Preview: Ford’s rising stars set for crucial Snetterton triple-header

With six races to go, and five drivers still in contention for the crown, the F4 British Championship certified by FIA – powered by Ford EcoBoost visits Snetterton, Norfolk, this weekend [24-25 October] for a crucial triple-header in the 2020 title fight.

Luke Browning (Fortec) arrives with a 13-point lead over closest challenger Zak O’Sullivan and will be looking to halt the Carlin racer’s momentum; a sixth victory of the campaign plus a further podium last time out at Croft has put O’Sullivan within striking range of top spot.

Both will need to be wary, however, with third-placed Casper Stevenson closing in; the Argenti Motorsport racer has taken victories in successive meetings, and a podium finish in the opening race on Saturday will see him set a record-breaking tenth trip to the rostrum in a row.

He sits just 33 points back from Browning, and with momentum on his side, results this weekend could be crucial as he looks to move himself into contention on Finals Day.

For the other two drivers still in mathematical contention – JHR’s James Hedley (-94) and Arden’s Alex Connor (-99) – Snetterton is a ‘make or break’ weekend for their title bids.

Both have shone at times in 2020, such as Hedley’s Thruxton hat-trick and Connor’s masterful drives at Donington Park and Silverstone, and the pair will need a repeat performance – plus a slice of bad luck for the trio ahead – to get themselves back in the mix.

Browning can, of course, theoretically seal the crown at Snetterton, but will require an unlikely 76-point lead or greater by the end of Sunday’s action to do so, meaning once again the title fight in Britain’s FIA Formula 4 series is set to go down to the wire at Brands Hatch.

Such is the strength in depth of competition amongst Ford’s rising stars this season, the leading quintet will need to keep one eye on the chasing pack behind.

JHR’s Abbi Pulling will be keen to add to her trio of podium finishes after bringing home more silverware in Yorkshire, and Arden’s Roman Bilinski will no doubt be eyeing a return to the rostrum as the pair debate sixth overall in the points.

Carlin’s Christian Mansell could wrap up the Rookie Cup title a round early at Snetterton, but with the final ‘Red Arrow’, Frederick Lubin (Arden), on his case, the Australian will need to be on top form to secure the honours.

The pair split the class victories at Croft, and Lubin marginally narrowed the gap between them down to 43 points; the Brit will be aiming for a repeat to take their battle down to the wire.

Carlin’s Matias Zagazeta added an impressive tenth Rookie podium of the season to his CV at Croft, and remains in contention, but will need a strong weekend to keep himself in the reckoning.

His on-circuit battles with the second Argenti challenger of Reema Juffali were nothing short of thrilling at Croft, with the pair – and rapid Mexican Rafael Villagomez – set to thrill the ITV4 audience yet again this weekend.

Browning and O’Sullivan’s battle at the championship summit is reflected in the Teams Cup standings, with Fortec holding a narrow 7-point advantage heading into the final six races.

Crucially, they will be without Villagomez at the season finale, so maximising results around the 2.96-mile Norfolk circuit this time out will be crucial if they are to secure a maiden Teams’ title.

Qualifying (09:00) and the opening two races (12:40 & 15:35) kick off the competitive action on Saturday, with the final, ITV4-televised race on Sunday at 11:53 (GMT).

Luke Browning looks to regroup ahead of title-deciding month

Fortec Motorsport’s Luke Browning is aiming to regroup and strike back ahead of a pivotal final month in the 2020 F4 British Championship certified by FIA – powered by Ford EcoBoost title fight.

Sophomore racer Browning enjoyed a stellar first half of the season, taking five race victories – including a hat-trick at Oulton Park and a record-equalling four in a row – to propel himself into a comfortable championship lead.

But a tougher spell behind the wheel in recent rounds, with a pair of third-place finishes the highlight from the last eight races, has enabled his closest title challenger Zak O’Sullivan (Carlin) to hit form and close the gap in the standings to just 13 points with six races left to run.

With Argenti’s Casper Stevenson enjoying a record-equalling run of podiums and his maiden victories to propel himself into the mix, and neither JHR’s James Hedley nor Arden’s Alex Connor out of contention, Britain’s FIA Formula 4 series is now set for a thrilling, five-way shootout for the crown across the final two meeting at Snetterton and Brands Hatch Indy.

But the message from Browning’s camp is clear – the fight back starts now.

Reflecting on a mixed weekend at Croft for the 18-year old, Browning explained that just missing out on pole position in qualifying – in the case of second-fastest times by virtue of Stevenson setting their identical lap times first – gave him an uphill task from there.

“Qualifying was the best part of the weekend really, which is a rare one for us,” said Browning.

“But it was just a bit of a shocking weekend on my behalf, I performed very well in qualifying, my theoretical time was two tenths up the road and we should have been on double pole pretty comfortably.

“I made it difficult for myself in that sense because if I’d have started first I’d have found it a lot easier just to drive off.”

“In race one I made a mistake and went straight on at the first corner, and I managed to recover into sixth but it just didn’t really go to plan.”

One highlight of the ITV4-televised finale on Sunday for Browning was a new lap record around the 2.1-mile Yorkshire circuit, the Cheshire-based driver clocking a 1:19.521 to narrowly beat reigning champion Zane Maloney’s time from last year.

Third place behind Stevenson and O’Sullivan also meant a return to the rostrum, giving Browning some momentum heading into the final six races.

“Race two was a solid race, we’ve got the lap record around there now which is pretty cool. If we’d be on pole it’d have been a different story,” says Browning.

“We need to have some more and more positive rounds now, we’ve had a couple of bad rounds, the last three just haven’t been very strong for whatever reason.

“I knew they weren’t going to be the most strong, Snetterton and Brands are two of my strongest tracks – I really do expect to hopefully be on pole there and drive off into the distance!

“That would be lovely, but that’s not always how racing works out. I know our pace is going to be fast, the car feels quick and if everything comes together I guess we’ll aim for the triple again!”

Looking ahead to an intense final six races of the season – including a battle between Browning’s Fortec team and nearest challengers Carlin for the Teams Cup honours – Browning is in pragmatic mood and aiming to strike back, starting at Snetterton next week.

“They’ve got to score 13 more points than me, so if I get a few wins before the end of the season now I’ll be absolutely clear and I don’t see why that can’t happen.”

Zak O’Sullivan pleased with progress after stellar weekend at Croft

Gloucestershire’s Zak O’Sullivan mastered tricky conditions to notch up a sixth victory of his impressive maiden British F4 campaign at Croft in North Yorkshire (October 9-11).

The 15-year-old qualified third for the two weekend races and improved on his grid slot in both, mastering the wet weather to win Saturday’s opening encounter and backing that up with second in Sunday’s race, televised live on ITV4.

The Carlin driver is now 13 points behind series leader Luke Browning (Fortec) in the championship standings, having cut the gap from 62 points over the last two meetings.

On a slippery surface, O’Sullivan made a good start to the opening race, passing Browning when he ran wide into the first corner, Clervaux.

He then harried poleman Casper Stevenson (Argenti) around the rest of the lap, passing him on the second tour to establish a lead he would never lose, coming home just 0.4 seconds to the good at the flag.

After holding his starting position off the line in Sunday’s race, an early safety car to retrieve the stricken Arden of Roman Bilinski led to drama for O’Sullivan, with the second Arden of Alex Connor making contact with the rear of his car at the complex.

O’Sullivan was able to continue and maintain third at the restart, before diving past Browning at the hairpin and running side-by-side with the Fortec driver down the pit straight.

After taking the outside line into Clervaux, O’Sullivan executed the cutback perfectly to take second and hold the position to the flag.

O’Sullivan, from Withington, near Cirencester, said: “It was a really positive weekend. About an hour before the first race, the rain came down, which made conditions tricky. Luke ran wide at the first turn and gifted me second and then I was able to overtake Casper for the lead.

“In the second race, I made a really nice move on Luke at the hairpin and was able to take second. I put the pressure on Casper but he didn’t make any mistakes, so I settled for second.”

O’Sullivan says he’s still not thinking about the championship fight but was full of praise for the British F4 series he’s competing in for the first time.

He said: “I am really enjoying this championship and the competition, it is very even out there.

“I am very pleased with the decision to race in British F4 and the publicity it has given me has really helped with my plans for next year.

“I came into the championship with the purpose of learning to race single-seaters and to enjoy myself, and both objectives have been achieved.

“I’m not focused on the championship battle – I’m just reflecting on how much I’ve learned.”

The series now pauses for another week before arriving at Snetterton in Norfolk (October 23-25) for the penultimate round of the championship.

Report supplied by Driver PR.

Event review: O’Sullivan and Stevenson close in with Croft victories

Zak O’Sullivan and Casper Stevenson moved to within striking distance of points leader Luke Browning after splitting the victories in the F4 British Championship certified by FIA – powered by Ford EcoBoost at Croft last weekend [10-11 October].

Fresh from a maiden victory in Britain’s FIA Formula 4 series at Silverstone, Argenti Motorsport racer Stevenson arrived at the 2.1-mile Yorkshire circuit in high spirits and carried that momentum forward, scoring his first two pole positions in the category, the second despite setting an identical lap time to Browning.

He couldn’t convert it into another visit to the winner’s circle come the race, however, with O’Sullivan cutting through from third on the grid to take the spoils – his sixth victory of the campaign.

The Carlin racer made a good start from the second row, moving past Browning as the Fortec racer slipped back at Clervaux on the opening lap, and then dispatching Stevenson at the Chicane on the following tour to assume the race lead.

Stevenson did mount a fightback, but ultimately came up just short, the pair taking the chequered flag 0.4 seconds apart.

Browning had to settle for just sixth in the opening race, but was back in the thick of the action at the front in the ITV4-televised finale on Sunday afternoon.

Stevenson once again made the best start from pole position, with O’Sullivan slotting into third behind Browning.

An early safety car stoppage for Roman Bilinski’s stranded Arden challenger in the Clervaux gravel trap neutralised the action, and when it restarted some five minutes later, Stevenson made no mistake.

He was given crucial breathing space as O’Sullivan and Browning went into combat over second spot; O’Sullivan’s attempted pass at the inside of the Hairpin put the pair side-by-side down the main straight.

Browning braked later on the inside line, but went wide and skirted the edge of the gravel at Clervaux, allowing O’Sullivan to get the cutback and take the runner-up spot.

It was a classic case of role reversal, with O’Sullivan now applying the pressure in chase of Stevenson, but with the same result.

Stevenson held on by just over a second to notch up his second win of the season, and notably a ninth consecutive podium finish, equalling Josh Skelton’s all-time record.

O’Sullivan’s second place means the gap to Browning – back on the podium after a six-race absence – reduces to just 13 points at the championship summit, with Stevenson hot on their heels, a further 20 markers back with six races left to run in 2020.

Behind the championship battle, Ford’s rising stars threw up a whole host of stories on a thrilling weekend in Yorkshire.

The other two drivers still in mathematical contention for the crown – JHR’s James Hedley and Arden’s Alex Connor – saw their title bids take a blow on a tough weekend.

The pair finished seventh and eighth respectively in race one after a difficult qualifying, and Hedley could only move forward to fifth in race two.

Connor was an early retirement from that contest after contact with the rear of O’Sullivan’s car on the opening lap.

With a maximum score of 150 points still on the table across the final two meetings, both Hedley (-94) and Connor (-99) are still in the running, but will need to hit the front in some style over the last six rounds.

Christian Mansell maintained his advantage in the Rookie Cup stakes, despite a strong weekend for closest challenger Frederick Lubin (Arden).

Lubin equalled his career-best finish of fourth in the opening race, and with it a fifth Rookie win, but Mansell was able to reverse their fortunes on Sunday to keep a 43-point lead heading to Snetterton.

That means the Australian can mathematically wrap up the title next time out, but will need a 33-point swing by the end of the triple-header in Norfolk to secure the honours.

Abbi Pulling made a return to the rostrum, the JHR racer finishing a comfortable third behind O’Sullivan and Stevenson in the opener after a strong getaway.

That marks her third podium of the campaign, and moves her into the top six in the standings.

Series returnee Rafael Villagomez (Fortec), Argenti’s Reema Juffali and Carlin’s Matias Zagazeta delivered arguably the battle of the weekend over eighth spot on Sunday.

The Mexican did superbly to soak up the pressure from the pair as they ran virtually nose-to-tail for the majority of the race, but an unlucky off at Sunny Out left Villagomez on the sidelines in the closing stages, with Juffali coming through to pick up her first F4 points at Croft, and Zagazeta another Rookie podium.

In the Teams Cup, Fortec Motorsport now have a slender 7-point advantage over a resurgent Carlin, with Arden similarly keeping JHR at bay by just 2 points.

Argenti continued to surge up the standings, and now just sit a further 20 points back from the established front-runners despite being in their maiden season of competition.

With six races to go, the title battle is reaching fever-pitch at the front, and Snetterton’s 300 circuit in Norfolk will provide the next thrilling instalment on 24-25 October.

Stevenson ignites title fight with lights-to-flag win at Croft

Casper Stevenson held his nerve to take a lights-to-flag victory in the final race of the weekend at Croft and ignite the F4 British Championship certified by FIA – powered by Ford EcoBoost title fight.

The Argenti Motorsport racer saw off a challenge from Fortec’s Luke Browning on the run down to Clervaux on the opening lap, with Carlin’s Zak O’Sullivan – the other chief title contender – slotting into third.

The action was halted on the opening tour of the 2.1-mile Yorkshire circuit after an off for Arden Motorsport’s Roman Bilinski, the Polish racer locking up and heading straight on at Clervaux, before skirting across the gravel and into the barrier.

That brought out the Ford Fiesta ST safety car, with more drama at the Complex after fourth-placed Alex Connor (Arden Motorsport) made contact with the rear of O’Sullivan’s car.

O’Sullivan was able to continue in third, but front-left suspension damage left Connor bound for the pit lane, and out of the race.

On the restart, Stevenson made a solid getaway, holding Browning and O’Sullivan at arm’s length, 0.3 seconds behind.

A dive to the inside at the Hairpin on the following lap put O’Sullivan alongside Browning, the pair running side-by-side down the main straight. O’Sullivan took the outside line into Clervaux and executed the cutback to perfection as Browning ran slightly wide and dropped back to third.

That battle gave Stevenson crucial breathing space, and he duly took the chequered flag 1.246 seconds clear to notch up his second victory of the season, and equal Josh Skelton’s record for nine consecutive podium finishes.

Browning came back at O’Sullivan in the closing stages but couldn’t force a mistake; the result means the Fortec racer now holds a 13-point advantage with six races left to run in 2020.

Abbi Pulling was a solid fourth in the leading JHR Developments challenger, with team mate James Hedley behind in fifth after a superb battle with Carlin’s Christian Mansell.

The Australian initially seized the upper hand through the chicane, but Hedley got the cutback on the exit of Tower to return the favour, and from there the BRDC Rising Star was able to get his head down and pull clear.

Mansell held sixth – and with it takes another crucial victory in the Rookie Cup stakes – but couldn’t afford any mistakes with chief rival Frederick Lubin seventh in the sole surviving Arden car.

The battle for eighth was arguably the best of the race, contested between Fortec’s Rafael Villagomez, Argenti’s Reema Juffali and Carlin’s Matias Zagazeta.

The trio ran nose-to-tail for the majority of the contest with Villagomez soaking up the pressure, but an unfortunate off-moment at Sunny Out put the Mexican out of the race, promoting Juffali to eighth – her first points in Britain’s FIA Formula 4 series at Croft – with Zagazeta ninth, and rounding out the Rookie podium.

The F4 British Championship heads next to Snetterton, Norfolk, over the weekend of 24-25 October.

Provisional Result – Round 20

Pos. Name Team Time
1 Casper STEVENSON Argenti Motorsport 15 laps
2 Zak O’SULLIVAN Carlin +1.246s
3 Luke BROWNING Fortec Motorsport +1.619s
4 Abbi PULLING JHR Developments +6.422s
5 James HEDLEY JHR Developments +7.061s
6 Christian MANSELL Carlin +11.867s
7 Frederick LUBIN Arden Motorsport +14.532s
8 Reema JUFFALI Argenti Motorsport +15.726s
9 Matias ZAGAZETA Carlin +16.570s
DNF Rafael VILLAGOMEZ Fortec Motorsport +4 laps
DNF Alex CONNOR Arden Motorsport +14 laps
DNF Roman BILINSKI Arden Motorsport +14 laps

O’Sullivan resists pressure to win Croft opener and close in on championship lead

Zak O’Sullivan resisted late pressure from pole sitter Casper Stevenson to win the opening F4 British Championship certified by FIA – powered by Ford EcoBoost race of the weekend at Croft and close in on the championship lead.

Argenti Motorsport racer Stevenson made a good start from the front, but O’Sullivan seized the upper hand through the chicane on the second tour of the 2.1-mile Yorkshire circuit, and from there set about extending his advantage to around 2 seconds at half-distance.

Stevenson showed tremendous fighting spirit to come back at the Carlin racer, but ended up just 0.4 seconds behind at the chequered flag, banking an eighth podium in a row in the process.

For O’Sullivan, a sixth victory of the campaign moves him to within 16 points of championship leader Luke Browning (Fortec), who only managed sixth.

Browning fell back after an off at Clervaux on the opening lap; he rejoined fourth behind a charging Abbi Pulling (JHR), then slipped behind the Arden pairing of Frederick Lubin and Roman Bilinski.

Pulling duly checked out after the top two and went unchallenged en route to a third podium of the campaign, with Lubin a comfortable fourth thereafter, but quite the queue began to form behind Bilinski for the final spot in the top five towards the end of the race.

The Polish racer yet again showed superb defensive race craft to fend off Browning, who in turn had to keep JHR’s James Hedley, then Arden’s Alex Connor at arm’s length to hold sixth.

Connor’s move to the inside of Hedley at the Complex meant he would take seventh, the pair finishing just two tenths of a second ahead of Rafael Villagomez in the other Fortec Motorsport challenger.

Christian Mansell (Carlin) took the final points-paying position in tenth, and rounded out the Rookie podium behind Villagomez and class winner Lubin.

Reema Juffali (Argenti) came out ahead of Matias Zagazeta (Carlin) in the battle for 11th and 12 respectively.

The action concludes at Croft with the second race of the weekend on Sunday at 13:17 (BST).

Provisional Result – Round 19

Pos. Name Team Time
1 Zak O’SULLIVAN Carlin 14 laps
2 Casper STEVENSON Argenti Motorsport +0.448s
3 Abbi PULLING JHR Developments +3.839s
4 Frederick LUBIN Arden Motorsport +8.646s
5 Roman BILINSKI Arden Motorsport +11.492s
6 Luke BROWNING Fortec Motorsport +11.851s
7 Alex CONNOR Arden Motorsport +12.169s
8 James HEDLEY JHR Developments +12.752s
9 Rafael VILLAGOMEZ Fortec Motorsport +12.957s
10 Christian MANSELL Carlin +13.809s
11 Reema JUFFALI Argenti Motorsport +24.759s
12 Matias ZAGAZETA Carlin +26.463s

Casper Stevenson takes maiden pole after Croft qualifying thriller

Casper Stevenson scored his and Argenti Motorsport’s maiden pole position in the F4 British Championship certified by FIA – powered by Ford EcoBoost after a titanic battle at the top in qualifying at Croft.

It proved to be a tense affair, with the current top three in the standings – Stevenson, Carlin’s Zak O’Sullivan and current points leader Luke Browning (Fortec) – spent the second half of the session debating top spot on the timesheets.

Browning looked to have the advantage as the only driver inside the 1:19s, before O’Sullivan, then Stevenson in turn wrested top spot away. Browning fought back, first matching Stevenson’s benchmark of 1:19.595 in a dead tie between the pair, then going marginally quicker.

Stevenson had the final word, however, clocking a 1:19.536 on his final tour of the 2.1-mile Yorkshire circuit to seize his first pole position in Britain’s FIA Formula 4 series at the chequered flag.

That put him 0.040 seconds clear of Browning, and with O’Sullivan just a further 0.059s back the stage is set for a thrilling battle for the spoils in the opening race this afternoon at 15:35 BST.

On second-fastest times, Stevenson and Browning remain tied on 1:19.595, but crucially Stevenson keeps top spot to lock out a double pole position by virtue of setting the benchmark first.

Arden Motorsport’s Roman Bilinski took a career-best fourth on the grid, with team mate Frederick Lubin likewise celebrating a strong sixth, the pair split by the leading JHR Developments challenger of Abbi Pulling.

James Hedley (JHR) and Alex Connor (Arden) will start together on row four in seventh and eighth respectively; the pair are split by just three points in the standings and need a strong weekend to keep their respective title bids in good health.

Carlin’s Christian Mansell had run as high as third in the opening laps of the session, but eventually slipped to ninth; remarkably, just another 0.027s would have elevated the Australian as high as sixth, showcasing the strength in depth of the competition amongst Ford’s rising stars in 2020.

The second Fortec Motorsport challenger of Rafael Villagomez completes the top ten, with Matias Zagazeta (Carlin) 11th and Reema Juffali (Argenti) 12th.

Grid for Round 19:

Pos. Name Team Time Laps
1 Casper STEVENSON Argenti Motorsport 1:19.536s 11
2 Luke BROWNING Fortec Motorsport +0.040s 13
3 Zak O’SULLIVAN Carlin +0.099s 12
4 Roman BILINSKI Arden Motorsport +0.327s 12
5 Abbi PULLING JHR Developments +0.405s 12
6 Frederick LUBIN Arden Motorsport +0.414s 12
7 James HEDLEY JHR Developments +0.422s 12
8 Alex CONNOR Arden Motorsport +0.428s 11
9 Christian MANSELL Carlin +0.433s 13
10 Rafael VILLAGOMEZ Fortec Motorsport +0.578s 13
11 Matias ZAGAZETA Carlin +0.816s 14
12 Reema JUFFALI Argenti Motorsport +1.203s 12

Grid for Round 20:

Pos. Name Team Time Laps
1 Casper STEVENSON Argenti Motorsport 1:19.595s 11
2 Luke BROWNING Fortec Motorsport +0.000s 13
3 Zak O’SULLIVAN Carlin +0.170s 12
4 Roman BILINSKI Arden Motorsport +0.319s 12
5 Alex CONNOR Arden Motorsport +0.397s 11
6 Abbi PULLING JHR Developments +0.429s 12
7 James HEDLEY JHR Developments +0.446s 12
8 Christian MANSELL Carlin +0.495s 13
9 Frederick LUBIN Arden Motorsport +0.515s 12
10 Rafael VILLAGOMEZ Fortec Motorsport +0.581s 13
11 Matias ZAGAZETA Carlin +0.850s 14
12 Reema JUFFALI Argenti Motorsport +1.334s 12

O’Sullivan flies to fastest time on drying surface in final practice

Zak O’Sullivan ended the day quickest after flying to the fastest time on a drying track surface in the final F4 British Championship certified by FIA – powered by Ford EcoBoost practice session of the weekend at Croft.

The Carlin racer lowered the benchmark to 1:22.380 on his final two flying laps as track conditions improved late on in the session, powering 0.5 seconds clear of erstwhile session leader Alex Connor (Arden Motorsport).

Connor had been dicing for top spot with team mate Roman Bilinski and Fortec’s Luke Browning earlier in the running, but the order would be turned on it’s head as slicks became the tyre compound of choice late on.

Frederick Lubin ensured the Red Arrows kept up their strong showing thus far, setting the third-quickest lap time ahead of JHR’s Abbi Pulling, who briefly topped the timesheets before O’Sullivan’s effort.

Bilinski ended up sixth behind the second JHR challenger of James Hedley, whilst Browning slipped to ninth behind Carlin’s Christian Mansell and Argenti Motorsport’s Casper Stevenson by the chequered flag.

Browning’s team mate Rafael Villagomez completes the top ten, with Reema Juffali (Argenti) and Matias Zagazeta (Carlin) split by 0.144 seconds in 11th and 12th respectively.

Competitive action at Croft begins with qualifying at 10:25 BST.

Session Result – Free Practice 2

Pos. Name Team Time Laps
1 Zak O’SULLIVAN Carlin 1:22.380s 22
2 Alex CONNOR Arden Motorsport +0.595s 21
3 Frederick LUBIN Arden Motorsport +0.894s 21
4 Abbi PULLING JHR Developments +1.054s 20
5 James HEDLEY JHR Developments +1.223s 18
6 Roman BILINSKI Arden Motorsport +1.623s 21
7 Christian MANSELL Carlin +2.693s 22
8 Casper STEVENSON Argenti Motorsport +2.712s 21
9 Luke BROWNING Fortec Motorsport +2.779s 22
10 Rafael VILLAGOMEZ Fortec Motorsport +3.280s 23
11 Reema JUFFALI Argenti Motorsport +3.867s 19
12 Matias ZAGAZETA Carlin +4.011s 21

Browning starts on the front foot in damp opening Croft practice

Points leader Luke Browning started the weekend on the front foot after topping the timesheets in a damp opening F4 British Championship certified by FIA – powered by Ford EcoBoost practice session at Croft.

The Fortec Motorsport racer traded top spot with Arden Motorsport’s Alex Connor for the majority of the session,  but set a benchmark time of 1:25.884 on his second run around the 2.12-mile Yorkshire circuit to pull 0.211 seconds clear.

Connor’s team mates Roman Bilinski and Frederick Lubin made it a strong session for the Red Arrows in third and fourth respectively, whilst Rafael Villagomez’s run to fifth completed a Fortec-Arden stranglehold on the top five.

Fresh from his maiden victory in Britain’s FIA Formula 4 series last time out at Silverstone, Argenti Motorsport’s Casper Stevenson was sixth quickest, 0.2 seconds clear of fellow title contender James Hedley in the leading JHR Developments challenger.

At one stage, only a thousandth of a second separated Hedley and team mate Pulling, but an improvement for Carlin’s Christian Mansell promoted the Australian to eighth between the pair.

Argenti Motorsport’s Reema Juffali rounds out the top ten, with Carlin’s Matias Zagazeta 0.015 seconds behind in 11th.

Browning’s closest challenger in the standings, Zak O’Sullivan, was unable to set an official lap time due to a transponder fault.

The second practice session of the weekend at Croft gets underway at 13:25 BST.

Session Result – Free Practice 1

Pos. Name Team Time Laps
1 Luke BROWNING Fortec Motorsport 1:25.844s 21
2 Alex CONNOR Arden Motorsport +0.211s 20
3 Roman BILINSKI Arden Motorsport +0.426s 20
4 Frederick LUBIN Arden Motorsport +0.750s 21
5 Rafael VILLAGOMEZ Fortec Motorsport +0.814s 20
6 Casper STEVENSON Argenti Motorsport +1.020s 19
7 James HEDLEY JHR Developments +1.202s 20
8 Christian MANSELL Carlin +1.235s 18
9 Abbi PULLING JHR Developments +1.291s 19
10 Reema JUFFALI Argenti Motorsport +1.553s 19
11 Matias ZAGAZETA Carlin +1.568s 20

Preview: Ford’s ‘Famous Five’ head to Croft for next chapter in 2020 title race

It’s still advantage Luke Browning at the top of the F4 British Championship certified by FIA – powered by Ford EcoBoost standings, but the momentum is with the chasing pack heading to Croft this weekend [09-11 October].

Zak O’Sullivan, Casper Stevenson and Alex Connor – the three drivers closest to Browning – split the victories at Silverstone last time out, with closest challenger O’Sullivan scoring a podium hat-trick to reduce the arrears to 33 points with eight races still to run.

First-time winner Stevenson is now just a further 20 markers behind, and both Connor and JHR’s James Hedley – fourth and fifth overall – will need a strong weekend in Yorkshire to keep their title bids alive and kicking.

Crucially, Ford’s rising stars will be without a reverse-grid race this weekend due to the reduced daylight hours, with both grids set from their fastest and second-fastest times in qualifying respectively.

Croft is among the hardest circuits to overtake at on the calendar, so a strong qualifying from Browning could yet see him keep the others at arm’s length and stabilise his lead heading into the title run-in.

Behind the leading quintet, a whole host of drivers have already shown their ability to fight for podium finishes in 2020, and could yet throw a spanner in the works for the title contenders.

Roman Bilinski has been enjoying a consistent run of late, with JHR’s Abbi Pulling no doubt keen to add to her silverware tally after visits to the rostrum at Brands Hatch and Thruxton earlier in the campaign.

Reema Juffali thrilled the ITV audiences in Northamptonshire with a hat-trick of points finishes, including two equal career-best results and some superb racecraft, and will be looking to build on that again this time around.

Aussie rising star Christian Mansell leads a hotly-contested Rookie Cup, having shared the spoils with Frederick Lubin, Matias Zagazeta and the returning Rafael Villagomez of late.

In the Teams Cup, it’s advantage Fortec Motorsport, but getting both Browning and the returning Rafael Villagomez at the sharp end will be vital with Carlin and Arden hot on their heels.