In a move which could make a career at the pinnacle of international motorsport a reality for Asian youngsters, BMW Motorsport has increased the funding levels for the five Formula BMW Asia Scholarships to US$50,000 each. The cash contribution represents a substantial percentage of the cost of a season in Formula BMW Asia, and illustrates BMW Motorsports' commitment to developing young racing talent in the region.

Formula BMW Asia is particularly in the spotlight since the achievements of China's Tung Ho Pin, the inaugural champion, were recognised and rewarded with a coveted test drive with the BMW WilliamsF1 Team in Spain last month. The search is already underway for youngsters to follow in his footsteps, and the increased funding provided by the scholarships will mean success on the world stage could become a reality for many more.

The concept behind Formula BMW Asia is to nurture youngsters from the very beginning and groom them for an international motorsport career by training them to the highest possible levels, drawing on the vast expertise and experience of BMW Motorsport. The series is designed for individuals from 15 years-of-age with either karting or only junior level racing experience.

Applications for the chance to qualify for one of the five Formula BMW Asia Scholarships for the 2004 season of the burgeoning series are now open. The Scholarship programme is open to anyone in Asia born between 1982 and 1988, with no international racing experience. It provides a financial contribution of US$50,000 towards the cost of competing in the 2004 Formula BMW Asia season, plus a full Education and Coaching programme, free-of-charge, designed to create skilled, professional young single seater pilots. The programme includes Driving Skills & Tactics, Vehicle Dynamics & Chassis Setup, Fitness Training & Nutrition, Media Training & Public Relations and Sponsorship & Sports Management, and is provided by a team of experts from the field of international motorsport.

The scholarship qualification course will be held during a two day training session at the end of February. Those who complete this program successfully will receive the international C licence. Applications may be made by contacting series organiser, Motorsport Asia Limited, at + 603 2026 1680 or via

So successful is the Formula BMW concept that new series are being launched in the United Kingdom and USA this year. The 10-round UK series will be run to the same calendar as the prestigious British Touring Car Championship, while the US series will see seven rounds run throughout North America.

The winner of the German Formula BMW ADAC Championship in 2002, Nico Rosberg, son of former F1 World Champion Keke, has already been given two tests with the BMW WilliamsF1 Team, and will carry out his third test this week. The interest shown by one of the world's leading F1 teams in Formula BMW drivers who show talent and promise illustrates the importance of the series to drivers seeking a future career at the very top of international motorsport.

In addition to helping youngsters with little or no racing experience to take the first step on the road to an international motorsport career, the series has been designed so that the most talented drivers, rather than the most financially healthy, succeed. It is for this reason that both the car and the training programme have been devised so that little if any advantage can be obtained by extra investment. For example, there are a limited number of gear ratios that may be used and the Schnitzer Motorsport built engines are sealed to ensure equality of performance.

The Formula BMW, which sets new benchmarks in terms of safety technology, empty weighs 455 kilograms. A 140 bhp BMW four-cylinder engine propels the car to speeds of up to 230 km/h.

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.

After only one season Formula BMW Asia is now a recognised training ground for future Asian F1 stars, and attracts avid media attention in both Asia and Europe.

Formula BMW Asia runs as part of the Asian Festival of Speed, the region?s leading motorsport series, organised by Malaysian-based Motorsport Asia Limited.

Commented Motorsport Asia's Managing Director, David Sonenscher, "The increased scholarship funding now provides an unprecedented opportunity for young Asian drivers. The fact that our 2003 champion was given a Formula One test by BMW shows just how closely the series is followed around the world, and the recognition it has achieved after just one season. Without doubt Formula BMW Asia must be the number one choice for any youngster looking for an international single seater career at the very top level".