Vilarinho scores third straight Formula BMW Americas win
Giancarlo Vilarinho (Eurointernational) continued pursuing his first Formula BMW
Americas title on a sunny Friday in Tooele, Utah, going wire-to-wire to score his third consecutive series victory and climbing to within nine points of the series lead after five of the year's 14 races.
The 17-year-old Vilarinho earned his third consecutive pole in the morning's qualifying session and made it stick with a strong performance that saw him fight off early advances from teammate Gabby Chaves and Autotecnica's Gianmarco Raimondo. Chaves maintained his lead in the championship with a second-place result, making the 15-year-old Floridian the only driver in the series to finish on the podium in every race so far this year.
Vilarinho needed a handful of laps to get away from his two closest pursuers, but once clear he was able to stretch his lead with each pass around the 2.2-mile Miller Motorsports Park course, taking the checkered flag 2.994 seconds ahead of the field.
"It was tough because the track got very dirty as the race went on and the guys were putting a lot of pressure on me," voiced Vilarinho, who not only stayed in front, but ran the fastest lap of the race in the event's final laps. "But I just tried to keep my focus and turn some good laps and I was able to stay in front and get the win."
Chaves ended up second after holding off a charge from Raimondo, who had gotten a good jump on the Eurointernational driver at the standing start. Chaves battled throughout each of the 15 laps in the event, but could not get close enough to the leader and settled for his third straight second-place finish.
"I wasn't too concerned with what was going on behind me, I was just trying to get close enough to make a move on Giancarlo," Chaves reported. "I made one mistake and went off a little bit, and what that did was to keep me from taking advantage when the leader made a slight mistake a lap later. But we're still in the points lead and we'll go back after them tomorrow."
Raimondo earned his third podium finish of the year with a third-place run on Friday, solidifying his hold on the third spot in the overall standings. The Formula BMW Junior driver nearly got around Chaves at the start, but took a spot behind the points leader as the field poured through Turn One. He was on the rear wing of Chaves on a couple of occasions, but would eventually settle for the final step on the podium.
"Everyone is really quick here and guys are doing pretty much the same times so it's just a matter of keeping your times consistent and getting as much as you can out of your car and your setup," Raimondo reported. "You can't really force the issue, you just have to wait for an opportunity and be ready to take advantage when it comes."
American Michael Lewis (Eurointernational) came home in fourth to take top-rookie honors while Australian James Kovacic of Team Apex rounded out the top five. Formula BMW Junior driver Alex Ellis (Autotecnica) rebounded from a mid-race spin to make two late-race passes, promoting himself to sixth in the final results and allowing him to maintain a two-point lead over Kovacic in the rookie standings.