eSportsF4 British Championship

Hoggard takes first iRacing Trophy win amidst varied day for title contenders Lulham and Browning

4 Mins read
Credit: Alex Wood

As we reached the the half way stage in the inaugural running of the British F4 iRacing Trophy, the championship fight was intensifying between the two Fortec team mates of Chris Lulham and Luke Browning, with Carlin’s Zak O’Sullivan keeping a watchful eye on proceedings. But a chaotic race meeting at the fast and narrow Oulton Park further tightened the screw on the battle for championship honours, which two topsy-turvy races full of incident and drama and some stand out performances from some newcomers and some drivers that have been knocking on the door of a good result since the championship started three weeks ago at Donington Park.

Qualifying

The championship leaders of Lulham and Browning locked out the front row, with the latter taking a relatively comfortable pole position ahead of his Fortec team mate and title rival. Rafael Martins took an impressive third place for Arden ahead of Silverstone race two winner, Zak O’Sullivan. British F4 iRacing Trophy new boy Alexey Nesov continued his tremendous run of form after shocking everyone at Silverstone last week in his debut, with a fifth place qualifying position, further justifying his place on the grid in this highly competitive esports series.

Qualifying Classification (Top 10)

  1. Luke Browning 1:13.675
  2. Chris Lulham + 0.227
  3. Rafael Martins + 0.290
  4. Zak O’Sullivan + 0.302
  5. Alexey Nesov + 0.407
  6. Nico Varrone + 0.424
  7. Zane Maloney + 0.435
  8. Johnathan Hoggard + 0.523
  9. Sebastian Priaulx + 0.526
  10. Alex Connor + 0.691

Race 1

Browning maintained the lead from the start as it was follow the leader into the hairpin, causing many drivers trip up over each other. Needless to say, the safety car was called at the end of the first lap. Zak O’Sullivan passed Martins into third, but the main casualty from the early carnage was Arden’s Seb Priaulx, undoing his good work in qualifying. JHR Development’s Josh Skelton had a massive accident after misjudging the field slowing down due to the yellow flags, causing his car to catapult into the air and retire from the race.

Zane Maloney was another benefactor from the opening lap melee, managing to weave through the wreckage and emerge in fourth place before the safety car pulled back in to restart the race. So, as the race restarted, another incident on the opening lap involving Nico Pino as the chilean lost control on the exit of Cascades and come back across the circuit, collecting two unfortunate victims in Matias Zagazeta and Nathan De Villiers. Pino retired from the race, and the British F4 rookie’s iRacing Trophy season goes from bad to worse.

Credit: Alex Wood

Third place starter Rafael Martins found himself down in 11th place, and was fighting his way back through the field when he would have the save of the race, when his Arden car drifted wide and the fast right hander at Druids, skipped across the grass and managed two regain control whilst keeping the car in a straight line, only losing one position. An eventful race at Oulton Park for the young Brazlian.

2019 British F4 champion Zane Maloney made a mistake whilst running in fourth place, dipping his left wheels on the grass and spinning into the gravel, ending his race prematurely, and ultimately losing more points to the championship leaders and also the battle for the podium. Mikkel Grundtvig was having his best race of the season to date, with the Dane ruling in fifth place and comfortably keeping pace with fourth placed and Brand Hatch winner Nico Varrone.

But at the chequered flag it was Luke Browning that took the win and further reduced the deficit in the championship fight with Chris Lulham to just two points as we headed into race two. Carlin’s Zak O’Sullivan finished third, further losing ground in the title race to the two Fortec racers.

Race 1 Classification (Top 10)

  1. Luke Browning
  2. Chris Lulham + 0.907
  3. Zak O’Sullivan + 2.925
  4. Nico Varrone + 7.478
  5. Mikkel Grundtvig + 11.625
  6. Johnathan Hoggard + 12.028
  7. Rafael Martins + 13.561
  8. Jayden Ojeda + 15.407
  9. Sebastian Priaulx + 19.029
  10. Nathan De Villiers + 21.942

Race 2

So for the reverse grid second race, it was Carlin’s Matias Zagazeta starting from pole, with Horatio Fitz-Simon starting alongside in second place. Zane Maloney had a massive opportunity to score big points following his disappointing race one with a fourth place grid slot in race two. But as the lights went out, more chaos ensued as Fitz-Simon outdragged Zagazeta into turn one, but behind them there was an accident between Abbi Pulling, Christian Mansell and Mikkel Grundtvig. So after all the carnage of the opening lap, it was Zane Maloney that gained the race lead, with Nico Pino in second and set Priaulx gaining eight places on lap one to be in third place.

Credit: Alex Wood

Drama proceeded as the safety car pulled in, Nico Pino was defending from Seb Priaulx into turn one and appeared to get tagged by the Englishman and pitched into the inside wall and was sent rolling over and scattered back onto the racing line before the fast left leading down to the hairpin, putting him into the line of sight of championship contender Luke Browning, who collected the Chilean and was sent tumbling down the race order. Disaster for one of the real-world championship favourites in 2020. Chris Lulham also caught massive damage and this left both Fortec drivers in the pits with massive damage.

All attention was now on Zak O’Sullivan, who had fought his way up to fourth place amidst more drama for race leader Zane Maloney who spun just past the bridge before the final corner and collecting two cars, ending the the Carlin driver’s race for the second time in the same evening. At the halfway point it was Johnathan Hoggard that was leading ahead of Nico Varrone and Alexey Nesov.

Credit: Alex Wood

Johnathan Hoggard managed to hold on to the race win as Nico Varrone applied the pressure late on, and Alexey Nesov held on to the final podium place after intense pressure from O’Sullivan, Mansell and Kremers. Chris Lulham finished in a potentially important tenth place to gain a point as his team mate and race one winner Luke Browning came home in twelfth place. This left Chris Lulham leading the championship on 110 points from Browning on 107 points, with Zak O’Sullivan a further 10 points back on 97.

Race 2 Classification (Top 10)

  1. Johnathan Hoggard
  2. Nico Varrone + 0.527
  3. Alexey Nesov + 8.564
  4. Zak O’Sullivan + 8.898
  5. Christian Mansell + 9.302
  6. Marijn Kremers + 15.094
  7. Alex Connor + 34.544
  8. Jamie Caroline + 42.480
  9. Nathan De Villiers + 1 Lap
  10. Chris Lulham + 1 Lap

Rounds 9 & 10 will take next place next Monday evening at 7:30pm at Snetterton, with the qualifying and race being streamed live on the British F4 Youtube channel as well as the Twitch streaming platform.

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British Formula 4 correspondent and occasional F1 reporter for The Checkered Flag.
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