Alex Dunne recovered from a disappointing start to re-pass Ugo Ugochukwu and win the opening ROKiT F4 British Championship certified by FIA race of the weekend at Thruxton.
Although the Hitech GP racer started on pole position, it was fellow front-row starter Ugochukwu who made the better getaway, the Carlin racer taking the lead at Campbell.
The Irishman kept a watching brief, however, and a wide moment on the exit of Seagrave on lap four for Ugochukwu presented Dunne with a golden opportunity to make amends. He took it with both hands, and, although he was kept honest for the remaining 12 minutes, powered clear to a fourth victory of the season.
“I think that was a bit more of a tough race than I’ve had so far,” Dunne admitted in parc ferme. The pole grid spot is quite close to the lights, and with the Halo it’s actually quite tough to see the lights, so that’s why I got a pretty bad start.
“From then on, I was following Ugo. I’m not sure on what lap, but in turn four he hit a bump and made a mistake and drove off the track. I managed to get by, and from then on it was the same as I’ve done every other race, just to get my head down and focus on building a gap.”
Ugochukwu took the chequered flag in second, 3.1 seconds back, and secured the Motul Fastest Lap, including a bonus point. Carlin team-mate Oliver Gray enjoyed a steady run to third to round out the podium.
“It was quite a good start. I managed to get the lead into turn three, I was working really hard after that,” explains Ugochukwu. “But a small mistake out of turn four cost me the lead and then we were a bit slower at the end. I couldn’t catch back up, so it’s a bit frustrating.”
“We will do more research with the engineers tonight to try to get faster and come back tomorrow. You want to be consistent through this championship. So, I’m looking forward to race two tomorrow. A reverse grid so will be difficult, but we’ll do our best.”
“I didn’t have the best start but managed to keep up with the leaders and defend my place into T1 from Louis and Aiden,” adds Gray. “I made a little mistake, which dropped me back from Alex and Ugo, so they were just sort of cruising from then on.
“I had a big gap back behind and a big gap out front, so I took the opportunity to experiment with a few different lines to see if we can find any more time. I’m focusing on tomorrow now.”
Initially, the battle for fourth was a six-car train headed by the last of Carlin’s trio, Louis Sharp but, as the field spread out, he came under increasing pressure from Phinsys by Argenti’s Aiden Neate.
The pair made slight contact whilst running nose-to-tail out of the Club chicane, pitching Sharp’s car into a half-spin. Having impressively caught the slide, the Kiwi racer resumed, albeit at the rear of the field.
Neate hung on to fourth on the road until the end despite sustained pressure from an under-the-weather Joseph Loake (JHR), but was penalised post-race for the incident with Sharp and dropped back to 14th in the final result.
Georgi Dimitrov (JHR) and Eduardo Coseteng (Hitech) were another pair to make contact whilst battling for position at Club, this time disputing what would become a net fifth. Dimitrov emerged ahead, with Coseteng shuffled back to eleventh, but the Filipino racer recovered impressively to finish sixth, hot on Dimitrov’s tail.
Mercedes-AMG junior Daniel Guinchard (Argenti) ran as part of that battle for a spell, and eventually took seventh, keeping Virtuosi Racing’s Edward Pearson at arm’s length by half a second.
Pearson’s Virtuosi team-mate Michael Shin headed up a thrilling dice for the final points-paying positions, highlighting the strength in depth of the competition in Britain’s FIA Formula 4 series.
A little over 1.5 seconds separated the South Korean racer from the hard-charging trio of Adam Fitzgerald (Argenti), Noah Lisle (JHR) and Oliver Stewart (Hitech) in 10th, 11th and 12th respectively.
Sharp successfully recovered to 13th, including a superb move to the inside of Chris Dittmann Racing’s Joel Pearson at Allard. The pair finished on the road together, but sandwich Neate in the final result after his penalty. Hitech GP’s Daniel Mavlyutov completes the 16-strong finishers.
Sunday features another pair of action-packed, ITV4-televised races, scheduled to get underway at 12:20 and 16:30 (BST) respectively.
To view the final race result, click here.