After a chaotic opening weekend at Thruxton for the 2021 British F4 Championship, which saw Fortec Motorsport’s James Hedley take a brace of victories and an additional podium with Joel Granfors also scoring two impressive second place finishes, the Derbyshire-based squad leave the first round leading the Teams’ championship by a staggering 49 points from nearest rivals Carlin.
Impressive rookie Oliver Gray also sits in second place in the rookie cup standings after three class podiums, which included a fourth place overall in the hectic rain effected race three on Sunday evening.
Fortec entered the weekend as defending champions for the first time in the series, and their credentials showed after a tricky qualifying left Hedley and Granfors making the decisive call to start race one on slick tyres on a drying surface to storm their way to a 1-2 finish and set down an early benchmark in this 30 race season. What was maybe more impressive was Gray’s sixth place finish, the highest runner on wet tyres in his first single seater race.
Sunday was much drier for the most part, but that didn’t stop Fortec team showing their prowess in all conditions. Hedley made a quick charge through the field once more to take a commanding lead, whilst Joel Granfors showed the paddock his race craft and patience in fighting through the field, eventually making a brave move around Club amidst a scrappy midfield battle to claim back to back second place finishes for the 2020 Formula Nordic champion.
Race three would prove to be a bizarre encounter for all 16 drivers however, as the original race start ended in a lap one crash that would red flag the race and ultimately lead to a race postponement to be resumed after the BTCC weekend finale.
Weekend dominator James Hedley was caught in the final chicane mishap with three others cars, but the Fortec team put in great work to get the car ready for the restart, and Hedley was able to resume his original grid starting position alongside Granfors and Gray in what would now be a wet weather start.
Nevertheless, Hedley and Gray made their way through the field to take overall and rookie podiums respectively. Meanwhile, Joel Granfors showed grit and determination to come back from an early spin to fight back and score vital points and finish eighth to firmly cement his second place championship standing behind Hedley after the Thruxton weekend. Oliver Gray runs second in the rookie cup standings, as well as fifth in the overall in what was a very impressive opening weekend for the rookie.
“We’re really pleased with the start the team made to the British F4 season at Thruxton last weekend. The results are fantastic – two victories, eight trips to the podium across both classes and a really solid lead in the Teams Cup – but even more importantly, the team performed really impressively.
“To repair James’ car – which was an amazing feat in itself – before the third race is just the tip of the iceberg, they’ve really been on form all weekend and it’s paid off for us. That car was in a real state when it came back, we basically had to repair three corners and plenty more besides in an hour. Everyone chipped in, and it’s one of my proudest moments involved with the team, everyone was just fantastic.
“Two podium finishes for Joel on his F4 debut is a fantastic return, and Ollie is right up there in joint fifth, and only a few points behind the top three. Now we’re looking forward to getting back to base, debriefing and then preparing to go again at Snetterton next month.” said Team Manager Oliver Dutton.
James Hedley was understandably ecstatic with his opening weekend, after what proved to be a tough baptism of fire for the 2019 Ginetta Junior champion, and was quick to thank his sponsors who have helped him so much in securing his Fortec drive.
“I’m absolutely over the moon with how the weekend went. Whatever Thruxton threw at us, we bounced back to the top.
“A massive thanks to the boys and girls at Fortec for a mega car and their tremendous effort to fix it for Race 3. I can’t thank them or my sponsors enough – without them, I wouldn’t be racing at all.” said Hedley.
Joel Granfors and Oliver Gray were both equally proud with their debut weekends in the British F4 championship, both commenting on their improved pace and willingness to push on in what looks set to be a great year for the Fortec camp.
“It’s been a great first round of the season. I really wasn’t expecting to go away from here sitting second in the standings, especially having only done half a day in the wet in pre-season testing.
“The pace is definitely there and that gives me a lot of confidence for the rest of the year. I have to thank my team for helping to prepare me so well for this challenge – they’ve been great.” said Granfors.
“It’s been a frustrating weekend at Thruxton, however it ended on a good note with P4 in the final race.
“I’ve scored some solid points and come away with joint fifth in the championship – congratulations to Fortec for a dominant performance this weekend. Well done to James and Joel – it will be me on the top next time out.” explained Gray.
The next three rounds of the series take place at Snetterton’s 300 circuit on 12-13 June.