Virginia International Raceway offers a fair number of opportunities for a driver to shift gears while on a trip around its 3.27-mile, 17-turn layout, but it only took one of those shifts to make the difference Friday as Eurointernational’s Giancarlo Vilarinho scored the first pole of his Formula BMW Americas career.
Vilarinho used a best lap of 1:57.314 (100.346 mph) to wrest the pole from series points leader and Eurointernational teammate Gabby Chaves on his 10th time around the circuit, and explains that a change in his shifting strategy made the difference.
“I had been coming back through the back half of the course in fourth gear but my coach Paulo suggested that I try fifth gear through there and it made all the difference,” explained Vilarinho. “I gained two-tenths of a second just through that section after the shift and that is a lot of time. I am very happy about winning the pole and hope that we can carry that momentum through to the race tomorrow.”
Vilarinho’s time was indeed just .152 seconds faster than that of Chaves, but Chaves would hold off a late charge from stablemate Michael Lewis to score the front-row starting spot, leading a sweep of the first two rows by the rampaging Eurointernational squad.
“I feel that I could have done better, I could have pushed a little harder a little sooner, but starting on the outside of the front row is still pretty good I guess,” said Chaves, who is debuting his new sponsorship deal with Cafe de Colombia this weekend. “On this track it might not be as big an advantage to start on pole since the opening straight has a little bend to it and gives drivers a few different lines to choose from.”
Lewis earned his best grid position of the young season after carding a time of 1:57.685 (100.030 mph) to snare the third spot. The Californian vaulted to second in the waning laps of the 30-minute qualifying session before being bumped to third, and a late red flag brought out by Barrett Mertins’ accident ended the session a few minutes early, denying Lewis the chance to reclaim a front-row berth.
“This is a good result for us and it is great for us to come to a track like this one,” Lewis reported. “This is a fast track, it has proper curbing, plenty of runoff area, the surface is smooth and there are lots of opportunities to make a move on someone. These guys really did it right here.”
Olivier Lombard took over for Daniel Vela in the Eurointernational No. 5 car this week after Vela was sidelined with an eye infection, and used a strong final lap to climb into the fourth spot, while Team Apex’s James Kovacic – who came into the weekend second in the series standings – rounded out the top five.
The third round of the Formula BMW Americas Championship will take place on Saturday afternoon, as will qualifying for Sunday’s event, which will be the fourth of 14 rounds on the 2009 series calendar.
Pos Car # Name Team Time
1 9 Giancarlo Vilarinho EuroInternational 1:57.314
2 2 Gabby Chaves EuroInternational 1:57.468
3 42 Michael Lewis EuroInternational 1:57.685
4 5 Olivier Lombard EuroInternational 1:57.861
5 20 James Kovacic Team Apex 1:57.993
6 50 Gianmarco Raimondo Autotecnica 1:58.030
7 14 Alex Ellis Autotecnica 1:58.627
8 18 Joao Victor Horto Team Apex 1:59.008
9 19 Martin Sala Team Apex 1:59.164
10 13 Barrett Mertins Jensen Motorsport 1:59.859
11 6 Wilson Philippe Euro Junior Team 2:00.310
12 21 Robert Garcia Robali Motorsports 2:00.609