Zak O’Sullivan (Carlin) seized the early advantage after splitting the victories with Alex Connor (Arden) and James Hedley (JHR) on a dramatic opening F4 British Championship certified by FIA – powered by Ford EcoBoost weekend at Donington Park.
Ford’s rising stars arrived at the 1.97-mile Leicestershire circuit to kick off the delayed 2020 season, with 15 drivers across five of Europe’s premier junior single-seater teams ready to battle it out in Britain’s FIA Formula 4 series in 26 races over the next three months.
Hedley’s pace during two pre-season championship-run test days had been rapid, and the reigning Ginetta Junior champion showcased that pace once again in qualifying, a blistering 1:08.084 enough to put the first pole position of the campaign in JHR’s camp.
However, it would be Arden’s Alex Connor, back in the series for a sophomore year, that stormed through from fifth on the grid to the winner’s circle in the season opener.
The decisive move came around the outside of McLeans, a confident Connor running deeper into the right-hander and able to make the move stick on the run up to Coppice, before extending his advantage to some 1.6 seconds at the chequered flag in spite of some late spots of rain.
Sunday morning’s reverse grid contest, however, turned out quite differently. Contact on the opening lap with Fortec’s Roberto Faria, fresh from a superb maiden podium in third on Saturday, put both cars out on the spot and brought out the red flags.
It also left Hedley as an unfortunate casualty, contact further down the field forcing him to pit with a missing rear wing.
Casper Stevenson led the field away superbly on both occasions for series newcomers Argenti Motorsport, with fan’s favourite Luke Browning (Fortec) and team mate Rafael Villagomez hot on his heels at the second time of asking.
An off-track excursion for Browning at the Old Hairpin dropped him back, promoting O’Sullivan to the final rung on the podium.
The Brit then set about cutting his way through to the race lead, first getting the switchback on Villagomez at Coppice before diving past Stevenson at Redgate to land his first win in single seaters.
Hedley would not be denied his moment in the spotlight, however, and made the best start from the front row in the ITV4-televised finale to sweep around the outside at Redgate and secure a lead he would not surrender.
Further podiums for O’Sullivan and Browning put them into the top two positions in the points table respectively, with 16 points between them heading to the second event at Brands Hatch.
Hedley’s win steers him into third overall, just ahead of a consistent Stevenson and Connor, the Brit battling to eighth in the final encounter.
Villagomez’s brace of Rookie Cup class victories elevate him to the top of the standings over Arden’s Frederick Lubin in that regard, whilst Carlin hold the early bragging rights over Fortec in the Teams Cup.
The F4 British Championship reconvenes at Brands Hatch, Kent, on 08-09 August for Rounds 4, 5 & 6.