HEDLEY MAINTAINS BRITISH F4 POINTS LEAD, TAYLOR AND ZAGAZETA CLAIM MAIDEN WINS AT BRANDS HATCH
James Hedley scored a third victory of the season to maintain his lead in the F4 British Championship certified by FIA – powered by Ford EcoBoost standings on a weekend that also saw maiden triumphs for Zak Taylor and Matias Zagazeta at Brands Hatch.
The Fortec Motorsport racer arrived at the 1.2-mile Kent circuit with a 25-point advantage over JHR Developments’ Matthew Rees – twice a race winner at Snetterton – and it was the latter and team-mate McKenzy Cresswell who scored a pole position apiece in qualifying.
With the opening race on Saturday designated the reverse grid contest for this event, Arden Motorsport’s David Morales made a solid start from pole position but found himself under attack from team-mate Thomas Ikin on the outside heading down to Paddock Hill Bend.
The final ‘Red Arrow’ – that of Taylor – seized the opportunity to take the inside line and claim second spot, before passing Morales for the lead at Druids on the second tour.
Although a safety car intervention mid-race threatened Taylor’s otherwise trouble-free run to the flag, a well-executed restart at Surtees allowed him to build a 1.2-second margin of victory over Ikin, his first victory in both F4 and single seaters.
Ikin took a second podium in successive meetings – plus a third Rookie victory – with Abbi Pulling (JHR) earning a first trip to the rostrum of the season after a last-gasp move out of Clearways gave her the run past Dougie Bolger (Carlin) in a photo finish between the pair.
It would be Hedley that triumphed from the fifth row of the grid in a thrilling wet-dry-wet encounter on Sunday morning, the conditions changing not once, but twice during the 20-minute contest.
A call to stay on slicks for Rees, Cresswell, Pulling, Roman Bilinski (Carlin), Joseph Loake (JHR) and Georgi Dimitrov (Richardson) looked to have paid dividends, until a rain shower six minutes from the end allowed Hedley – who had inherited the lead from Zagazeta at Clearways at half-distance – to fight back through Druids and reclaim top spot.
Rees and Pulling were able to manage their slick-shod cars to finish second and third on the road, with Bilinski a season-best fifth ahead of Cresswell.
In the ITV3-televised finale, it would be the turn of Zagazeta to claim a maiden triumph, and in the process make it six different race winners from the opening nine rounds of the 2021 season.
Starting on the front row alongside Cresswell, the Peruvian made a marginally better start and was able to sweep around the outside of Paddock Hill Bend on the opening lap, and from there he went relatively unchallenged to the flag, the margin of victory some 2.2 seconds.
His triumph sparked jubilant celebrations down at Argenti as Michael Meadows’ outfit claimed a first win of the season, and for Zagazeta it marked the realisation of plenty of hard work with coach Ricky Collard over the off-season.
Cresswell was able to hold Carlin’s Kai Askey at bay for second to maintain a four-point margin over Rees in the Rookie Cup, Askey’s first trip to the rostrum also making it 12 different podium finishers from nine races as the strength in depth of Ford’s rising stars came to the fore.
Rees was fourth, crucially out-scoring Hedley to thin the BRDC Rising Star’s advantage to 20 points heading to Oulton Park.
Away from the championship fight, several drivers secured career-best results at Brands Hatch, including a promising debut for Aiden Neate (Argenti), son of BTCC racer Andy.
The 15-year-old, who celebrated his birthday on the Friday prior to practice, was sixth in the opener after surviving last-lap contact at Graham Hill Bend with Hedley, who dropped back with a puncture.
After a spin at the same corner in race two, he bounced back in fine style to score a second top ten in ninth on Sunday afternoon, putting down a solid foundation on which to build across the remainder of the season.
Bolger was disappointed to miss out on a first podium but his fourth place in the opener marks another step forward for the Japanese racer. Ollie Gray also enjoyed a notable run in the same race, making up seven spots to score a weekend-best fifth in the second Fortec challenger.
Team-mate Joel Granfors made forward progress across the weekend to score a hat-trick of points finishes, whilst Loake banked a seventh-place finish and two Motul Fastest Lap Awards to bolster his points tally.
Tasanapol Inthraphuvasak (Carlin) and Eduardo Coseteng (Argenti) both took a tenth-place finish apiece across the triple header, whilst Marcos Flack (also Argenti), Dimitrov and Morales will all be looking to add points to the board at Oulton Park on 31 July – 01 August.