The ultra-competitive 2013 BRDC Formula 4 Championship comes to a conclusion this weekend at Donington Park, with six drivers heading into the final three races with a chance of leaving as champion.
The sextet still mathematically in with a chance of winning the championship are current points leader Jake Hughes, Jack Barlow, Seb Morris, Matthew Graham, Charlie Robertson and Jake Dalton.
Hughes is the clear favourite to walk away as the inaugural series champion, and with it a prize fund that includes £25,000, a test in a Carlin F3 car, a V12 Chronograph watch worth £4,500 from BRM and a major award at the BRDC Annual Awards.
The Lanan Racing ace holding a lead of 45 points over his nearest challenger Barlow. With his rivals faltering in recent meetings, Hughes has been able to stretch his lead with five podiums in the last seven races, meaning just three top six finishes this weekend would be enough to wrap up the title.
“I’m heading to Donington with the same attitude I’ve had all season,” said Hughes. “I’m looking for poles, wins and podiums and will be going flat out. I don’t like to drive thinking about the championship and I haven’t done that so far, and I won’t be doing it at Donington.”
Barlow moved into second place in the points courtesy of a win last time out at Snetterton, the Sean Walkinshaw Racing ace making it three so far for the campaign. If the 18 year old can win the title, it would cap the end of a remarkable maiden car-racing campaign.
Eight points further back is Morris, who heads into the season finale still in contention despite no race wins to his name so far. After having a win taken away from him in Norfolk due to a technical infringement, the Hillspeed ace will be hungrier than ever to break his winning duck and overhaul Hughes this weekend.
While Barlow and Morris have realistic title chances, Graham, Robertson and Dalton find themselves as comparative outsiders, all sitting over 70 points adrift of Hughes.
A superb run of five podiums in the last nine races, including two wins, has seen Graham storm up the leaderboard into the top four, while early race-winner Robertson has clung on to a top five championship spot despite a couple of tough meetings mid-season.
For Dalton, a switch from MGR Motorsport to Lanan prior to the Snetterton weekend brought with it a return to the winners circle, however it appears too little too late for the 18 year old, who may welll be left to rue a frustrating mid-season after leading the championship early on.
“I’d love to win the title but I have to be realistic and it looks like it’s out of reach now,” commented Dalton. “I’m just aiming for wins and some good results and just see what happens in the championship. I’m still aiming to finish inside the top three though.”
For any of them to secure the crown though, they’re left relying on Hughes and the drivers in front to hit trouble.
One driver looking on at the championship battle in frustration is Matt Bell. The 23 year old was a title contender early on, becoming the first driver to card three race wins, but his challenge has been blunted with three consecutive tough weekends. Bell will be hoping for a return to the podium at Donington.
A driver who’s shown potential championship challenging pace has been James Fletcher, the 19 year old having never been in contention though after joining the series a weekend late. A winner last time out at Snetterton, his second win at the Norfolk venue this season, the Team KBS driver will surely be in the mix for the race wins this weekend.
Hoping to put themselves in the fight for the race victories will be Raoul Hyman, Gustavo Lima and Diego Menchaca. All three have impressed during the campaign, Hyman and Menchaca having both taken podium finishes, with Lima just missing out with a best finish of fifth.
Also looking to become the eleventh different winner this season is Matt Mason. The MGR Motorsport driver endured a tough debut weekend at Snetterton three weeks ago, with an exclusion and a retirement plaguing his weekend, however the Nottingham-based racer is confident of a positive weekend at his home circuit.
Alongside the main championship, there are also two other prizes to be secured over the course of the Donington meeting.
Hughes currently leads the way in the Jack Cavill Pole Position Cup, the points leader having taken five poles so far this year. With three under his belt, Robertson is the only driver who can usurp Hughes atop the leaderboard, while Dalton, Bell, Graham and Barlow can tie with Hughes is they secure all three poles over the weekend.
The ‘Who Zooms’ Award for the most overtakes during the season looks set to go the way of Malgosia Rdest meanwhile, the Douglas Motorsport racer having racked up an impressive tally of 66 overtakes so far this campaign, 14 more than her nearest rival Lima.
The Pole Position Cup winner will receive £1,000, while the Who Zooms Award winner will receive £5,000.
With so much still to play for, including the coveted championship title, the final rounds are sure to be tense, exciting affairs. Tickets are available on the gate at Donington Park for £15 per day or £25 for the weekend.
For those unable to catch the action live, keep an eye on The Checkered Flag throughout the weekend for all the latest news and race reports, then catch the highlights on ITV4 on the evening of Sunday 6th October.