Beijing, China - Salman Al Khalifa, 24 (BAH/Team E-Rain), notched up his fourth victory of the season at Beijing's 2.4km Goldenport Circuit today, taking the win after a dramatic race. Fellow countryman, 18-year-old Hamed Al Fardan (Team Meritus) took second, making it a one-two for Bahrain, with team mate and Rookie Charlie-Ro Charlez, 19, in third.
After seven races of the 14-round 2005 season, Al Khalifa retains his place at the top of the leaderboard, with Charlez and Al Fardan just one point apart.
It was the second consecutive win for Al Khalifa who triumphed in Round 6 in Thailand last month, where Al Fardan also had to settle for second-best. For Charlez, it was his third podium of the season so far.
It was an eventful race and Al Khalifa's victory celebrations were slightly delayed. BMW Junior Michael Patrizi (AUS/Team Meritus), who had been running behind the leader for 19 of the 20-lap race, made a dramatic last- gasp dash past Al Khalifa to take the chequered flag, taking the race leader by surprise. However, the 21-year-old was penalised for a jump start which put him down to 8th in the race classification.
Said Al Khalifa: "I made a mistake and I've now learned not to let my guard down - last lap doesn't mean chequered flag! It's something that hopefully only happens once in one's racing career."
Al Khalifa got away well from pole, with Patrizi, Al Fardan and Charlez in hot pursuit. Mid-way through the race, BMW Junior Wang Jian Wei of China (Ao's Racing Team) lost control on the straight, spinning spectacularly in front of the grandstand packed with thousands of Beijing race fans who had turned out for the event. Wang controlled the spin superbly and managed to continue, climbing back through the field to finish 10th.
Patrizi, meanwhile, was closing in on Al Khalifa at the front of the field as a few drops of rain fell, threatening to turn to dusty track into an ice rink, and made his audacious manoeuvre in the last few metres to the chequered flag.
Behind the podium finishers, the next three places were taken by BMW Juniors Armaan Ebrahim (IND/Team E-Rain) 16, who struggled with a gear box problem, An Suk Won (KOR/Team E-Rain), and Robert Boughey (THA/Team Meritus).
In the Rookie Cup, Charlez tops the points, followed by Ebrahim and Patrizi.
Despite not making it on to the podium, Wang enjoyed racing in front of his home crowd who turned out in record numbers for the region's premier single seater series, with an estimated 15 thousand spectators: "I really enjoyed the weekend, and it's wonderful that so many of my fellow countrymen came to see some exciting, live motorsport. It shows just how popular the sport - and this series - is in my country."
Formula BMW is the world's leading entry-level class in Formula racing. In 2005 the series will be held in Germany, Britain, Asia and the USA. Up-and- coming drivers as young as 15-years-old are given the opportunity of entering motor racing with the high-tech, standard FB02 race car.
This racing car has been seen on the grid since 2002 and has set standards particularly on the safety technology front. The single-seater is propelled by a 140 bhp BMW engine up to 230km/h and exceeds by far the safety requirements for its class. BMW Motorsport has developed the FORS Formula Rescue Race Seat especially for Formula BMW. The HANS safety system is also mandatory.
In 2005, Formula BMW will be staged five times as part of the Formula One support programme. All the series offer a multifaceted Education and Coaching Programme as well as sponsorship for promising racing talents. The best-known alumni of this talent hothouse are Formula One drivers Ralf Schumacher and Christian Klien.
BMW Motorsport Director, Mario Theissen: "Formula BMW offers talented young drivers more than just a car. In the Education and Coaching Programme we have designed specially for them, they learn everything they need to know to hold their own in the big wide world of motor racing. Formula BMW has shot out of the blocks to become the top entry-level class for Formula racing worldwide."
In December 2005 the Bahrain International Circuit will host the first Formula BMW World Final. Young racing drivers from the four regional Formula BMW series will compete against each other. The winner will get a Formula One test drive.