Preview: Gloves are off heading to high-speed Thruxton
Alex Dunne arrives at Thruxton with a 15-point advantage in the ROKiT F4 British Championship certified by FIA standings, his lead having suffered a dent on a character-building weekend at Brands Hatch last time out.
The Hitech GP racer kicked off the triple-header in Kent with a margin of 37 points over nearest rival Oliver Gray (Carlin) and extended that with victory in the opening race. From there, however, the pendulum swung in favour of the chasing pack.
A gearshift problem in the second race meant a first non-score of the season for the Irish teen. Then a slow getaway, a spin at Clark Curve, an excursion over the grass at Surtees and the resultant trip to the pit lane for a new front wing made it two frustrating outings in succession for Dunne in the ITV-televised finale to the weekend.
Gray capitalised on Dunne’s troubles, completing a hat-trick of podiums – third, second, then second again – to move to within striking distance at the championship summit.
Just six points further back now sits Ugo Ugochukwu, the McLaren Racing protégé fresh from a maiden single seater win in front of a watching CEO, Zak Brown. Ugochukwu’s pace in testing at Thruxton in pre-season was meteoric, so he could be the emerging contender to watch.
Joseph Loake’s consistency to-date has put him fourth overall, and his JHR Developments team have a notably strong record in Hampshire, winning on seven of their last twelve starts. Virtuosi Racing’s Michael Shin completes the top five, his tally boosted with a win in the reverse grid race at Brands, the South Korean resisting race-long pressure from Gray.
Qualifying kicks off the action at 11:10 on Saturday, ahead of the first of three races at 16:05 later that afternoon. ITV4 will show both Rounds 8 and 9 live as part of the British Touring Car Championship broadcast, scheduled to get underway at 12:20 and 16:30 respectively.
Leading the group aiming for a spot in the top five is Phinsys by Argenti’s Aiden Neate. The Brit needs to add to his sole podium thus far in 2022 this time out to give his title bid a boost. Georgi Dimitrov (JHR) and Eduardo Coseteng (Hitech) are both well-placed to capitalise and make progress up the standings if he does not, the pair split by a single point in seventh and eighth spot respectively.
Edward Pearson’s ultra-consistent, points-scoring form leaves him ninth in the other Virtuosi Racing car, with Louis Sharp tenth after an impressive debut weekend, including a maiden podium in the third of Carlin’s challengers.
The Kiwi crossed the line to finish third in the reverse grid contest, only to be penalised post-race after breaking regulations. Undeterred, the 15-year-old repeated the feat to round out a 1-2-3 for Trevor Carlin’s squad on Sunday, and this time there would be no danger of having the result taken away.
Mercedes-AMG junior Daniel Guinchard (Argenti) is 11th and arrives as Ugochukwu’s closest challenger in the Rookie Cup stakes, 36 points back from the American.
Having stormed through from the back to a career-best fourth in treacherously wet conditions in the final race at Brands, Chris Dittmann Racing’s Joel Pearson arrives on a high and looking to continue building momentum after his return to competition.
He is now tied on points with Hitech GP’s Oliver Stewart but ahead by dint of a higher individual race result, with Noah Lisle (JHR), Daniel Mavlyutov (Hitech) and Adam Fitzgerald (Argenti) blanketed by just one point in the fight for 14th, 15th and 16th.
Thruxton’s high-speed layout always produces blockbuster action in Britain’s FIA Formula 4 series, with cars spending the entire lap at full throttle bar two braking zones – one for the Complex, the other for the Club chicane. Expect plenty of slipstreaming, especially on the run up Woodham Hill!
Away from the on-track action, head to the F4 Race Centre in the paddock at 14:30 on Sunday for an opportunity to meet the drivers and get autographs – you never know where some of these rising stars will be in a few years’ time…