British F4 iRacing Trophy points leader Luke Browning extended his advantage slightly after splitting the victories with Nico Varrone on an eventful night of action at Brands Hatch.
Browning – who set pole position for the second consecutive meeting, this time by just 0.04 seconds from Carlin’s Zak O’Sullivan – was beaten off the line by O’Sullivan and his Carlin team mate Zane Maloney, but contact due to net code sent the pair off at Paddock Hill with Fortec’s Chris Lulham, and allowed Marijn Kremers (Carlin) to storm through and take an early lead.
Further incidents for Johnathan Hoggard and Kiern Jewiss, among others, on a chaotic opening lap caused a brief safety car stoppage, and after it Browning proved too tough to hold back; he made a bold lunge on Kremers at Paddock, and from there set a series of rapid laps to establish a comfortable 4.4-second margin at the flag.
“I really enjoy Brands Hatch, it’s my favourite track,” said Browning.
“It’s one I’ve had a win at in each category I’ve raced, so I’ve got some really fond memories around here and that’s clearly come into the virtual world as well.”
Kremers went unchallenged for the runner-up spot, with the final spot on the podium taken by Lulham after an impressive comeback drive.
The sim racing regular made significant progress from the foot of the top ten at the restart, picking off his opponents one-by-one before making a move stick on Maloney around the outside of Paddock, with the Bajan’s car suffering from slight damage as a result of the early troubles.
JHR Developments’ Josh Skelton rounded out the top five to kickstart his points tally, with O’Sullivan similarly recovering well to claim sixth and keep the pressure on Fortec duo Browning and Lulham in the standings.
If the opening race was anything to go by, the reverse-grid contest sent excitement levels through the roof.
It would be Arden’s Frederick Lubin that was reversed into top spot, but with the most-recent Aston Martin BRDC Autosport Award winner Hoggard, JHR’s James Hedley and team mate Rafael Martins all for company, and keen for a good result.
Lubin started well, but ran slightly wide at Druids on the opening tour to hand Hoggard the early advantage; Varrone eventually slotted into third after drama at Clearways, Maloney was fourth and Hedley fifth.
Moves from Varrone and Maloney on Lubin released them to chase down Hoggard, with the three eventually running nose-to-tail for the lead.
Connection issues deprived Maloney of his chance to challenge for the win; Varrone, however, was able to capitalise, passing Hoggard on the inside at Druids, from which he was never headed, despite Hoggard’s best efforts.
“It was a great first lap for me, I managed to gain three places,” explained Varrone.
“Then there was an accident in front of me in the last corner on lap two, so in that moment I got into second behind Johnathan and from that moment on, it was a really, really hard fight.
“We were on the same pace, I was closing the gap a little bit but when I was really close to him, I lost downforce in the fast corners, it was really difficult.
“With three laps remaining, I had a good exit from the last corner and in Turn 1 I managed to overtake him with a really nice move. He respected me, so it was really nice, and then took the victory, so I’m very happy.”
Lulham once again completed the rostrum to close to within 6 points of team mate Browning in the standings, the latter eventually finishing 11th after completing the race distance with no rear wing as a result of damage sustained on the opening lap.
Kremers was fourth to cap a solid evening’s work, with Lubin sixth behind Arden team mate Alex Connor on his debut in the series.
Looking at the championship once more, O’Sullivan remains third in the points, 21 points back, despite a frustrating evening, with team mate Kremers jumping up to fourth overall, and Varrone rounding out the top five.
Four races down, ten to go. The British F4 iRacing Trophy heads next to Silverstone’s National circuit on Monday, 11th May, with the action due to start at 19:30.
To re-watch all the action from Brands Hatch, click here.