Luke Browning and Johnathan Hoggard maintained Fortec Motorsport’s impressive winning run in the British F4 iRacing Trophy, splitting the victories between them on an eventful night at a virtual Oulton Park.
Browning extended his run of pole positions to four at his local circuit, setting a best time of 1:13.675 around the 2.2-mile Island circuit to beat team mate and championship leader Chris Lulham by 0.2 seconds, with Arden’s Rafael Martins and the Fortec duo’s closest challenger, Carlin’s Zak O’Sullivan, behind on the second row.
The pair made a level start but Lulham edged ahead on the run through Old Hall, before Browning struck back at Cascades to reassert himself at the front of the field.
A safety car interruption for a string of incidents further back neutralised the race early on, though moments before O’Sullivan’s bold dive to the inside of Martins at Island Hairpin had elevated him to the final spot; follow up contact with other cars then dropped Martins back as Zane Maloney assumed fourth after a strong start.
Browning’s authority on the race went unchecked at the restart as he powered around half a second clear of Lulham, who similarly held O’Sullivan at arm’s length.
And so it would remain, with Browning the first driver to reach a hat-trick of wins in the series as he took the chequered flag 0.9s clear of his chief title rivals Lulham and O’Sullivan.
Nico Varrone – a race winner at the same venue 24 hours prior in British F3’s iRacing Championship – took fourth after a spin at Knickerbrook for Maloney, with JHR’s Mikkel Grundtvig fifth on his return to the competition.
Hoggard was next, with Martins seventh after a stellar fightback. Jayden Ojeda, Sebastian Priaulx and Nathan De Villiers all completed the points scorers for Round 7.
Carlin’s Matias Zagazeta took charge of pole position for the reverse grid race, the Peruvian rising star alongside Horatio Fitz-Simon and his team mates Marijn Kremers and Maloney.
Chaos ensued at lights out, with multi-car incidents at the start, Old Hall and Cascades respectively, the net result of which was the lead for Maloney, with Argenti Motorsport’s Nico Pino just behind ahead of Priaulx, Kremers and Alex Connor as the safety car made it’s second appearance of the evening.
Both Maloney and Pino hit trouble after the restart, with Hoggard and Varrone capitalising to move into first and second respectively, the gap about 3.5 seconds in the Fortec racer’s favour.
Varrone closed that gap as the race wore on, however, and came within 0.5s of taking victory from the Aston Martin BRDC Autosport Award winner, but Hoggard would not be denied as he became the fifth different winner from eight races.
The battle for the final podium spot was nothing short of thrilling as Alexey Nesov fended off constant pressure from O’Sullivan behind.
Contact earlier in the race had wiped out both of O’Sullivan’s title rivals in Browning and Lulham, forcing both to pit and return to the fray outside of the points; any additional points for O’Sullivan, therefore, were invaluable in his charge to catch them in the standings.
Several times the pair ran side-by-side as O’Sullivan attempted to force a mistake, but Nesov held firm to score his second podium in consecutive meetings by 0.3 seconds.
Christian Mansell rounded out the top five at the finish, beating Kremers, Connor, Caroline, Nathan De Villiers and Lulham, who recovered well to take a solitary point in tenth after his quick repair.
That could prove vital in the championship hunt, maintaining Lulham’s lead, but by a reduced margin of three points over Browning. O’Sullivan moves to within 13 points of the pair, with Varrone now just 33 markers adrift with 225 left to race for.
The championship resumes next Monday (25 May) at Snetterton 300, with the action set to start at 19:30 (BST).
To re-watch the action from Oulton Park, click here.