Berryman and McKeown split victories; Apex Academy hit the front at Knockhill

Apex Racing Academy took over the lead of the ROKiT British F4 Esports Championship at Knockhill this evening [4 November] after a second win of the season for Luke McKeown.

Photo: RC Sim Photography

McKeown’s triumph followed a maiden win for Peter Berryman, flying under the affiliated Apex Racing Team banner, with the two outfits now first and third, split only by Munster Rugby Gaming at the championship summit.

All four cars affiliated with Apex – two to the main squad, the other to the Academy – qualified inside the top five. That included pole-sitter Stanley Deslandes, with a blistering 46.495-second lap to deny Berryman top spot by a mere six thousandths of a second.

R1: Berryman picks his moment to claim maiden win

Deslandes successfully fended off Berryman on the run down to Duffus Dip from the start in the first of two 30-minute races, but there were contrasting fortunes for their team-mates, McKeown and Jamie Fluke, the points leader heading into the night’s action.

Both were caught up in separate dramas at the Arnold Clark chicane, leaving McKeown in the gravel and Fluke in the pits with damage.

That same chicane would see a decisive move for the race lead, as a moment on the exit kerb for Deslandes offered Berryman a ‘free pass’ to strike at close quarters, and he sneaked up the inside into Clark’s to assume top spot.

From there, Berryman enjoyed a relatively calm run to the chequered flag, safe in the knowledge Deslandes behind was unlikely to try a risky move with the championship lead on the table. He took the chequered flag 1.4 seconds clear for a much overdue first win of the season.

“You’re waiting for either guys to make a mistake, or the chicane, this track is really tough,” said Berryman on his strategy for the evening.

“There’s no real method to get through the chicane properly, it’s chuck it in and it’s a bit of a guess. Unfortunate for Stan [Deslandes] there. I was never going to make a move. He stuck it on pole, I was going to let him take the win, not cause any issues, break away.

“But unfortunate for him to make such a big mistake when I was so close. It’s nice to finally get the win, I mainly just wanted points. Unfortunately, Jamie had some issues so it’s not the best case for the team, but I’m glad to maximise the first race.”

Rounding out the top three behind Berryman and Deslandes was Josh Lad, the Williams-backed Esports star driving for Apex’s chief rivals – and erstwhile championship leaders – Munster Rugby Gaming.

It all seemed to go according to the script for Lad in the opening laps, with McKeown and Fluke’s demise handing him a prime position to inherit the lead in the Drivers’ standings in fourth spot.

He then went one better, capitalising on a moment for Kimura Performance’s Ryan Micallef at Clark’s for the final place on the podium. Micallef would also fall behind his team-mate, Matt Caruana, but fifth ended up the ‘place to be’, come the reverse grid draw.

R2: McKeown surges from ninth to the winner’s circle

Drawn onto pole position, Micallef managed the start perfectly from the front, drawing across to cover off any threat from a fast-starting Caruana.

The two Kimura cars led line-a-stern through the opening exchanges, but a skirt over the grass for second-placed Caruana dropped him back.

That promoted Lad, Deslandes and Berryman up a position each, but the chaos had allowed Micallef to build a handy one-second buffer at the front of the field.

They set about battling for the final two spots on the rostrum, with a charging McKeown – ninth after his troubles in the opener – up to fifth, and closing with every passing lap.

The stalemate was eventually broken with mistakes on consecutive laps at the chicane for Berryman; the first handed third to Deslandes, the other promoting McKeown into the top four. It was not a case of ‘third time lucky’ for the race one winner, a hat-trick of errors at the same corner eventually leaving him facing the wrong way in the gravel.

With Apex weakened, Lad decimated Micallef’s lead and set about forcing an error from the race leader. It arrived – predictably – at the chicane, but Micallef’s stoic defence after skirting the edge of the gravel forced Lad to the outside through Clark’s.

Both drivers went off, and the way forward on the inside presented itself to Deslandes and McKeown. A snap of oversteer through Taylor’s Hairpin for Deslandes settled the inter-Academy tie in McKeown’s favour, and he stormed clear to a second win of the campaign by over three seconds.

“The start of the race was a bit manic, there was quite a lot of fighting going on in front of me,” recalls McKeown.

“I was just trying to keep a bit of distance and not get involved in that. Once I’d got through that, I got one or two moves done, started to catch up to the lead group. The others made a mistake, me and Stan got through, and it was just plain sailing to the end, really.”

Deslandes’ sideways moment allowed Lad and Micallef through. He was able to re-pass the latter, but not both cars, and had to settle for third.

Crucially for Lad, the extra points for second versus third put him two markers clear in the Drivers’ Championship over McKeown, and keep Munster just six points shy of Apex Racing Academy in the Teams’ stakes.

From the high of victory at Oulton Park, a second incident in as many races meant a non-score for Fluke, and he now sits a further 23 points behind the two chief title protagonists in third overall.

Snetterton’s 300 layout hosts the next two rounds of the championship on Friday, 11 November, with live coverage on RaceSpot TV’s YouTube channel from 19:00.

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