Joseph Loake playing the long game after Donington podium
Joseph Loake reflected positively on his first podium finish of the 2022 ROKiT F4 British Championship certified by FIA season at Donington Park after struggling with the car throughout the weekend.
The Macclesfield racer enters his second campaign in Britain’s FIA Formula 4 series as a favourite to contend for the championship title, but qualified slightly further back than expected, lining up just ninth, but as the highest-placed JHR car, with team-mates Georgi Dimitrov and Noah Lisle just tenth and twelfth respectively behind.
Loake made immediate amends in the opening race, gaining two places off the line with a strong getaway before a move on an equally fast-starting Dimitrov netted him fifth. His progress halted there, and he took the chequered flag two seconds adrift of fourth-placed Michael Shin (Virtuosi).
“In the first race the front four were just way too quick,” admitted Loake afterwards. “We’ve been really struggling with the car this weekend and we went four tenths quicker than qualifying in that race with my fastest lap, so I think it does show that we’re going in the right direction.
“At one point I was thinking that we might be able to challenge for a podium, but we just killed our tyres. Georgi and I had good pace at the start and Noah got tenth, which is really, good considering the car that we’ve got. It was very hard to drive, so I think we can be happy and that was a positive race.”
The silver lining to Loake’s frustrating qualifying was Sunday morning’s reverse grid contest, with the 16-year-old lining up third behind Dimitrov and the other Virtuosi of Edward Pearson. Pearson faltered at the start and was slow to get away, giving Loake an easy route to second on the road behind his team-mate.
Although Dimitrov seemed to have the legs early on, Loake rallied and gradually reduced the 1.7-second arrears to set up a grandstand finish to the race. However, a combination of lapped traffic, a skirt through the gravel at the Roberts chicane whilst contesting the lead and a fast-charging Alex Dunne served to drop him back to third at the flag.
“I went into race two knowing that I could win it and, if I’m honest, I probably should have done,” he reflected. “I got very unlucky with the blue flags that didn’t come out for Aiden Neate after he’d been lapped, and he stopped me from being able to challenge Georgi. That brought other people into the mix, and I lost out to Alex [Dunne], but it is what it is. I can’t complain with P3, it’s a lot of points, and they all add up at the end of the season.”
From the high of a podium in race two, the final race of the weekend proved to be a character-building experience, Loake again having to take avoiding action over the gravel, and ultimately he wound up ninth, having run as high as fourth early on.
“Race three was one where nothing really went my way. Sometimes you have those and you just have to learn from them. I got absolutely lunged going into the last chicane, and they left me no room, so I had no choice but to cut the chicane through the gravel, and I dropped from P4 to P6. Then, at the Old Hairpin, I was very slightly too tight to the apex, which bottomed the car out over the kerb, threw me off the track, and I ended up cutting the grass again.”
Loake heads next to Brands Hatch’s Indy circuit on 13-15 May for the second event on the 2022 calendar.