The British F4 iRacing Trophy title fight will go down to the wire at Brands Hatch next week after championship leader Chris Lulham took a sublime victory, then non-scored across a dramatic evening at Silverstone International.
Lulham, who arrived at the Northamptonshire circuit 19 markers clear of Fortec Motorsport team mate Luke Browning, was beaten to pole by 0.081 seconds; Browning set a quickest time of 58.955 to maintain his one-hundred percent qualifying record.
Lulham made the better start from the front row to take the lead into Village on the opening lap and held the advantage until half-distance, when a bold dive to the inside at Stowe promoted Browning to top spot.
Lulham fought back immediately, getting a better exit from The Link to pass Browning down the Hangar Straight. Though the gap remained around 0.3s, Browning ultimately had to settle for second spot as Lulham stretched his points lead to 26 markers.
Their side-by-side battle had, briefly, brought the chasing pack into the mix. Alexey Nesov put a superb move on Carlin’s Zak O’Sullivan into the Club chicane to secure the final spot on the podium, but with his title hopes fading fast, O’Sullivan went back on the offensive.
He re-took third down the Hangar Straight, but unlucky contact with Nesov into Club sent him spinning into the gravel, and he re-joined at the foot of the top ten.
That left Nesov to defend third, with Rafael Martins, Nico Varrone and Marijn Kremers all in close company behind.
Varrone and Martins would collide into Abbey, putting the Arden challenger out of the race and promoting Kremers to fourth behind Nesov.
They would finish in that order, with Varrone continuing to round out the top five. Arden duo Alex Connor and Sebastian Priaulx were next. O’Sullivan managed to fight back as high as eighth, leading home Johnathan Hoggard and JHR’s Abbi Pulling.
Martins was drawn onto reverse-grid pole, and duly dominated the final race of the evening.
He made a faultless start and took full advantage of his team mates battling over second behind to stretch his lead.
That was wiped out in dramatic fashion, however, with the safety car deployed after a crash for points leader Lulham at Abbey. Though he recovered to the pits and would re-join the fray, it was three laps down, ending his hopes of scoring points.
Browning, in stark contrast, had enjoyed a trouble-free run through the pack to fourth on the opening tour, and when the race restarted, he set about dealing maximum damage to Lulham’s points advantage.
That proved difficult though, with Carlin racer Christian Mansell and Arden’s Bart Horsten putting up a stern defence.
Perhaps inevitably, the battle boiled over at Club chicane, Browning tagging the back of Mansell’s car under braking and sending the Australian into a spin, with Browning off across the gravel in avoidance.
A slow down penalty for Horsten through The Link dropped him from the runner-up spot to sixth, and allowed Hoggard and Nesov to leap ahead. They would round out the podium finishers behind Martins, who won his first race in the virtual series by an incredible 6.3 seconds.
Browning would recover to take fourth, slashing Lulham’s lead to 14 points, but for O’Sullivan, the title race came to an end in frustrating fashion.
He caught too much kerb at the restart early on and spun out at the final corner, and when charging back through, he and Alex Connor made contact at Club. O’Sullivan fought back again, but couldn’t rise higher than ninth in the time left.
That put him behind Kremers, Jayden Ojeda, Nathan De Villiers and James Hedley, with Rafael Villagomez behind completing the top ten, the Mexican scoring his first point in the series.
So, the title fight heads to Brands Hatch’s iconic GP loop next Monday (8 June) with a final double header to decide both championships. Will it be Lulham? Will it Browning? Tune in next week to find out!
To re-watch the action from Silverstone International, click here.