Following the triumphant 2004 season opener as a support event to the Gulf Air Bahrain Formula 1 Grand Prix, Rounds 3 and 4 of Formula BMW Asia will form part of the Japan GT Championship weekend at Sepang International Circuit on June 19.
The announcement was greeted with delight by both teams and drivers, and means that, in addition to supporting two Formula 1 events this year in Bahrain and Shanghai, and forming part of the Asian Festival of Speed, Formula BMW Asia drivers will have the opportunity to show their racing mettle to the Japan GT manufacturers and teams.
Said current series points leader, Marchy Lee of Hong Kong: "It is brilliant that Formula BMW Asia will support the Japan GT Championship in June. It is one of the biggest racing events in Asia, and it is followed by a huge number of racing fans. I am very excited and looking forward to the race." The Team Meritus driver continued: "Being a support race to the Japan GT Championship allows us to have tremendous exposure, especially in the Japanese market. It's a chance to show even more major automobile manufacturers what we can do this season."
The announcement was also welcomed by Minardi Team Asia boss Piers Hunnisett: "The organisers have done a fantastic job in securing an event with the Japan GT Championship at Sepang. This is great news and will give our drivers the chance to perform in front of some of the world's biggest motor manufacturers."
Hunnisett also believes the event offers a valuable opportunity to the Formula BMW Asia drivers: "For a driver, the chance to meet with the team managers of these (Japan GT) teams could be very beneficial for their future as not only are the teams involved with GT racing, but most have an association with Formula 3 and Formula Nippon teams."
The June 19 date in Malaysia is a change to the previous provisional race calendar, with the rounds re-scheduled due to a transportation hitch following the Bahrain event. Rounds 5 and 6 will be held at the Bira Circuit in Thailand on July 11.
To assist the drivers prepare for the June event, organisers have arranged additional testing at Sepang for the teams prior to the next rounds.
Said Marchy Lee: "I am delighted we have more time to prepare for the next races. Also, we are now given more official testing. This is a very good arrangement, and extremely useful for us because we can now spend more time with the car so we're on top form for the next rounds."
The ultra-modern Formula BMW which allows 15-year-olds to enter the world of motor racing has been lining up on the grid since the 2002 season. It sets standards above all on the safety technology front. The single-seater, driven by a 140 bhp BMW motorcycle engine that takes it up to 230 km/h, features a carbon-fibre chassis, fulfils the safety requirements of the much higher-performance Formula 3 cars, and even matches certain Formula One standards.
Formula BMW Asia, now in its second season, runs as part of the Asian Festival of Speed (AFOS) organised by Motorsport Asia Limited. This year the series is run over 14 rounds at seven venues in Bahrain, Malaysia, Thailand, Korea, China and Japan. It will culminate in a second Formula One Grand Prix support race at Shanghai in September.