Racing Scholarship = Filipino F1 Driver?

- Brian Afuang -
This is yet another confirmation that Asia is one hot region in the field of motor racing these days.

BMW Motorsport announced late last week that it has increased its funding for the Formula BMW Asia Scholarship. Five successful applicants will receive up to US$50,000 each. This cash contribution shoulders a substantial percentage of the cost of racing in Formula BMW Asia for an entire season. The move is seen as a concrete illustration of BMW Motorsport’s commitment in developing young racing talent in the region.

Nico Rosberg, the son of former Formula One world champ Keke Rosberg, was given a chance to test for the BMW Williams F1 Team. The younger Rosberg got the coveted drive because he was the German Formula BMW ADAC champion in 2002. Many believe Rosberg’s drive is a clear indication leading F1 teams have their eyes set on the BMW Formula Series as talent pools for future F1 drivers.

But the big news is that F1 is also looking past Europe and the Americas for F1-caliber talent. With the inclusion of China as one of the F1 Grand Prix venues this year (to be held in Shanghai), F1 apparently also welcomes aspirants from this part of Asia as well.

Formula BMW Asia is in the spotlight since China’s Tung Ho Pin, the Formula BMW Asia inaugural season champion, was recognized by BMW Williams F1 Team as possible F1 driver material. As a result, Tung was awarded a test drive with the BMW Williams F1 Team in Spain last month. In a news release, BMW motorsport said the search for youngsters who will follow in Tung’s footsteps is already underway, and the increased funding provided by the scholarships could mean success on the world stage for many more F1 hopefuls.

The Philippines’ own local racing talents have also recognized the Formula BMW series’s potential as a stepping stone to higher levels of international motor racing that could ultimately lead to F1. Last season, Don Pastor, a talented young Filipino driver qualified for the scholarship program and competed in the series. This season, his older brother Enzo, who’s earning a reputation as a talent to reckon with, will race in the series as well (though not under the scholarship program).

But the attraction of Formula BMW is not only limited among local young drivers as even veteran talents are also signifying their intention in competing in the series. Mike Potenciano, for one, who is a champion race driver who has had extensive experience in almost all sorts of motor racing events, has expressed interest in competing in the series this year (although obviously not under the scholarship program). According to Potenciano, one of the appeals of Formula BMW is that, being a one-make series, driving talent and skill and the team’s setup is given more emphasis.

Apparently, the chance to gain even more international recognition plus the experience of the competition itself is a major factor for Potenciano too. "BMW has given great support (in motorsport events). And if the planned world finals (for Formula BMW) pushes through, then it will surely be great to run in it," Potenciano said.

Formula BMW Asia aims to nurture youngsters from the very beginning of their racing careers and groom them for international motorsport competitions by training them to the highest possible levels, utilizing the expertise and experience of BMW Motorsport. The series is designed for individuals from 15 years old with either karting or junior level racing experience.

The series has been designed so that the most talented drivers, rather than the most financially secure, will succeed. As such, both the car and the training program have been devised so that little, if any advantage, can be obtained by additional expenses. For example, there are a limited number of gear ratios that can be used for a race and the Schnitzer Motorsport built engines are sealed to ensure equality of performance.

Applications for the chance to qualify for one of the five Formula BMW Asia Scholarships for the 2004 season are now open. The program is open to anyone in Asia born between 1982 and 1988, with no international racing experience. In 2004, the series is scheduled to visit Malaysia, Thailand, Korea, Japan and China, and will once again boast of field of drivers from across the Asian region.

And this could well be the break local F1 hopefuls are waiting for.

• The scholarship qualification course will be held during a two-day training session at the end of February. Those who successfully complete this program will receive the international C license. For information, contact Motorsport Asia Limited through www.bmw-motorsport.com.












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