Zak O’Sullivan wins reverse-grid race thriller to open up early points lead

Carlin’s Zak O’Sullivan triumphed in a chaotic reverse grid race at Donington Park to open up an early 12-point advantage in the F4 British Championship certified by FIA – powered by Ford EcoBoost standings.

Pole man Casper Stevenson (Argenti) made the best of his front row start to lead the field into Redgate, but a sequence of incidents further back saw the safety car – and then the red flags – deployed on the opening tour of the 1.97-mile National circuit.

The first incident involved JHR’s Nathanael Hodgkiss and O’Sullivan’s Carlin team mate Christian Mansell, with contact on the apex at Coppice putting the Australian into the gravel.

Moments later down the back straight, Alex Connor and Roberto Faria – first and third in the season opener yesterday – collided in dramatic fashion and retired on the spot. With the cars stranded in the middle of the road, the race had to be neutralised.

Yesterday’s pole-sitter James Hedley was another early casualty, returning to the pit lane minus a rear wing after the opening skirmishes.

With the race restarted and reduced to 15 minutes in duration, Stevenson charged away once again from top spot, with Fortec’s Rafael Villagomez and Luke Browning hot on his tail in second and third respectively.

An off-circuit excursion for Browning ruined his morning’s work, with the race one runner-up dropping back to fifth, before suspected overheating late in the race necessitated a trip to the pits for the Fortec crew to remove grass from the car.

That promoted O’Sullivan – erstwhile fourth – into the top three, and he duly set about making progress towards the race lead.

A cut to the inside at Coppice promoted him to second past the Mexican, and a few laps later O’Sullivan dived at Redgate to claim a race lead he would hold to the chequered flag, his eventual winning margin some 1.9 seconds.

It means O’Sullivan takes the early championship lead, now 12 points clear of Connor, with Stevenson a further point back in third.

Stevenson and Villagomez completed the rostrum, the latter winning again in the Rookie Cup stakes, with Frederick Lubin (Arden) a commendable fourth ahead of the recovering Mansell.

Abbi Pulling scored JHR’s only points with a charge through the field from last on the grid to finish sixth, fending off Arden’s Roman Bilinski in a late-race battle.

Nico Pino added more points to his tally with eighth for the Argenti racer; both Matias Zagazeta (Carlin) and Reema Juffali (Argenti) opened their points-scoring accounts for 2020 in ninth and tenth.

Hodgkiss and Browning were the final classified finishers, one and two laps down respectively.

The weekend concludes with race three at 15:20 (BST) this afternoon.

Provisional Classification – Round 2

Pos. Name Team
1 Zak O’SULLIVAN Carlin 14 laps
2 Casper STEVENSON Argenti Motorsport +1.925s
3 Rafael VILLAGOMEZ Fortec Motorsport +4.314s
4 Frederick LUBIN Arden Motorsport +5.628s
5 Christian MANSELL Carlin +11.014s
6 Abbi PULLING JHR Developments +11.058s
7 Roman BILINSKI Argenti Motorsport +11.156s
8 Nico PINO Argenti Motorsport +12.766s
9 Matias ZAGAZETA Carlin +12.837s
10 Reema JUFFALI Argenti Motorsport +27.113s
11 Nathanael HODGKISS JHR Developments +1 lap
12 Luke BROWNING Fortec Motorsport +2 laps
NC Roberto FARIA Fortec Motorsport
NC Alex CONNOR Arden Motorsport
NC James HEDLEY JHR Developments