HEDLEY EXTENDS POINTS LEAD, SPLITS VICTORIES WITH CRESSWELL AND LOAKE AT OULTON PARK
James Hedley marginally extended his points lead in the F4 British Championship certified by FIA – powered by Ford EcoBoost at Oulton Park, despite splitting the victories with JHR Developments pairing McKenzy Cresswell and Joseph Loake.
The Fortec Motorsport racer arrived at the 2.2-mile Cheshire circuit with a 20-point advantage over closest challenger Matthew Rees (JHR) and powered to a double pole position after a call to switch to wet tyres during a mixed conditions qualifying.
A last-gasp lap from Rees elevated him to the front row alongside and, although he kept Hedley honest in the opening contest, the latter was able to make full use of Oulton Park’s narrow nature to defend and take a fourth victory of the campaign by 0.2 seconds.
It would be an out-of-position Cresswell after electing to stick with slicks in qualifying that notched up a maiden victory, both in the series and in single seaters, after a lightning getaway in the reverse grid contest allowed the 15-year-old to move from fifth to second at Old Hall, before annexing the lead with a move on Thomas Ikin (Arden) at the Island Hairpin.
From there, Cresswell was peerless, extending his lead to some five seconds by the chequered, leading home an equally delighted Tasanapol Inthraphuvasak (Carlin), his second place marking a first podium in the category. Ikin completed the rostrum, his third podium in three successive meetings.
Local hero Joseph Loake made the headlines in Sunday’s iTV4-televised finale, making the best start from the front row to pass Hedley on the run down to Old Hall, before capitalising on a thrilling battle for second through sixth behind to make good his escape.
Initially, Eduardo Coseteng (Phinsys by Argenti) held the runner-up spot but team-mate Matias Zagazeta, bouncing back from two bouts of electrical woes earlier in the weekend, was making moves behind.
The Peruvian annexed third spot after a thrilling dice with Roman Bilinski (Carlin) around the outside at Cascades, before the pair passed Coseteng late on to claim second and third behind race winner Loake, based in nearby Macclesfield.
Crucially, Rees was able to best Hedley in the battle for fifth and sixth positions respectively, allowing the Welsh racer to minimise the damage to his title bid. Hedley now leads by 24 points heading to Knockhill in a fortnight.
Rees also now leads in the Rookie Cup regards by 20 points, having deposed erstwhile leader Cresswell, who struggled to make progress in the first and third races on a circuit notorious for its difficulty to overtake.
A first Rookie victory for Carlin’s Dougie Bolger – an equal season-best fourth in the final race – has also given the Japanese racer some momentum in the class standings, now fourth behind Fortec’s Ollie Gray.
Both Gray and team-mate Granfors scored twice apiece over the triple header, their efforts going some way alongside Hedley to maintaining Fortec’s lead over JHR in the Teams Cup, the margin now 22 markers.
Aiden Neate (Argenti), Zak Taylor (Arden) and Kai Askey (Carlin) all added to their respective points totals, with Georgi Dimitrov (Richardson) putting in a competitive showing after the frustrations of Brands Hatch a month prior.
It proved to be a difficult weekend for the final JHR challenger of Abbi Pulling, as remaining on slick tyres in the worsening track conditions hampered her qualifying and weekend as a whole.
The Brit had front-running pace, but ultimately too much ground to make up and, like Cresswell, her battling drives in races one and three went unrewarded, although fourth in the reverse grid contest offered some respite.
The final ‘Red Arrow’ of David Morales (Arden) continues to improve as he adjusts to life in Britain’s FIA Formula 4 series, the American racer starting to regularly mix it with more experienced competition out on track.
The series heads next to Knockhill, Fife for its annual trip north of the Scottish border on 14-15 August.