After taking pole position this morning for the opening round of the 2020 British F4 Championship, James Hedley had the enviable position of a clear run into turn one to try and translate his excellent qualifying run into a maiden win. and with the likes of the Fortec Motorsports duo of Roberto Faria and Luke Browning right behind him, it was set fair to be an exciting start to the season,
As the lights went out, Hedley got away well and was closely tracked by Faria and Browning, but it was Alex Connor that gained three places off the start and was running in second place by the end of lap one. Connor soon set the fastest lap and had his sights set on Hedley, just two tenths behind the JHR Developments hot shoe.
The top eight were separated by just over a second after the first free laps as Alex Connor took the lead and James Hedley fell back to fourth place, promoting Roberto Faria and Luke Browning onto the podium with just 15 minutes of the race remaining.
The top rookie performer so far, Rafael Villagomez was up into sixth place and looking promising, demoting Abbi Pulling down to seventh spot after a promising start. Pulling would later lose another spot to Argenti Motorsport‘s Casper Stevenson a few laps later.
Meanwhile out front, Alex Connor built up a five tenths advantage on Faria, and looked to have the perfect race setup for the conditions at Donington Park today. And it was becoming a two horse race up front with Fortec’s Luke Browning falling off the battle between Connor and Faria.
Connor’s lead was now up to a second as he began to consolidate his lead over Faria as fifth place Zak O’Sullivan set the fastest lap of the race so far at the half way mark, showing impressive pace in the Carlin.
Roman Bilinski and Rafael Villagomez received a black and white flag, with the former having received theirs for track limits. Christian Mansell also received a ten second penalty early on, dropping the Australian to the rear of the field.
Luke Browning was now switching up the pace and beginning to chase his team mate Roberto Faria for second place and would eventually pass the Brazilian and start his pursuit of race leader Alex Connor with just three minutes to go. Meanwhile, Zak O’Sullivan also passed pole sitter James Hedley for fourth place, recovering from his initial tardy start, and Hedley conversely dropping down the order, hinting at a potential car problem.
But with the time ticking down and the 20 minutes being completed, it was Arden Motorsport’s Alex Connor that took his first win in British F4, closely followed by Luke Browning and his team mate Roberto Faria. Carlin’s Zak O’Sullivan and pole sitter James Hedley finished in fourth and fifth respectively. Rafael Villagomez won the rookie cup class finishing in sixth place, with Frederick Lubin finishing finishing ninth overall, and Nico Pino rounding out the rookie podium in tenth overall.
“It was really good, I wasn’t expecting that. It was just a good drive, from fifth to first. Last year was my first race here, so to improve on that was really good. I was just trying to get past in any way possible. You can go around the outside there [McLeans] and I think my tyres were on quite early, which was good and I could use that to my advantage. I just hung around the outside and then it happened!
“I was very consistent the whole race, which always helps. For the last couple of laps I saw it raining and didn’t want to take any risks, so I just eased off a little bit. I knew my gap was quite big, so I had the opportunity to do that.” said race winner Alex Connor.
Luke Browning was satisfied with his second place and was happy to get the points on the board, citing his focus on the championship to be more important at this stage in the championship.
“That’ll do, points make prizes! I’m happy to come second. Starting in third, we had a brilliant start, we just seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and got held up a little bit. Our race pace seems so strong, we got fastest lap. The car felt phenomenal, I’m just looking to carry that into tomorrow, hopefully make up some places in the reverse grid. I don’t think it’ll be as much carnage as online [iRacing], so that’ll be good!
“It’ll be fun, I can’t wait to get back out in that car. If we’d have finished fourth at every race last year, we would’ve won the championship, so if I just keep on putting these podiums in and hopefully a few first places along the way, we’ll be on our way to the championship.” explained Browning.
Third place finisher Roberto Faria was equally thrilled with his podium finish, opening his points account for the 2020 season.
“It was a very good start to the season in third place. Our pace in the race was a bit slow, but I think we can improve for tomorrow. After five laps, Connor was first, I was second, and I followed him with good pace, but in the middle of the race the tyres just went off and we were struggling a little bit.” said Faria
Race 1 Classification:
|1||Alex Connor||Arden Motorsport||18 Laps|
|2||Luke Browning||Fortec Motorsport||+1.669|
|3||Roberto Faria||Fortec Motorsport||+4.982|
|5||James Hedley||JHR Developments||+5.716|
|6||Rafael Villagomez (R)||Fortec Motorsport||+10.428|
|7||Casper Stevenson||Argenti Motorsport||+11.135|
|8||Roman Bilinski||Arden Motorsport||+14.640|
|9||Frederick Lubin (R)||Arden Motorsport||+16.056|
|10||Nico Pino (R)||Argenti Motorsport||+16.199|
|11||Nathanael Hodgkiss||JHR Developments||+20.988|
|12||Christian Mansell (R)||Carlin||+21.350|
|13||Mathias Zagazeta (R)||Carlin||+25.706|
|14||Reema Juffali||Argenti Motorsport||+28.015|
|15||Abbi Pulling||JHR Developments||+ 1 Lap|
(R) Denotes rookie drivers.