Car racing rookies Jack Barlow and Matthew Graham starred for Sean Walkinshaw Racing during the opening race meeting of the 2013 BRDC Formula 4 Championship season at Silverstone – Barlow winning only his second ever car race and Graham taking a maiden podium in round three.
Barlow qualified fifth for the first of the weekend’s three races at Silverstone, finihsing sixth between Ginetta Junior champion Charlie Robertson and Hillspeed’s Struan Moore in a fantastic battle that saw the trio split by less than a second as they took the flag, Matt Bell becoming the series’ inaugural winner after taking advantage of conatct between Jake Dalton and pole-sitter Jake Hughes on lap five at Luffield.
Barlow’s team-mate, Graham, meanwhile drove a quiet race, keeping out of trouble to maintain his ninth place from qualifying, where the SWR pairing then put on a star performance in the weekend’s second encounter.
Starting third, Barlow quickly sliced his way through into the lead at the exit of Copse, hanging onto the top spot under big pressure from Seb Morris who soon overpowered the SWR man at Village on lap three. The 17-year-old was not finished with the fight however, and snatched back the lead dramatically from the Welsh youngster on the penultimate lap exiting Becketts to grab a thrilling debut win.
Graham meanwhile upped his game substantially as he finished sixth in the second race, also posting the fastest lap that ended up being the quickest tour of Silverstone all weekend, earning the Durham racer the BRM Rapide Award which he received from Formula 1 star Mark Webber, as well as a bonus of pole position for the third and final race.
That final race of the weekend saw Graham lose his pole advantage when the lights went out as he slipped to third place ahead of team-mate Barlow, the pair trading places during an entertaining, but clean battle, Graham edging clear after moving back ahead by the start of lap three to seal a podim finish, Barlow dropping into a battle for fifth with race one winner Bell that the experienced single-seater competitor came out on top of on the penultimate lap.
Barlow remaining delighted with his successful maiden weekend, commenting: “To get a win from the first weekend is amazing. I’ll come away from Silverstone now thinking about the championship, not just trying to get on the podium which was the aim before the weekend started. I never, ever expected to come out on top, it’s a fantastic start to the season.”
His team-mate Graham added: “I didn’t think a podium was possible really on the first weekend, I was hoping for the top five after seeing how competitive it was in testing. To be in the top three is amazing to be honest, I started on pole and was quite nervous and didn’t get the best start but to hold third was great. Our pace has been good, walking away with a trophy too and some prize money is nice!”
The team’s third driver, China’s Zou Sirui, took 15th and 14th place finishes in the first two races of his UK racing debut, which was followed by unfortunate contact early in the final race having climbed to 11th. “It wasn’t my weekend really, in qualifying we had the problem so I started from behind for the first race but it was OK in the end and quite a good race”, said Sirui. “In race two I should have been P10 or something like that but I made a couple of mistakes. I had a good start to the third race, I was up to like P10, but then on the second lap I got hit on the rear wheel – that was it.”