BROWNING AND LULHAM TRADE SNETTERTON WINS AS iRACING BRITISH F4 TROPHY POINTS LEAD CHANGES HANDS
There were more reasons to smile for Fortec Motorsport on Monday night as Luke Browning and Chris Lulham collected a win each at the latest iRacing British F4 Trophy rounds at Snetterton, as the pair continued their intense championship battle.
Browning managed to beat Lulham to pole position in qualifying as the two drivers locked out the front row, ahead of 2019 British F4 champion Zane Maloney and Nico Varrone on the second row followed by Zak O’Sullivan and Rafael Martins.
Away from the lights, Martins jumped a little too quickly and moved before they went out as Browning headed the pack towards Riches for the first time while Lulham briefly came under threat from Maloney in 3rd place. Maloney’s wayward approach to the apex of the corner allowed O’Sullivan to draw alongside approaching the Wilson hairpin, but the Barbadian’s defence only allowed Varrone to sneak a look up the inside on corner exit in a bid to steal 4th. Varrone was ambitious heading into Agostini for the first time as a dive down the outside of the pair in front of him only left him sliding wide as a result and spinning his wheels on the grass in a bid to rejoin quickly. Russian youngster Alexey Nesov also hit strife when he slid wide at Hamilton, leaving him a similar predicament.
That wasn’t the most dramatic event from the opening lap, as on the Bentley Straight the Arden teammates of Sebastian Priaulx and Alex Connor ended up tangling with each other and the resulting collision saw them collect Johnathan Hoggard, Christian Mansell and James Hedley among others. This brought out the safety car before the lap could be completed, but not before a mishap for Maloney exiting Nelson also saw him slip down the order from 3rd to 9th place. A late restart from Browning helped him get a superb jump on the rest of the field, with O’Sullivan under attack from Lulham on the pit straight as the Fortec driver attempted to grab 2nd. Abbi Pulling went spinning at Riches to lose what had been a strong 5th place at that point, while the leaders raced away while contesting their own battles.
Browning managed to open a 1.6-second advantage at the end of the first racing lap as the Carlin pair of O’Sullivan and Kremers sandwiched Lulham, with Maloney keeping a distant watching brief at the bottom of the top 5. All of the action appeared to be happening behind them, as on Lap 6 a tangle between Hoggard and Mansell sent the former careering across the grass inside of Nelson and ended up clattering into the side of an unsuspecting Nesov as a result. By this point, the lengthy early safety car meant the race was already into its final five minutes, but that didn’t mean there weren’t passes to be made for positions. A recovering Varrone slotted past Connor through the Bomb Hole for 6th place, while Lulham made an attempt going onto the final lap to get past O’Sullivan which came to nothing after the Carlin driver edged him onto the grass in a bid to keep him behind.
Out in front, there was no stopping Browning as he weaved in delight across the line to claim his fourth win of the series, with O’Sullivan managed to beat Lulham to the flag to take 2nd place. Kremers did enough in the closing laps to retain 4th place ahead of a recovering Maloney who rounded out the top 5, with Varrone in 6th place ahead of Connor followed by Horatio Fitz-Simon, a first appearance from former British F4 racer Carter Williams and Nesov, who managed to salvage a top 10 after his incident with Hoggard.
James Hedley was given the partially reversed grid pole with Johnathan Hoggard a potential favourite for victory alongside him on the front row as the top 18 from the first race were inverted for the second. Hedley managed to beat Hoggard and Martins to Riches at the start and an attempt from Hoggard to pass on the outside at the Wilson hairpin opened the door for Martins to take a peek at 2nd place which was resisted. However, Fortec’s fortunes were about to dip severely as first championship leader Browning was involved in contact mid-pack exiting Agostini which dropped down to 18th, while ahead of him a touch from Martins on Hoggard at Oggies saw him lose 2nd and sent him tumbling on the timing screens. While Hedley kept the lead through all this, amazingly Abbi Pulling had kept close after starting 5th on the grid and on the approach to Brundle and Nelson she drew alongside to take the lead as the two cars negotiated the complex.
Just behind the leaders, both O’Sullivan and Lulham had made incredible progress through the pack and were into the top 5 by the start of Lap 3. Lulham wasted no time in displacing O’Sullivan to take 4th and set off up the road to catch the leading three cars, knowing that with Browning deep in the field several places back and out of a scoring position, every point he could take away from his teammate at this stage was crucial. Impressively, Pulling was showing her pace in the lead as she was able to hold a one-second gap over Hedley with newcomer Luke Whitehead watching on in 3rd and title contenders Lulham and O’Sullivan bearing down on all of them.
It all kicked off just before half distance as Whitehead made a move on Hedley for 2nd, but the JHR driver’s misjudgement to slot in behind Luke saw him clip wheels and lose momentum as a result. When he exited Nelson corner, Lulham wasted no time on charging past him at the Bomb Hole to claim 3rd but O’Sullivan had to wait his turn until the Wilson hairpin to do the same. Not content with losing another place, an attempted repass by Hedley at Agostini only resulted in a clumsy collision between the pair, ruining O’Sullivan’s chances in the process as Priaulx glided past both into 4th. Meanwhile, Lulham quickly caught and passed Whitehead for 2nd place with only Pulling in the lead to catch to grab near-maximum points over his rivals. Lulham reeled her in corner by corner and was under her rear wing heading into the last five minutes, biding his time by following in her wheel tracks for just over a lap before coolly moving through into the lead down the pit straight.
Lulham was unchallenged for the remainder of the race, taking the win and crucially a vast haul of points to give him the championship lead by 17 points as a result. Abbi Pulling was delighted with her best result of the season with a superbly taken 2nd place after leading most of the way, as was Luke Whitehead with his first podium in 3rd. Priaulx completed a quiet race to 4th with Hoggard recovering to 5th, while Williams and Kremers also took 6th and 7th in somewhat uneventful races. Martins and Fitz-Simons took the flag next, but events turn somewhat hectic on the final lap in the race for 10th. After visiting the pits for a fast repair, Browning had managed to catch both Hedley and Nathan de Villiers on in the closing stages, and on the final lap was battling the pair for the final point. Heading into Brundle side by side with de Villiers, the pair touched sending Browning onto the grass and losing his entire nose section in the process. Just a couple of corners later, de Villiers then tangled with Hedley approaching Coram, sending both cars off the track and gifting the final point back to Browning as a result.