Formula BMW Asia, the region's most exciting single seater racing series, will head to the challenging Bira Circuit in Thailand, on the 19th and 20th of July for Rounds 7 and 8. The field from across Southeast Asia represents the region's most talented racing young drivers, many of whom look set for promising international motorsport careers.
All eyes will be on Thai national Nattapong Horthorthungkum who will be flying the flag for his country. The 22-year-old Bangkok-born Nattapong is the only Thai national driver competing in the inaugural season of the Formula BMW Asia Series, and has so far impressed with two podium finishes and competitive performances. He will doubtless be inspired by strong local support.
One of only five drivers selected for the Formula BMW scholarship programme, Nattapong expressed his determination to do well in the upcoming races at Bira Circuit in Thailand. "I aim to deliver a good result on home turf, and equally important, for the rest of the season," he said recently.
"Winning the scholarship from BMW is definitely a great opportunity for me to improve my career professionally. However, what counts in motor racing is consistency of performance and experience. I am still in the process of developing these attributes. However, with professional training from BMW, I've already built a good foundation," he added.
Commenting on the comprehensive training programme provided by BMW as part of the scholarship Nattapong said, "The training is highly demanding, but it is fundamental for a driver who aims to compete in a higher formula in the future. The course includes not only driving skills and technical knowledge about the BMW cars, but also physical training and a nutrition course."
Truly representative of the Asian region, the Formula BMW Asia field is made up of drivers from Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea and India, five of whom are recipients of Formula BMW scholarships.
The impressive BMW single seater machine tips the scales dry (empty) at 455 kilograms. A 140 bhp BMW four-cylinder engine based on the famous motorcycle unit propels the car to speeds of up to 230 km/h (143 mph).
Tung Ho-Pin of China currently leads the driver's championship with 95 points followed by Lin Po-Heng from Taiwan on 82. In Third place is Keiko Ihara from Japan on 72, followed by Nattapong on 53. Team Meritus leads the way in the team championship with 120 points, followed by Team Yellow hat and Three Crowns Racing Team on 83 and 59 respectively. In the Rookie division, Korean You Kyong-Ouk with the BMW Korea-E-Rain Team leads the standings on 95 points.
The Formula BMW Asia Series runs as part of the Asia Festival of Speed (AFOS), organized by Motorsport Asia Limited. The AFOS also includes the Asian Touring Car Series, the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia, and the Asian Formula 3 Series. This year AFOS visits Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea, Japan and China.