LULHAM AND O’SULLIVAN TOP EVENTFUL iRACING BRITISH F4 TROPHY RACES AT SILVERSTONE
Fortec’s Chris Lulham added to his win tally in the iRacing British F4 Trophy last night at the Silverstone National circuit, while Carlin racer Zak O’Sullivan also added to the list of victorious drivers with success in the reverse grid second race.
The evening started off superbly for Fortec as Luke Browning secured pole with a late lap to line up alongside Lulham, with fellow stablemate Johnathan Hoggard making a last-minute appearance in the session after prior eSports commitments to secure 4th fastest time. Sebastian Priaulx lined up for his best start to date in the series in 3rd, while Carlin claimed the third row for themselves with Maloney and O’Sullivan starting next to one another.
Lulham wasted no time in challenging teammate Browning into Copse at the start and took the lead on the exit, but Browning wasn’t going to settle for being passed straight away and attempted to repass heading through Maggotts for the first time. Running level down the Wellington straight and into Brooklands, Browning made a bold choice to hold the outside line as they turned in to put him on the inside for Luffield and back past Lulham to lead the opening lap, with Priaulx also showing his intentions early. But Browning’s joy was short-lived as he ran wide onto the back straight and narrowly avoided spinning back into the pack before continuing down in 12th.
Back at the front, Lulham was taking Priaulx with him as he drove away from the rest of the pack, but behind them it began to kick off for 3rd place. O’Sullivan made slight wheel to wheel contact with Alex Connor on the approach to Maggotts, but behind the pair an over-excited Christian Mansell missed his braking point and careered into his fellow Carlin driver, leaving the Antipodean’s car upside down and missing a wheel while a bewildered O’Sullivan attempted to rejoin. This gave Maloney 3rd place ahead of Brands Hatch winner Nico Varrone, while 5th place saw newcomer Alexey Nesov making an early impression on his debut. Nesov further cemented his presence by making a move on Varrone for 4th place, which in turn also brought Connor and the recovering Browning with him, the latter impressively up to 6th in a short space of time after his mishap on the second lap.
Browning’s eventful race became even more so moments later when an attempted move on Connor left both cars spinning across the grass at Brooklands, and while both cars continued, a hapless Nathan De Villiers was caught up as a result, forcing him into the pitlane with a damaged wheel and suspension. After the initial skirmishes and excitement, the front runners settled down into two key battles with Lulham doing his best to escape from the clutches of Priaulx while Maloney had new boy Nesov for company in a dice for 3rd. That was until Maloney came across a stumbling Rafael Martins who was rejoining after a trip into the gravel, but his attempt to redress left him on the 2019 British F4 champion’s racing line and the resulting contact tore off his left rear wheel and forced into the pits. This left Nesov to defend from a resurgent Varrone, which the Russian rookie was able to handle as the race entered its closing stages.
Heading towards the finish, Lulham’s lead over Priaulx began to dip below a second with the Arden driver pushing on to try and deny Fortec from snatching another win. That said, in the end Lulham had enough left in the tank to get the job done and he charged to his second win of the season with Priaulx also rewarded with his first podium finish in 2nd, while an excellent first race from Nesov saw him net 3rd place at his first attempt. Varrone followed him home to claim 4th with Abbi Pulling also collecting one of her best finishes to date with 5th place, and 6th went to another newcomer as Australian F4 star Jayden Ojeda kept it clean to secure a solid first finish. James Hedley survived a mid-race incident for 7th, O’Sullivan recovered from his incident with Mansel to finish in 8th, with Browning ending his eventful race in 9th ahead of Hoggard, who couldn’t convert his strong qualifying into a similar result, languishing in 10th.
Nico Pino, one British F4’s new drivers for 2020, benefitted from the reverse grid for Race 2 to start his second Trophy race from pole alongside Marijn Kremers, but just seconds after the lights went out all his fortunes began to crumble. Kremers slipped past into the lead at Copse, but a small touch from Pino eventually set off a mid-pack incident involving Pino himself along with Horatio Fitz-Simon and De Villiers, while Abbi Pulling also went spinning behind them. Further up at Maggotts, Hoggard and Connor also got together forcing both to fast tow to the pits, and everything combined forced the safety car to make an appearance.
As for the race order, Maloney had worked his way into the lead amongst the chaos with Mansell and Kremers for company behind him, while O’Sullivan, Browning and Maloney had also moved up into 4th, 5th and 6th respectively. A super restart allowed Maloney to quickly create a gap to Mansell, but he ended up throwing it all away on cold tyres as a half spin at Brooklands pushed him down to 8th place and within reach of both Nesov and Josh Skelton behind him. Kremers also made a mistake that dropped him down to 6th, which in turn helped O’Sullivan to make his way into the lead with Mansell, Browning and Lulham snapping at his heels.
Browning mounted a challenge on Mansell on Lap 7 with Lulham in tow and an ambitious attempt into Copse saw both cars make contact and in turn allow both Fortec cars to slip past, pushing Mansell down to 4th as a result. Mansell managed to quickly reclaim 3rd from Lulham, but at this stage, it was clear that the aim for all three was to chase after leader O’Sullivan. Lulham then began falling back, first behind Maloney and then Nesov in quick succession, as the Fortec car started struggling with front wing damage. A couple of laps later, both Priaulx and Ojeda mounted their own charge with the former picking up 6th into Brooklands while Ojeda remained close.
In front of them, Mansell was under threat from both Maloney and Nesov, but thankfully for Mansell the two cars behind him briefly began scrapping over 4th but kept the Carlin machine in their sights. Back into Brooklands, Maloney’s attempt to snatch a podium was batted away but a few corners later the Barbadian threw caution to the wind and charged around the outside of Mansell at Copse to steal away 3rd. Nesov also made his impression a couple of turns later when he muscled his way through at Brooklands to push Mansell down to 5th place. Priaulx’s attempt to pass Mansell for 6th appeared to be one too many as contact between the pair left the Arden car spinning on the exit of Maggotts.
While all this was going on behind him, leader O’Sullivan ran home to the flag untroubled as he captured his first iRacing British F4 Trophy win, making him the fourth different winner so far in the championship. Browning did his title charge no harm with 2nd place while Maloney finally scored a first podium in the series with 3rd, followed by Nesov, Mansell and Hoggard in the top 6. Lulham ended up 7th thanks to his front wing damage, Kremers failed to convert his front row start and had to settle for 8th, while De Villiers and Pulling completed the top 10 finishers.