BROWNING AND HOGGARD WIN CHAOTIC iRACING BRITISH F4 TROPHY RACES AT OULTON PARK
Another new race winner was delivered in the latest rounds of the iRacing British F4 Trophy at Oulton Park last night, as Johnathan Hoggard became the fifth different name to stand atop the podium, while teammate Luke Browning kept his charge for the championship on track as he too secured a race win.
A frantic qualifying session saw pole position change hands several times in the short 10-minute session, with the top spot eventually taken by Fortec’s Luke Browning with a lap that put him a quarter of a second clear of the rest of the field for the first race. Points leader and teammate Chris Lulham ensure another team lockout of the front row with 2nd fastest, followed by Rafael Martins of Brazil for Arden and Carlin’s Zak O’Sullivan on the second row. Alexey Nesov continued to impress from his Silverstone debut with the fifth fastest time ahead of Brands Hatch race winner Nico Varrone, while the 2019 British F4 champion Zane Maloney and Johnathan Hoggard made up the fourth row.
Lulham got away a fraction quicker than Browning to put the two Fortec cars parallel to each other heading into Old Hall for the first time, and Chris managed to put his nose in front exiting the turn but still with Browning to his outside. Translating into the inside line at the bottom of the hill at Cascades, Browning cleanly manoeuvred back through as the pack charged towards the Island hairpin for the first time. At said hairpin, O’Sullivan made light contact with Martins in his pass for 3rd, which in turn edged the Brazilian into Nesov, but that was nothing compared to the incident behind them that caught up several cars as a result, with the chain reaction started by Sebastian Priaulx receiving a tag from a fellow Arden car behind him. This, in turn, threw the safety car into action before the end of Lap 1. Incredibly, Josh Skelton seemed to suffer from brain fade moments after the pack began to bunch up as he clattered into the rear of Alex Connor’s car, forcing him to fast tow back to the pits and raising the eye of the stewards in the process.
Browning chose to go late on the restart but still maintained his lead as racing resumed and a quartet quickly drew away from the rest of the pack with Browning leading Lulham, O’Sullivan and Maloney. From there, the racing calmed down somewhat with drivers managing to maintain enough of a comfortable margin to each other to prevent any immediate attacks. Maloney’s race would take a nosedive heading towards the closing stages, as he dipped a wheel onto the grass exiting Hislops and the lurid slide off the road that followed left his rear wheels beached in the gravel, forcing him to fast tow back to the pits.
In the lead, Browning was able to keep Lulham at arm’s length for just about the entirety of the remainder of the race from the restart, with the gap hovering between 0.7 and 0.9 seconds as the laps ticked off. Heading the field at the venue he calls his home circuit, Luke reeled off the final tours of the Island circuit and picked up the victory in the first race with Lulham duly following home to complete a Fortec 1-2. O’Sullivan took the final podium spot just under three seconds back ahead of Nico Varrone, while a quiet but strong performance from Sweden’s Mikkel Grundtvig helped him move through the early incidents to reach 5th place by the flag. Hoggard settled for 6th place ahead of Martins in 7th, with Jayden Ojeda, Priaulx and Nathan De Villiers completing the top 10.
Matias Zagazeta and Horatio Fitz-Simon made up the front row for the reverse grid race, but while they were able to get through the first corner cleanly, the same couldn’t be said for the midfield behind them. Abbi Pulling clipped Christian Mansell, sending the Carlin driver into the barriers before wandering into Martins and causing further collision. Further multi-car incidents at Old Hall and Cascades meant the safety car had to be called once again to bunch the field up. The top 3 of Maloney, Pino and Priaulx weren’t caught by the safety car when it arrived on track, leaving them to slow to a crawl to allow it and the pack to catch up.
Maloney managed to leave everyone else behind on the restart as he managed to catch everyone napping and lead by more than 1.2 seconds as the race got underway. However, Nico Pino found himself in the barriers and upside down exiting Old Hall, and this only set off another chain reaction behind him. Crucially, the main protagonist to get caught up was Browning who was sent spinning onto the grass, while Lulham also suffered damage and began to limp back to the pits before further contact with Ollie Bearman at the Island hairpin. Maloney also lost his lead towards the end of the lap when he spun on the approach to Lodge, before being collected by two more cars in his efforts to rejoin.
Amidst all the chaos and with two championship contender hitting strife, the lead was now held by Johnathan Hoggard ahead of Varrone, Connor and Kremers, with O’Sullivan the only man battling for the title left in the top 5. Hoggard began to run away in front as a titanic six-car train battled over the podium places, but further contact came with Connor and Kremers getting together at Lodge, helping Varrone to get away in 2nd and in the process promote O’Sullivan to 4th but also to be passed by Nesov in the process. Zak pressed on to catch up to Nesov once more and a mishap from the Russian at Island hairpin helped O’Sullivan latch onto his rear wing, but ultimately he knew that he couldn’t afford to take too many risks to get past with vital championship points at stake.
O’Sullivan remained glued to the rear wing of Nesov’s car and despite making a handful of loose attempts, he was unable to find a definite way past for 3rd place, as his Carlin teammates Mansell and Kremers looked on behind him. Meanwhile, in front of them, Varrone had been on a charge and had used the clear air between himself and leader Hoggard to severely reduce the gap to less than a second. Starting the final lap, Hoggard ran wide exiting Old Hall to bring Varrone a little closer, but throughout the rest of the final tour, he managed to keep the Argentinian at bay behind him to claim his first win in the series. Nesov’s defensive efforts were rewarded with his first podium in 3rd place ahead of the Carlin trio of O’Sullivan, Mansell and Kremers, while Connor picked up 7th place and 2017 British F4 champion Jamie Caroline managed to collect 8th on his debut, with De Villiers 9th and Lulham crucially cracking the top 10 after his troubles on the restart.