An inspired choice to run slick tyres gave James Hedley the tools to cut through the field to victory in a damp-dry opening F4 British Championship certified by FIA – powered by Ford EcoBoost race of the weekend at Thruxton.
It was JHR’s Abbi Pulling who led the field on the opening lap after besting team-mate and pole-sitter Matthew Rees and sweeping around the outside of Allard to assume the race lead.
Five cars – Hedley, Joel Granfors, Matias Zagazeta, Eduardo Coseteng and Zak Taylor – elected to gamble on slick tyres just prior to the race start, with the other 11 runners staying on the wet compound.
Their advantage became clear quickly, with Hedley charging up from ninth to the race lead within the opening three laps, and from there set about building his lead, which peaked at 10 seconds.
Although Granfors closed to within 1.5 seconds of the BRDC Rising Star through lapped traffic during a tense final two laps, Hedley ultimately hung on to open the new season in style, and bank a fourth consecutive win in F4 around the high-speed Hampshire circuit.
Granfors came out ahead of a thrilling battle for the runner-up spot with Zagazeta; lap after lap the two ran side-by-side into the Club chicane, but the Swede ultimately held on.
Both claim their maiden podium finishes, and for Zagazeta the honour of being the first recipient of the Motul Fastest Lap Award – and the bonus point that comes with it – added to the celebrations.
Coseteng and Taylor had a good battle of their own over fourth and fifth, the spoils eventually going the way of Coseteng, who also bagged the Rookie Cup victory in the process.
Oliver Gray finished highest amongst the wet-shod runners, and retained his sixth-placed starting position amongst a topsy-turvy race.
Roman Bilinski made an inspired start, and even ran behind Pulling at the head of the field after an inspired move around the outside of Club on the second tour. The Polish racer made up seven positions on the opening lap, before the conditions counted against him.
Dougie Bolger rounded out the Rookie podium and took eighth overall, the Carlin racer scoring points on his debut outing, with the top ten completed by team-mate Kai Askey. Splitting the pair was McKenzy Cresswell in the leading JHR challenger.
Early race leader Abbi Pulling eventually crossed the line in 12th, having been passed in the closing laps by Thomas Ikin, the Arden racer making up for lost ground after an issue in qualifying hampered his running.
Rees took the flag 13th, with the finishers completed by Tasanapol Inthraphuvasak and Joseph Loake. Marcos Flack was forced to retire on the opening lap.
Sunday features another double-header of action, starting with the reverse-grid race live on ITV4 at 12:20 UK time.
Click here for the full race result.