The first step to Formula One
British motor sport will receive a major boost in 2004 with the introduction of the Formula BMW UK Championship. Designed to be the perfect launch-pad for the next generation of Grand Prix stars, Formula BMW features mini-F1 cars – complete with wings and slick racing tyres – powered by a 140 bhp engine that comes directly from the BMW K 1200 RS motorcycle. With packed grids of evenly matched cars plus top speeds approaching 140 mph, Formula BMW championships have already proved a huge hit with both young drivers and fans in Germany and the Far East. Now the UK, too, will host its own race series with full backing from BMW UK and BMW Motorsport in Germany.
The 2004 Formula BMW UK Championship will be won and lost over 10 race weekends with each meeting featuring two Formula BMW races to create a
20-round series. All of these double-header fixtures will be held in conjunction with the UK’s premier motor sport drawcard, the high-profile British Touring Car Championship.
“We are delighted to have put together such a high-profile calendar,” says Peter Walker, Motor Sport Manager, BMW UK. “As part of the BTCC package, the 2004 Formula BMW UK Championship will enjoy substantial exposure up and down the country offering fans thrilling entertainment and business partners a high-profile platform for their all-important corporate activities.”
“Formula BMW is firmly established around the globe as the best entry level form of motor racing for promising young karters seeking to graduate to single-seaters on their way to Formula One,” says BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen. “With the BMW WilliamsF1 Team leading the FIA World
Championship and with the recent decline of some other British junior formulae, we believe this to be the perfect time for us to introduce Formula BMW into the UK. The series will have BMW’s full support. To that end, BMW UK will be offering an unprecedented package of scholarships, driver education and coaching plus prize money in our efforts not only to discover new talent but also to provide all of our young graduates with the right credentials for them to go the whole way to the top. We are also in pole position to maximise our partnership with the BMW WilliamsF1 Team to the undoubted benefit of our ambitious young competitors.”
Underlining its overriding emphasis on youth, it is hoped that the 2004 Formula BMW UK Championship will be open to all those aged between 15 and 25 on
1 January, 2004 providing they hold the appropriate grade of competition licence. BMW UK is currently seeking special dispensation from the Motor Sports Association, the governing body of motor sport in UK, for 15-year-olds to compete in a British single-seater championship for the first time in UK motor sport history.
“Formula BMW championships in Germany and Asia are also open to 15-year-olds and we are working closely with the MSA to ensure we, too, have this new age limit,” confirms Walker. “The overriding philosophy behind the Formula BMW concept is to provide those with a proven track record in kart racing with a comprehensive insight into car racing. The series introduces talented young drivers to all the various demands of professional motor racing. Apart from honing their driving skills, this also entails physical fitness programmes and tuition in other aspects of the sport, such as technology, sponsorship and media work. Moreover, we are confident that BMW’s pro-active role in the running and promotion of the championship will make it easier for teenagers to join forces with teams and parents in finding sponsors for their training programme.”
The BMW-powered single-seaters are not only designed to teach racecraft and race car set-up to a new age group but they also establish a new benchmark for safety technology – more so in 2004 when the cars will be adapted to incorporate the latest HANS head and neck protection system as proven in F1 and F3000. The race cars feature a state-of-the-art carbon-fibre chassis, fulfil the safety requirements for the far more powerful Formula 3 models, and even reach some Formula One standards with innovations such as the BMW Formula Rescue Seat (FORS).
On top of providing the best possible sporting environment for tomorrow’s F1 stars to earn their spurs, BMW UK is also backing five carefully selected Juniors all aged under 18 with scholarships each worth £35,000. These beneficiaries will be selected on merit before the start of next season via a two-stage evaluation course being run at the Formula BMW Racing Centre at Valencia, Spain. This unique scholarship programme is the latest chapter in BMW’s history of nurturing young talent – a history that dates back to the era of the hot-blooded BMW Junior Team featuring Eddie Cheever, Marc Surer and Manfred Winkelhock in the late seventies as well as to the memorable BMW M1 Procar Series in which young drivers pitted their talents against Formula One stars at Grands Prix.
Bridging the gap to F1 with the BMW WilliamsF1 Team
Every Formula BMW competitor will harbour a dream of making it all the way to Formula One – and that’s a dream BMW is well positioned to fuel through its Grand Prix-winning partnership with the renowned BMW WilliamsF1 Team. As part of their education, racers will be able to participate in a wide variety of exclusive activities in conjunction with BMW WilliamsF1 including special lectures and visits to Formula One tests.
Team principal, Sir Frank Williams, will also present a special Frank Williams Trophy for sportsmanship and he will certainly be following the fortunes of those competing. “Formula BMW represents an excellent and cost effective platform to introduce talent to motor racing. I am confident that next year’s series will be a great success and I would not be surprised if, in years to come, its British graduates are contenders in Formula One,” says Sir Frank.