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Kiwi wins 2006 Asian Formula BMW title


New Zealand motor racing has a new star in Earl Bamber who won the 2006 Asian Formula BMW title at the Zhuhai track in China last Sunday.

16 year-old Bamber is the first rookie ever to win the Formula BMW championship and did so emphatically with three wins from three starts.

Bamber, who was still only 15 years old when the series began at the Malaysian Grand Prix in March, has been the driver to beat throughout the series. The kiwi, who has driven for Team Meritus throughout the season, was the dominant driver over the 19 - round championship. Bamber won the series with 290 points, ahead of the consistent Australian Sam Abay on 274 while another Australian Daniel Ricciardo was third on 231 points.

Bamber also lowered the lap record at Sepang in Malaysia, the Bira Circuit in Thailand and Sentul in Indonesia on his way to the title.

Earl Bamber said he was "pretty stoked" with his international success.

"We had an up and down season, we won a lot of races but we had a few breakdowns that made the championship difficult for us. It was a big ask to come here to win the championship as we needed to win all three races to do it," said Bamber.

Formula BMW is the world's leading entry-level championship in Formula racing and has launched the Formula 1 careers of Ralph Schumacher, Christian Klien and Nico Rosberg. The 2006 series has been held in Germany, the UK, Asia and the USA with more than 80 up-and-coming drivers competing worldwide.

The 2006 Formula BMW series included racing five times in support of the Formula One World Championship attracting a global audience.

"At the beginning of the season we had a choice of teams and we chose Team Meritus as they have been the number one team in the series over four years. They proved to be the right choice and I owe a vote of thanks to my engineer Danny, my mechanic Charlie and data engineer Firhat. Team owners Firhat and Peter Thompson run a thoroughly professional race team that is dedicated to winning," said Bamber.

Wanganui-based Bamber commuted to Asia throughout the year while continuing his 5th form studies at Wanganui Collegiate. Bamber returned to New Zealand this week to race the New Zealand series at Pukekohe starting on 5 November. He will then travel to Valencia to compete in the world finals at the end of November at which drivers from the four regional Formula BMW series will compete against each other with the winner receiving a test drive with the BMW Sauber F1 Team.

Final Formula BMW Asia Points.
1. Earl Bamber (NZL/Team Meritus) 290 points; 2. Sam Abay (AUS/Team E-Rain) 274 points; 3. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/Eurasia Motorsport) 231 points; 4. James Grunwell (THA/Team Meritus) 164 points; 5. Aaron Lim (MAS/Eurasia Motorsport) 144 points; 6. Dominic Storey (NZL/Eurasia Motorsport) 142 points; 7. Zahir Ali (INA/Eurasia Motorsport) 85 points; 8. Mohammed Al Baharna (BRN/Team E-Rain) 82 points; 9. Aditya Akkineni (IND/Team E-Rain) 59 points; 10. Hamed Al Fardan (BRN/Team Meritus) 40 points; 11. Hafiz bin Helmi (SIN/Team Meritus) 9 points; 12. Rayomand Banajee (IND/Privateer) 1 point.

Final Rookie Cup Points Standings.
1. Earl Bamber 315 points; 2. Daniel Ricciardo 268 points; 3. James Grunwell 232 points; 4. Dominic Storey 198 points; 5. Aditya Akkineni 164 points.

Winners 2006: Earl Bamber (10); Sam Abay (5); Ricciardo (2); Al Fardan (2)
Pole Positions: Earl Bamber (10); Abay (6); Ricciardo (2); Grunwell (1)
Podiums: Abay (15); Earl Bamber (14); Grunwell (7); Ricciardo (12); Storey (5); Lim (2); Al Fardan (2)

Rookie Cup Winners: Earl Bamber (13); Ricciardo (3); Grunwell (2); Storey (1)

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