BROWNING AND O’SULLIVAN SHARE THE SPOILS AT KNOCKHILL
Luke Browning extended his lead in the F4 British Championship certified by FIA – powered by Ford EcoBoost standings at Knockhill despite sharing the limelight with chief title rival Zak O’Sullivan.
Browning made the annual trip north of the Scottish border to the 1.26-mile Fife circuit in buoyant form after a dominant hat-trick at Oulton Park last time out, and made it a record-equalling four victories on the spin with a lights-to-flag triumph from pole position in the opening contest.
Though O’Sullivan disrupted his momentum with a well-deserved win in a dramatic reverse grid contest on Sunday morning, Browning responded in fine fashion in the ITV2-televised finale, taking the chequered flag nearly five seconds clear, and with a new race lap record to boot.
That means Browning leads the standings by 38 points heading to Thruxton next month, with O’Sullivan’s victory and solid points haul – fourth in the opener and third in the finale – cementing his status as the Fortec racer’s most likely challenger.
Alex Connor (Arden) and Casper Stevenson (Argenti) are now locked in a superb dice for the bronze medal position after two ultra-consistent – and identical – weekends in Scotland.
Both drivers secured a second, third and fourth-placed finish respectively across the triple header and are now split by just 5 markers in the points table.
Connor finished runner-up to Browning in the opener; Stevenson did likewise in the third race after soaking up late pressure from O’Sullivan. Both now sit a way adrift of the leading pair overall, but any misfortune and their consistency could yet see them back into the frame.
A brace of fifth-placed finishes was enough to move JHR’s James Hedley into the same spot in the championship standings; an unlucky tangle with Roberto Faria (Fortec) at Clark in the opening race left the BRDC Rising Star in the gravel, and out on the spot.
Hedley then charged through the order from last to fifth in the middle race, before fighting back past Faria with an inspired move at Duffus Dip after an early setback to register the same result in race three.
Faria’s weekend yielded another solid haul of points, the Brazilian’s efforts going some way to helping Fortec establish a comfortable 56-point margin over Carlin in the Teams Cup.
Ditto Rafael Villagomez, who returned from his French F4 commitments in style, taking two Rookie Cup victories to all but wipe out the deficit to the pack ahead in the class stakes.
Christian Mansell (Carlin) took the other class win, but a lost rear wing after contact in the final race forced him into retirement, and gave the ever-consistent Frederick Lubin (Arden) a chance to close in heading to Thruxton.
Mansell remains seventh overall in the standings, narrowly ahead of Abbi Pulling, who had another promising, if unlucky, weekend.
A good run to sixth in the first race put Pulling onto reverse grid pole position for Sunday morning, but contact with Roman Bilinski (Arden) at the first corner left the JHR challenger in the gravel, and out on the spot.
For his part, Bilinski was excluded from the result post-race, and the resulting penalty points mean the Polish racer drops behind Pulling in the standings to ninth outright. He did, however, register a fifth and seventh-placed finish to boost his points haul with two solid drives.
Nat Hodgkiss – bearing the Scottish saltire with pride on his car – put in a career-best showing with a brace of points finishes, including a new best result of eighth.
The battle for the final points-paying positions was among the most intense action on track all weekend, with Hodgkiss, Lubin, Nico Pino, Reema Juffali (both Argenti) and Carlin’s Matias Zagazeta treating the watching TV audience to an abundance of action-packed, wheel-to-wheel drama.
Pino and Zagazeta both banked Rookie podiums to keep themselves in touch with Mansell and Lubin ahead, but are now separated by just 8 points in Zagazeta’s favour in the battle for third in class.
The F4 British Championship heads into a three-week break after an intense run of events during August, with Britain’s FIA Formula 4 series set to resume at the high-speed Thruxton circuit in Hampshire over the weekend of 19-20 September.