By: Norris McDonald/Wheels.ca
Teenager Gianmarco Raimondo of St. Catharines won a thrilling duel against Gabby Chaves of Colombia today to capture the first of two BMW-Americas championship races at Mosport International Raceway.
The Formula BMW race was the first of six scheduled support events for the annual Mobil 1 Presents the Grand Prix of Mosport featuring the exotic prototypes and touring cars of the American Le Mans Series.
In the BMW race, it came down to the last lap of the 30-minute timed contest. Raimondo had led from the start but Chavez, in second place, was pressing closer and closer.
Coming out of Moss Corner (in reality, two turns – corners 5 and 5A), Chavez tried to duck inside Raimondo and bobbled slightly. It was enough for “Gee-Mo” to open up a gap and he held on for his first victory of the season.
Chavez, who clinched the 2009 title previously, came home second and Giancarlo Vilarinho of Brazil finished third.
The second BMW race of the weekend – and the final race in the BMW-Americas championship series, which was cancelled as the result of BMW’s exit from Formula One – will go to the post tomorrow morning.
Today’s event was run on a slightly damp track as the result of overnight and morning rain and that proved to beRaimondo’s advantage and Chavez’s undoing.
“Every lap, I was quicker and quicker than Gianmarco through there (Moss Corner),” Chavez said afterward.
“Unfortunately, the track was still a little bit wet and it didn’t work out. But it was a great race and it’s still my championship, so I’m happy.”
Raimondo, 18, said the hardest part of the race for him was “staying consistent.”
“You weren’t a hundred per cent sure if the track was dry so you had to be careful out there,” he said.
For Raimondo’s 17-year-old St. Catharines neighbour, Alex Ellis, it’s all going to come down to tomorrow.
Ellis finished fourth in today’s Formula BMW-Americas race and is sitting second in the rookie championship standings behind American Michael Lewis.
If he wins the race tomorrow and Lewis finishes down in the order (or any combination of finish that gives Ellis eight more points than Lewis), then he’ll win the rookie title.
Practice and qualifying for all other support series, as well as the American Le Mans Series itself, is continuing this afternoon.
Racing in all classes starts tomorrow morning and the ALMS headliner, a 2-hour, 45-minute timed event, will start at 3:05 p.m.