O’SULLIVAN AND MANSELL SEAL CARLIN HAT-TRICK AT BRANDS HATCH GP
Carlin completed an emphatic hat-trick in the F4 British Championship certified by FIA – powered by Ford EcoBoost at Brands Hatch GP last weekend [08-09 August], with a double victory for Zak O’Sullivan extending his early championship lead to 18 points.
The other – a sublime reverse-grid race triumph for Christian Mansell – netted the Aussie rising star the £5,000 Ford Super Rookie Award for being the first Rookie Cup entrant in 2020 to win a race outright, and a hat-trick of class wins also elevates Mansell to the top of the standings in that regard.
It also means four of Ford’s rising stars have visited the winner’s circle in the opening six races, a superb endorsement of the strength in depth of the field in 2020, with several key players still yet to have their turn on the top step of the rostrum.
O’Sullivan’s victories were almost identical; both were lights-to-flag triumphs from pole position after he set the pace around the 2.4-mile GP loop in qualifying, and both came after sustained race-long pressure from Fortec Motorsport’s Luke Browning and Arden’s Alex Connor, now his closest challengers in the standings.
On both occasions, O’Sullivan beat Browning to the chequered flag by only three tenths of a second and the two often traded fastest laps, but the dirty air from following the Carlin protégée made it near-impossible for Browning to mount any serious bid to wrest the lead away at any stage.
For Browning, that makes it four second-place finishes from the opening six events, and the two-time race winner will be desperate to return to the top step for the first time in 2020 next time out at his local Oulton Park event.
Connor was an ever-present in the top five all weekend and his podium brace keeps him in the hunt behind O’Sullivan and Browning; the same can be said for Roberto Faria (Fortec), who took a career-best second in the reverse grid race behind Mansell and moves to within two points of the top three.
Casper Stevenson (Argenti) now has the enviable record of being the only driver in the field to score at each of the six rounds so far, but Mansell’s win leapfrogs him into fifth overall ahead of the Brit, who shone in practice but couldn’t quite crack the top five in race trim.
Fellow Ginetta Junior graduate James Hedley (JHR) also had a weekend to forget, having been forced to miss both qualifying and the opening race with mechanical issues. He returned to the fray – albeit from the very back of the grid – for the second and third contests, cutting through the field with a cool head to bank points in ninth and eighth respectively, the Donington Park race winner making the best of a tough outing.
His team mate Abbi Pulling (JHR) took a popular maiden podium in single seaters, keeping Browning at arm’s length during a tense middle race. Add that to a then-best fourth-place finish in race one, and it’s clear to see Pulling’s season is starting to gather momentum after a difficult start.
Roman Bilinski (Arden) showed tremendous spirit, both in a superb defensive drive to eighth in the opener with a third of the field bearing down on him at once, and in the final contest as he banked fifth, his best result thus far.
The battle for the final points-playing positions was hard-fought all weekend between Frederick Lubin (Arden), Reema Juffali (Argenti), Nat Hodgkiss (JHR), Matias Zagazeta (Carlin) and Rafael Villagomez (Fortec).
Hodgkiss finally broke his points-scoring duck in the finale, taking two points for ninth to end an unenviable record of 11th-place finishes.
The F4 British Championship heads next to Oulton Park, Cheshire, for the third event of this condensed 2020 season on 22-23 August.