
Stevens said, "It was a very difficult race. I was pushing really hard in the opening laps to try to build a gap to Matt Lee. I built a gap twice, but was not able to keep it. He was extremely fast on the infield and we were waiting a little while for our tires to come in. Unfortunately we did everything we could, but it wasn't quite enough. So we will make a few changes and hopefully we can solve our problems today. I think a win is possible tomorrow if we have a little bit luck in the opening laps to get ahead and stay with Matt. If we make some good changes for the car and if it works well we should be able to win at the end."
Zartarian said, "I am very happy with my third position. I didn't see Simona's and Jordan's contact. I was too focused on what was in front of me. I tried to get away from everyone behind me in the opening laps and finish the race on the podium. It was maybe a fortune for me that this happened but I don't think it affected my race too much. I was really surprised that there were no yellow flags today. I think some people are going to try to push a little bit more tomorrow, but my deal will be finishing, driving well and scoring points."
The Round 12 race is scheduled to start at 10:15 a.m. tomorrow.
Championship points after 11 of 14 races:
1. Robert Wickens (Team Apex Racing USA, 122), 2. Matt Lee (Autotecnica, 113), 3. Simona de Silvestro (EuroInternational, 91), 4. Reed Stevens (HBR Motorsport Team USA, 87), 5. Stefano Coletti (EuroInternational, 77), 6. Daniel Morad (AIM Autosport, 57), 7. John Zartarian (Gelles Racing, 56), 8. David Garza (EuroInternational, 41), 9. Race Johnson (HBR Motorsport Team USA, 38), 10. Sebastian Saavedra (Gelles Racing, 31), 11. Ryan Phinny (Hearn Motorsports, 27), 12. Tom Sutherland (Jensen Motorsport, 23), 12. Tobias Hegewald (Atlantic Racing Team, 23), 14. Doug Boyer (AIM Autosport, 21), 15. Adrien Herberts (Gelles Racing, 19), 16. Maxime Pelletier (Gelles Racing, 18), 17. Ryan Campbell (Gelles Racing, 15), 18. Scott Schroeder (American Spirit Grand Prix, 12), 19. Yannick Hofman (HBR Motorsport Team USA, 8), 20. Jordan Dick (Team Apex Racing USA, 6), 20. Philip Major (Atlantic Racing Team, 6), 20. Robert Thorne (Team Autotecnica, 6), 23. Alex Navejar (Jensen Motorsport, 1), 24. Jules Duc (Hearn Motorsports, 0), 24. Marco Santos (Haberfeld & Walker Racing, 0), 24. Steven Guerrero (HBR Motorsport Team USA, 0), 24. David Rangel (Haberfeld & Walker Racing, 0), 24. David Farias (Jensen Motorsport, 0), 24. Joel Jackson (Gelles Racing, 0), 24. Frankie Muniz (Jensen Motorsport, 0), 24. Maryeve Dufault (Hearn Motorsports, 0)
Rookies: 1. David Garza (139), 2. Sebastian Saavedra (135), 2. Daniel Morad (135), 4. Maxime Pelletier (132), 5. Jordan Dick (85), 6. Robert Thorne (79), 7. Steven Guerrero (71), 8. Joel Jackson (57)
Formula BMW is the world's leading entry-level championship in Formula racing. In 2006 the series will be held in Germany, the UK, Asia and the USA. More than 80 up-and-coming drivers, some as young as 15-years old, will compete worldwide. Racing five times in support of the Formula One World Championship, Formula BMW offers a worldwide stage, training through a multifaceted Education and Coaching Program and BMW's longstanding Junior scholarship for deserving drivers.
The FB02 race car is propelled by a 140 bhp BMW engine, reaching speeds up to 140 mph. The design exceeds the FIA safety requirements for its class, with the BMW Motorsport developed FORS (Formula Rescue Race Seat), and the mandatory HANS (Head and Neck Support) safety system.
From November 24 to 26, 2006 the Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo will host the second Formula BMW World Final. Young racing drivers from the four regional Formula BMW series will compete against each other with the winner receiving a test drive with the BMW Sauber F1 Team.