eSportsF4 British Championship

Luke Browning cuts into Lulham’s title lead at Silverstone as Martins takes maiden win

4 Mins read
Credit: Alex Wood

In what was potentially the most exciting and critical race meeting so far in the inaugural British F4 iRacing Trophy, we saw yet more twists and turns in the fascinating title fight between Fortec Motorsport’s team mates of Luke Browning and Chris Lulham. Carlin’s Zak O’Sullivan still had an outside chance of the silverware, but a disastrous second race on the historic Silverstone reduced the title fight to just a two horse race as we head to Brands Hatch next week for a a title showdown that will surely produce the goods once again.

Qualifying

As it has been so many times so far this season, it was Fortec’s Luke Browning and Chris Lulham that locked out the front row again, with the latter setting a time just .081 seconds slower than Browning to further ratchet up the intensity on yhr championship fight. Fading title contender Zak O’Sullivan qualified in fourth place, whereas impressive Russian star Alexey Nesov lined up third and within a tenth of the Fortec title contenders. British F4 iRacing Trophy debutant Bart Horsten started from an impressive fifth place for Arden, with JHR Development’s Abbi Pulling putting in another impressive performance after her Snetterton podium last week to qualify seventh for race one here at Silverstone.

Qualifying Classification (Top 10)

  1. Luke Browning 58.955
  2. Chris Lulham + 0.081
  3. Alexey Nesov + 0.098
  4. Zak O’Sullivan + 0.184
  5. Bart Horsten + 0.198
  6. Rafael Martins + 0.225
  7. Abbi Pulling + 0.295
  8. Marijn Kremers + 0.307
  9. Nico Varrone + 0.310
  10. Johnathan Hoggard + 0.328

Race 1

As the lights went out it was Chris Lulham that took the early lead into Abbey corner as the safety came out once agin for a first lao incident, this time involving Alex Connor, Nico Varrone and James Hedley. Many other drivers suffered damage and had to made quick repairs in the pit lane. Zak O’Sullivan pulled himself into contention early on and was running in third place after the early calamities on the opening lap.

Credit: Alex Wood

Early action on the restart involving between Marijn Kremers, Abbi Pulling and Nico Varrone for seventh place was the main talking point as Lulham began to break from Browning out front. Set Priaulx then made a textbook pass on Kremers into Stowe corner with the British driver showing an impressive turn of form over the last few rounds for Arden. Meanwhile, Browning and Lulham were using the draft to escape from O’Sullivan in third place as we approached the half way mark as well as being the only two drivers lapping under 59 seconds, showing once again the kind of dominance we’ve seen in this inaugural iRacing Trophy.

But as we approached the 14 minute mark, the fireworks ensued. The Fortec pair ran side by side for an entire lap after Browning initiated a pass into Stowe corner the pair undercutting each other and losing time. Zak O’Sullivan managed to latch onto the battling team mates and we now had a three way fight for the race win between the three title contenders for the first time this season. That was until Alexey Nesov passed O’Sullivan into Vale and set about chasing the Fortec pair. Rafael Martins was having his best race of the season so far as the Arden man got himself involved in the podium battle as Lulham and Browning managed to escape once again.

Disaster occured for Zak O’Suillivan with just a few minutes remaining as the Carlin championship hopeful made contact with Nesov and took a spin, relgating the Ginetta Junior scholar down to tenth place. Rafael Martins suffered a similar fate a lap later, but sadly the Arden driver retired with irreparable damage. But as we approached the chequered flag, it was Chris Lulham that took another win finishing just three tenth ahead of his team mate, Luke Browning. This result left the championship firmly in the balance as we went into the final race of the evening.

Race 1 Classification (Top 10)

  1. Chris Lulham
  2. Luke Browning + 0.315
  3. Alexey Nesov + 5.197
  4. Marijn Kremers + 7.118
  5. Nico Varrone + 11.791
  6. Alex Connor + 12.090
  7. Sebastian Priaulx + 13.237
  8. Zak O’Sullivan + 13.933
  9. Johnathan Hoggard + 14.952
  10. Abbi Pulling + 18.256

Race 2

As the top 19 finished race one, it was a massive reverse grid for race two. Rafael Martins and Frederick Lubin lined up on row one, with Zak O’Sullivan in 12th place, and Luke Browning in 17th with championship leader down in 19th place on the start. This race would prove critical in the title race this season. It was formation flying for the Arden drivers, as they had a clean sweep of the top three places, with Martins leading Lubin and Bart Horsten at the end of lap one. The safety car was out again at the end of lap one after contact between Nico Varrone and Alexey Nesov into the Vale chicane, causing big damage for the Argentinian.

Chris Lulham was in the pits with apparent damage after contact with James Hedley. Almost every driver was involved in incidents of some nature on lap one, and it left for a very jumbled up running order as the safety car came back in. Luke Browning made up eight places to run in ninth, and Zak O’Sullivan was running in sixth and in desperate need of a second place finish to keep the title fight alive going into Brands Hatch next week. But his hopes were truly dashed as he spun on the safety car restart to relegate him back to 16th spot, effectively ending his title hopes.

Credit: Alex Wood

The eyes were now well and truly on Luke Browning, who needed to claw back a 26 point deficit on Chris Lulham in the championship fight. An incident involving the Arden drivers of Lubin and the Carlin drivers of Kremers and Mansell for the podium places enabled Luke Browning to get back up to fourth place. That soon became third place as Bart Horsten began to slow down after an impressive debut evening in the iRacing Trophy. His troubles were compounded some minutes later after contact with James Hedley causing the Australian to lose more positions and drop outside the top 10. Browning would now have a rear gunner in team mate Johnathan Hoggard helping him protect that podium place.

An intense battle with Christian Mansell for second place ended in tears for Browning at the Vale chicane, with the Englishman looking around the outside and getting clipped and spinning into the gravel. Thankfully for Browning, he managed to get going and lose just one place, but would now come under increasing pressure from Karting ace, Marijn Kremers. Meanwhile up front, it was Brazilian Arden ace, Rafael Martins that took a sensational victory to become the sixth different winner this season, and Luke Browning finished in fourth place and cutting the championship deficit to 14 points as we go to Brands Hatch for the title decider next Monday.

Race 2 Classification (Top 10)

  1. Rafael Martins
  2. Johnathan Hoggard + 6.331
  3. Alexey Nesov + 8.872
  4. Luke Browning + 12.530
  5. Marijn Kremers + 14.466
  6. Jayden Ojeda + 18.378
  7. Nathan De Villiers + 26.415
  8. James Hedley + 26.949
  9. Zak O’Sullivan + 42.728
  10. Rafael Villagomez + 56.002

Rounds 13 & 14 will take next place next Monday evening at 7:30pm at Brands Hatch for the final race meeting of the season, 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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