Matthew Rees launched himself into title contention with a double victory after sharing the headlines with Georgi Dimitrov on an eventful weekend (12-13 June) of F4 British Championship certified by FIA – powered by Ford EcoBoost racing at Snetterton.
JHR Developments racer Rees continued his enviable qualifying record – four pole positions from a possible four – and took a lights-to-flag victory in the opening contest to notch up his first win in single seaters.
He then made it a brace of trips to the top step of the podium on Sunday after managing the gap – and a safety car restart – live on ITV4 to close to within 25 points of championship leader James Hedley (Fortec).
Rees’ triumphs bookended an eventful reverse grid race as Georgi Dimitrov marked his debut – and Richardson Racing’s return to the series – with a maiden win of his own.
Fellow newcomer David Morales led from pole position, then later his team-mate Thomas Ikin (Arden Motorsport) as he fended off a charging Kai Askey (Carlin).
A better exit out of the Wilson Hairpin gave third-placed Dimitrov a better run past the pair, and from there he duly checked out and built up a comfortable 5-second margin of victory.
Ikin held on for a first podium in the category, with team-mate Zak Taylor sending a move past Askey on the inside of Riches with two minutes left on the clock to make it two visits to the rostrum in as many meetings in third.
Hedley’s weekend started in assured fashion, the BRDC Rising Star taking second on the road behind Rees in the opener after fending off McKenzy Cresswell (JHR), who finished third.
Although he made forward progress in the reverse grid race, he could only manage a non-score in 11th, before a battling drive to fourth on Sunday to preserve his lead, and Fortec’s advantage in the Teams Cup over JHR.
Hedley’s Fortec team-mate Joel Granfors made the trip to Norfolk as his closest challenger, and after race two held the enviable record of being the only driver in the field with a perfect run of points-scoring finishes, but an incident with Roman Bilinski (Carlin) in the final race dented his title hopes.
Granfors lunged to the inside of Bilinski whilst disputing seventh at the Wilson Hairpin, the two making contact on the exit. Bilinski’s car survived the ordeal, but a gentle nudge against the barriers spelt the end of Granfors’ afternoon, the Swede retiring before the restart.
He therefore drops to fourth in the points, having been leapfrogged by Rees and the ultra-consistent Cresswell, who made it three podiums in four races with third once more in the finale.
On that occasion, he was bested late on by Marcos Flack, the Phinsys by Argenti racer making a strong case for ‘Driver of the Weekend’ across the triple-header.
His maiden single seater podium in race three aside, the Aussie racer ran up front inside the top five in the opening race and made up eleven positions from the rear of the field to score points in the reverse grid encounter.
That puts him up into seventh outright behind Taylor and Joseph Loake, the JHR racer adding another brace of top-ten finishes to his record this time out.
It proved to be a weekend of ‘what ifs’ for the final Fortec challenger of Oliver Gray. He finished fourth in race one and might have usurped Cresswell and Hedley for a spot on the podium if not for Flack’s late challenge.
He ran to tenth in race two but stalled at the start of race three and dropped to the rear of the field. The safety car gave him an opportunity to atone for the error, and he duly made six passes to finish 11th, but it was a weekend that promised more for the karting graduate.
He now sits eighth in the points, with Matias Zagazeta (Argenti) and Abbi Pulling (JHR) two points apart behind for ninth and tenth after a brace of points finishes apiece and a spirited battle out on track in race three.
Time and again the Peruvian looked to have the pace to take fifth on the road, but a sublime defensive drive by Pulling ensured she would equal her best result of the season thus far and give her title bid some grounding to build on at Brands Hatch.
Dimitrov’s victory and Ikin’s podium elevate them to 11th and 12th overall respectively, the pair also tied on points with Carlin’s Dougie Bolger.
Tasanapol Inthraphuvasak leapfrogs Eduardo Coseteng into 14th and 15th, the latter now level on points with Bilinski after the Polish racer added a solitary point to his total in the opener.
Askey’s career-best fourth in race two moves him to within striking distance of the group ahead, whilst David Morales can reflect with satisfaction on a strong start to life in the category, in particular a superb defensive showing from pole in the second race.
The next three rounds of the F4 British Championship take place at Brands Hatch, Kent on the 26-27 June.
Matthew Rees (#35) said:
“It’s a great feeling. Double pole position was a good start to it and the first win set us on a real high. The reverse grid race wasn’t brilliant, but we kept the pace and showed we were there, racing with James at the back.
“In race three I got a good start and was controlling the gap, inching away. After the safety car restart I managed to get a decent launch and get away from McKenzy, I didn’t have to defend into Wilson.
“It’s a huge confidence booster, we’re now sitting second in the championship and getting closer and closer to James every race, so hopefully we can push him a bit more and maybe even challenge for the title.”
Georgi Dimitrov (#23) said:
“I’m absolutely ecstatic about the win. We didn’t have the qualifying we wanted, the reverse grid helped us a lot and I took full advantage of it.
“Into turn three Tom Ikin just over-slowed it a little bit, a misjudgement, and I took my opportunity to go around the outside of Kai Askey and him, and from there my aim was just to set consistent lap times, not burn the tyres too much for race three and bring the car home for a good result.”
James Hedley (#67) said:
“It’s been a good weekend here at Snetterton. It could have been better, but there was no need to take any risks. I’ve got some solid points and extended the championship lead.
“Thanks to my team and sponsors for their part in getting me here. I can’t wait for the next event at Brands Hatch in a fortnight.”
Marcos Flack (#11) said:
“It was a really enjoyable race, having a little bit of competition with McKenzy during the race just made it extra fun!
“It’s great. To score my first podium at only the second round as a rookie is really good, and congratulations to everyone on the podium – it was all rookies. It’s just amazing.
“To go into the next round knowing I have that first podium will be great to just push forward, even that little bit of experience of racing up at the front.”
McKenzy Cresswell (#16) said:
“It’s been a great weekend! To come away with two podium finishes is not only good for my overall championship aspirations but also the Rookie Cup as well.
“As soon as I hit the track on Friday I felt comfortable in the car and credit has to go to JHR Developments for giving me the tools to do the job. I gave it a proper go for second place in race one early on but when that didn’t come off it was about managing the pace.
“Race two was always going to be difficult starting towards the back and I made the best of things. Getting back on the podium in race three was fantastic, I didn’t quite have the pace to match Matthew [Rees] – he did a great job – but I can’t be disappointed with more silverware.
“We’ve made a strong start to the season and I’m keen to keep the momentum going at Brands Hatch in a couple of weeks’ time. I’m fully focused on just keeping the points ticking over and hopefully that will equate to use being in the mix come the end of the year.
Thomas Ikin (#11) said:
“I’m very happy. We’ve been struggling this weekend, I haven’t been quite on the pace but I think we were able to get a good start and hang on to second place. We were struggling a little bit with the balance but we managed to hang on at the end.”
To view full race results from the weekend, click here.