If the term “a tale of two races” was ever to be coined at a race meeting, then you could easily use it to describe Luke Browning’s day at the second race meeting of the 2020 British F4 iRacing Trophy. The British Fortec superstar took a comfortable win in round three after starting on pole position and extending his championship lead. But in race two, as he was making his way through the field after the reverse grid order shuffled him back to 13th, he made a error in misjudging James Hedley’s braking into Druids corner and losing his rear wing and finishing down in 11th place.
But in race two we saw our third different winner in the first four races, with the privately entered Nico Varrone holding off Johnathan Hoggard after a hard fought battle for the lead to take the full 25 points and keep his name firmly in the conversation for end of season championship honours.
It was championship leader, Luke Browning that scored his second consecutive pole position with a time of 41.044. Carlin new boy Zak O’Sullivan lined up second just four hundredths down on Browning, with 2019 British F4 champion Zane Maloney down in third. On the tight and fast nature of the Brands Hatch Indy Circuit, the top 18 were spread by 0.710 seconds, leading all to believe that both races would be hotly contested at this second round of the inaugural British F4 iRacing Trophy.
Qualifying Classification (Top10)
- Luke Browning 41.044
- Zak O’Sullivan + 0.040
- Zane Maloney + 0.096
- Chris Lulham + 0.206
- Marijn Kremers + 0.253
- Christian Mansell + 0.274
- Josh Skelton + 0.282
- Johnathan Hoggard + 0.321
- Alex Connor + 0.331
- Nico Varrone + 0355
On to the opening race, and chaos ensured at Paddock Hill bend on the opening lap as Zane Maloney and Zak O’Sullivan made contact, leaving the Carlin hopeful in the gravel. This promoted Marijn Kremers to the lead early on, and demoted pole sitter Luke Browning down to second. The drama wasn’t over on the exit off Druids, as Fortec’s Johnathan Hoggard made contact in the pack, leaving some severe rear damage. Kiern Jewiss was also left stranded after spinning on lap one, a real shame for one of race two’s stars at Donington last week. All of the carnage on the opening lap led to a much needed safety car to regain control of the field.
Replays of the start showed a major accident involving Arden future prospect Nathan de Villiers and Mikkel Grundtvig, with the Dane flipping uncontrollably into the catch fencing, sadly ending his first race of the day. Other drivers to fall foul to the first lap antics were Christian Mansell and Frederick Lubin after taking damage. As the safety car pulled in, leader Kremers and Luke Browning managed to gap the chasing Zane Maloney, and on the six minute mark of the race it was points leader Browning that pulled a routine pass on the new Carlin star Marijn Kremers to take the lead of the race as the rest off the field was laying line astern.
Front row starter Zak O’Sullivan was making strong progress after his first lap spin and was quickly back up into the top 10 and setting very rapid times as he looked to make up lost ground. The brit would later go on to make one of the best overtakes of the race with a fantastic pass around the outside of James Hedley at Paddock Hill bend. The 2019 Ginetta Junior championship was no match for the pace of his former rival at this point of the race, and he would go on to lose another position to Nico Varrone at the following druids corner.
The battle for the final podium spot was intensifying, as the damaged car of Zane Maloney was being chased down by Donington race one victor Chris Lulham. The Fortec man swept around the outside of the 16-year old from Barbados to take an easy third place with superior downforce, completing a sensational comeback drive after getting caught up in the opening lap fracas. Alex Connor’s race came to an end with five minutes remaining after a collision with the hard charging Zak O’Sullivan at Paddock Hill bend leaving the Arden car in tatters, and Connor left in the pit lane.
But after 20 minutes of hard fought racing, it was Fortec Motorsport’s Luke Browning that took his second win of the season in dominant fashion, finishing over four seconds ahead of Marijn Kremers. The comeback driver of the race came from Browning’s team mate Chris Lulham, who finished on the podium in third place and did his championship hopes no harm at all, especially after winning the first race in Donington last week.
Race 1 Classification (Top 10)
- Luke Browning
- Marijn Kremers + 4.430
- Chris Lulham + 9.807
- Zane Maloney + 13.576
- Josh Skelton + 14.633
- Zak O’Sullivan + 14.895
- Nico Varrone + 15.287
- Sebastian Priaulx + 22.954
- Roman Bilinski + 24.273
- Rafael Martins + 26.818
As with last week’s race at Donington, the top 12 finishers in race one are reversed, and this left Frederick Lubin starting from pole position with Johnathan Hoggard along side him on the front row. Luke Browning started down in 13th place, with comeback king Chris Lulham in 11th after a storming drive in the opening race of the evening.
At the race start, it was a much more calmer affair as all the drivers made it safely through turn one until we got to Druids hairpin where Zak O’Sullivan became a victim of first lap drama and spun into the gravel. The Brit being forced to embark on his second comeback drive in as many races. Johnathan Hoggard passed Frederick Lubin for the lead at the same corner as O’Sullivan’s spin and led the opening lap.
Alex Connor fell foul of some more contact at turn one, this time connecting with Ollie Bearman at Paddock Hill bend, but both drivers managed to continue unscathed. meanwhile, another place was lost from Lubin to Nico Varrone after running wide at Clearways, the Arden driver dealing with some chronic understeer early on.
But the most dramatic moment of the race early on was when points leader Luke Browning collided with James Hedley into the Druids hairpin early on in the race and took heavy damage to drop him way down the order, His team mate and championship rival Chris Lulham managed to make it through unscathed, and looked set to take a big points swing at the points leader after today’s event.
The battle was on at the front with Hoggard being tracked intensely by Nico Varrone, with Zane Maloney following in close company. But at the half way stage, the reigning British F4 Champion dropped out of the race in what appeared to be a connection issue with iRacing. The main drawback of racing virtually is the occasional loss of connection that can really hamper a driver’s result, and in this case, Maloney was not at fault at all for his race two demise.
Kiern Jewiss’ day went from bad to worse after he made an error going into the final Clearways bend and slamming hard into the outside barrier, ending his race. A day to forget for the Donington race two charger. Meanwhile, Nico Varrone finally made the move for the lead after patiently following Johnathan Hoggard for the first 16 minutes. The Argentine driver making an inside move on Hoggard, even making some slight contact.
And in the end it was Nico Varrone that took the victory to become the third driver in four races to take the chequered flag in this first season of the British F4 iRacing Trophy. The Argentine finishing just half a second ahead of Johnathan Hoggard and Chris Lulham taking full advantage of Luke Browning’s 11th place finish to make it very tight at the top of the Driver’s standings.
Race 2 Classification (Top10)
- Nico Varrone
- Johnathan Hoggard + 0.480
- Chris Lulham + 2.167
- Marijn Kremers + 5.595
- Alex Connor + 5.940
- Frederick Lubin + 12.296
- Abbi Pulling + 12.411
- Ollie Bearman + 32.697
- Nathan De Villiers + 1 Lap
- Christian Mansell + 1 Lap
Rounds 5 & 6 will take next place next Monday evening at 7:30pm at Silverstone (National), with the qualifying and race being streamed live on the British F4 Youtube channel as well as the Twitch streaming platform.