BROWNING & VARRONE TAKE VICTORIES AT BRANDS HATCH IN iRACING BRITISH F4 TROPHY


Luke Browning became the first two-time winner in the iRacing British F4 Trophy round at Brands Hatch, with Nico Varrone also becoming the third different victor in four races after an impressive battle with Johnathan Hoggard through the second race.

A tight qualifying session saw the top three covered by just under a tenth of a second, with Fortec’s Luke Browning claiming pole position ahead of Zak O’Sullivan and Zane Maloney for Carlin, while Chris Lulham secured 4th fastest from Marijn Kremers, also part of the Carlin stable. Former British F4 champ Kiern Jewiss was a notable name to have a poor session, as he would have to start at the back of the grid from 21st.

Drama played out from the very first corner of Race 1, as teammates Maloney and O’Sullivan came together into Paddock Hill Bend thanks to netcode, with the latter sent sliding into the gravel and tumbling to the rear of the field and Lulham also going off in sympathy, while behind them Mikkel Grundtvig and Nathan de Villiers also came together. With pole man Browning also getting a bad start, this left Kremers in the lead at Druids. More incidents played out moments later as Christian Mansell spun into the barriers Johnathan Hoggard dropped a wheel on the grass exiting the hairpin, with the resulting tank slapper leaving Nico Varrone nowhere to go and causing severe damage to the rear end of Hoggard’s car. With Jewiss also spinning on his own at Surtees, all this prompted the safety car to make its first appearance in the series to bunch up the pack.

Kremers led the way on the restart with Browning and Maloney in tow, but the top two quickly sped off out front leaving Maloney to fall back towards Josh Skelton and Alex Connor. Heading into Paddock, Browning dived inside of Kremers to snatch the lead on Lap 8 and wasted no time in attempting to quickly create a gap to 2nd place. Meanwhile, Maloney was coming under pressure from the aforementioned Skelton who in turn was dealing with a feisty Connor, who tried several times to steal 4th place but only succeeded in handing 5th to Lulham after a failed passing attempt. Behind them, O’Sullivan was making great progress through the field and by lap 15 had worked his way into 8th before making a superb outside pass into Paddock Hill Bend on James Hedley to take 7th place.

Lulham made further gains by doing what Connor couldn’t do, passing Skelton for 4th and leaving the pair to deal with the resurgent O’Sullivan who was quickly on their tails and bringing Varrone with him. After setting them up for the next few laps, O’Sullivan managed to draw alongside Connor on the pit straight, but into Paddock the pair came together, sending Connor into the barriers and out of the race.

At the front, Browning had the race under control in the lead as he held a 4-second margin over Kremers in 2nd place with Lulham completing the place. All the action, however, continued to play out behind them for 4th place as the gaps between Maloney, Skelton and O’Sullivan saw the gaps between each other yo-yo back and forth. O’Sullivan considered another passing attempt on Skelton into Paddock on the penultimate lap to no avail, but on the last lap, a surprise attack from Varrone attempted to deprive the Irishman of a top 6 finish but ultimately was unsuccessful. There were no dramas in the end for Browning as he powered his way to a second win in the series with Kremers and Lulham quietly joining him on the podium as both completed fairly uneventful races. Maloney and Skelton completed the top 5 with O’Sullivan fending off Varrone for 6th, while Sebastian Priaulx, Roman Bilinski and Rafael Martins completed the top 10.

Frederick Lubin had a chance to redeem himself from a less than satisfying opening race by starting on the reverse grid pole with Hoggard alongside, while James Hedley and Rafael Martins made up the second row behind them. Arden man Lubin made a good start to lead Hoggard into Paddock Hill but ran wide at Druids to allow the Fortec car to take the lead, while O’Sullivan hit strife again as he was left dumped in the Druids gravel and down to last once more. Skelton and Martins got together at McLaren to leave them tumbling down the order as well, while more contact took place entering Lap 2 as Connor tagged Ollie Bearman leaving the latter spinning at the base of Paddock Hill.

Varrone passed Lubin into the first corner for 2nd place, and immediately the 2019 British F4 champion Maloney jumped on the chance to apply pressure for 3rd, which he managed to achieve a lap later at the same passing spot Varrone had used. Moments later points leader Browning dramatically hit the back of Hedley’s car at Druids while scrapping for 5th place with teammate Lulham narrowly managing to avoid getting involved. Grundtvig collected Browning leaving the Fortec car without a rear wing and the Swede with suspension damage, and in a separate incident, Martins also lost places after spinning on the grass at Graham Hill Bend.

While all this was going on, Varrone had closed in on leader Hoggard and began to mount an attack entering Lap 7, while Maloney in 3rd set the fastest lap to try and close in on the pair in front. Varrone took a peek on the outside line at Paddock and Druids a lap later to no avail and continued his pursuit over the next couple of laps before trying once again into the first corner unsuccessfully. This put Maloney right onto the Argentine driver’s tail as the leading trio remained close together through lapped traffic, but shortly afterwards an apparent connection issue for Maloney cruelly forced him out of third place, leaving Hoggard and Varrone to duel by themselves for the win.

Moving through the second half of the race, the gaps between the remaining cars allowed the action to calm down somewhat as the drivers pressed on throughout. Varrone kept on pressuring Hoggard in the lead at the front over several laps, but time and time again his attacks were fended off until Lap 24, when an undercut up the inside into Druids finally allowed Varrone to force his way past with a minimal amount of wheel-to-wheel contact. From here, Varrone kept up his pace in the remaining laps to become the third different race winner so far in the season, with long time leader Hoggard on his tail at the flag for 2nd place and Lulham completing an excellent drive to round off the podium with 3rd.  Kremers just held off Connor for 4th position, and likewise for pole man Lubin who had Abbi Pulling on his tail late in the race but managed to secure 6th. Ollie Bearman was the last car on the lead lap home as he recovered to 8th and de Villiers and Christian Mansell rounded off the top 10 finishes, both being a lap and two laps down respectively.

Next week, the iRacing British F4 Trophy moves on for two more races on the Silverstone National circuit on Monday May 11th, where Browning and co will continue to quest for the all-important championship title!

Scott Woodwiss