As one of the world's top open-wheel driver-development series, the Formula BMW Americas series has provided many drivers with their first experiences in open-wheel racing.
Now in its sixth season of competition, the drivers that have come through the Formula BMW Americas series are climbing to the top of the open-wheel racing world – using lessons learned and skills honed through their time behind the wheel of the BMW FB02 race car.
Inaugural season graduate Graham Rahal has had the most immediate success of anyone to have come through the Formula BMW Americas series since its inception in 2004. The son of three-time Indy Car champion Bobby Rahal has gone on to become the youngest race winner in Indy Car history, claiming that honor with a 2008 victory in the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. One of the rising stars of the series, Rahal has already scored two Indy Car poles this year and started fourth in this year's Indianapolis 500.
"Formula BMW Americas provided me with the best possible training ground to begin my open-wheel racing career," Rahal said. "The car is challenging, the race courses are first-rate and the entire program taught me lessons that I use even today. I could not be happier with my experience that I received during my time in Formula BMW Americas."
The Indy Lights series has seen a strong Formula BMW Americas influence in 2009 with four former drivers earning podium finishes. 2007 grad Sebastian Saavedra sat on pole at St. Pete and won the Lights race at Kansas while Jonathan Summerton placed second at St. Pete as well as winning the pole for the Atlantic race at Sebring.
2005 Formula BMW Americas champion Richard Philippe was second in the Lights race at Long Beach while 2004 competitor James Hinchcliffe has podium results from St. Pete and Long Beach. 2006 graduate Simona de Silvestro has carried the Formula BMW Americas flag to the Atlantic series as well, scoring a victory at Utah last month.
"For me Formula BMW was the perfect first step in my formula car career. The car was designed for drivers transitioning from karts to cars and it fulfills that position flawlessly," said Hinchcliffe. "On top of that, the series is more active than any other on earth in preparing drivers for the other side of being a professional driver. The media training and the introduction to the need for physical training are incredibly valuable to a young driver and I think that FBMW drivers leave so much better prepared and that is why you see so many become successful in racing."