Chaves sets Formula BMW Americas track record at Putnam Park test
Eurointernational's young Gabby Chaves has had six weeks since the last Formula BMW Americas race to think about losing the series points lead, standing second for the first time after teammate Giancarlo Vilarinho snatched the top spot away with a brilliant three-race performance at Miller Motorsports Park.
It appears that the 16-year-old Chaves isn't fond of second place.
In the series' first on-track action since the May 17 trip to Utah, Chaves went out and set a new Putman Park track record on Saturday, getting around the 1.807-mile layout in 1:13.669 to lead a two-day Formula BMW Americas test session where temperatures climbed into the 90-degree range.
"I was quite happy to get the track record," Chaves grinned. "We had a little trouble on Friday with traffic and getting bottled up during what should have been our fastest laps but today the conditions were just right for us and we were quick. Even though this isn't a track that we race at, I think you learn every day and tests like this are a great way to try some things with the team that you can't do on a race weekend."
Points leader Vilarinho was the only other driver to get under 74 seconds around the Putnam Park circuit, also breaking the barrier on Saturday morning after carding the quickest time of Friday's three sessions. The Brazilian leads Chaves by five points after seven races, coming back from a season-opening DNF to become the first
driver ever to win five consecutive Formula BMW Americas races in a season. Last year's series champion Alexander Rossi won four straight to close 2008 and then won the post-season World Final for a fifth consecutive victory.
"Putnam Park is good for testing these cars, I tested here a lot two years ago," Vilarinho said. "There are two fast, fifth-gear corners, a chicane, and good mix of slower corners and some room to go quick. Plus it was good to test in the heat, as it allows you to test your fitness level as well, which will be a factor later in the season."
Gianmarco Raimondo of Autotecnica set the third-quickest time over the two days and led the final session on Saturday. Team Apex showed steady improvement over its two days as the three-car team climbed the speed sheets. Rookie James Kovacic showed the fruits of the Team Apex labors in Saturday's final session as he vaulted to
fourth on the overall charts with a best time of 1:14.511, bumping Eurointernational's Michael Lewis to fifth ahead of Formula BMW Junior participant Alex Ellis.
"It's been a little while since we were in the cars, but we have been working very hard on our fitness training through the Formula BMW Junior program and it is paying off," Ellis said. "The cars felt good and we think we found some things this weekend that will help us once we get back to racing in a couple of weeks."