Lightning Loake strikes to win Knockhill opener

A lightning-fast start from JHR Developments’ Joseph Loake enabled him to leap-frog pole-sitter Ugo Ugochukwu and win the opening ROKiT F4 British Championship certified by FIA race of the weekend at Knockhill.

Photo: Jakob Ebrey Photography

The Macclesfield-based driver had the better reflexes when the lights went out, passing Omologato pole-sitter Ugochukwu’s Carlin on the left on the run down to Duffus Dip. From there, Loake set about making good his escape, with Ugochukwu under increasing pressure from championship leader Alex Dunne (Hitech GP) in third.

After a warning shot into the final hairpin several laps prior, the Irishman finally made second spot his own with a bold lunge to the inside at the same corner with eight minutes to go.

Despite locking his front tyres, Dunne managed to get his car slowed on the apex and with Ugochukwu leaving him space, Dunne took the chance to out-drag his rival up the main straight and annex the position on the inside line.

From there, Ugochukwu’s race unravelled, the McLaren junior going wide out of the uphill Arnold Clark Chicane and finding the gravel trap on the outside line. He recovered, but slipped back to 12th and, with little time left, an opportunity to make amends for the error never materialised.

His Carlin team-mate Oliver Gray gratefully inherited the final spot on the podium in his place, which allowed him to limit the arrears to Dunne. The gap between them now stands at 55 points heading into Sunday’s two races, the second of which is live on ITV4 at 15:45 (BST).

Dunne also secured the Motul Fastest Lap for the opening race of the weekend, and with it a bonus point, setting a new racing lap record of 48.426 seconds. Neither he nor Gray, we’re able to pose a serious threat to Loake, who took the chequered flag 2.2 seconds clear to score a fourth career win, and his first of the 2022 season.

“I was saying it would have to be something very special to pull that off,” an elated Loake remembers post-race. “But I would say probably my best [start] I’ve ever done. And then I just maintained the gap.

“Looking around this circuit, there are so many corners that the dirty air is really quite bad. So, luckily, I was just able to hold them behind and maintain that half-second gap.

“I knew I was never going to be able to match him [Alex] unless I put everything on the line. And when you’re in the lead with seven minutes left, I really didn’t want to take those risks. Alex is probably one of the top junior drivers in the race at the moment, so the fact that I’m even fighting with him, I’m quite proud of myself for being able to do that.”

“I’m really happy,” reflected Dunne in parc ferme. “I think it was always going to be a tough one starting from third, I think. But what happened is pretty much what I said, in terms of how tricky it’s going to be to overtake here.

“But I managed to get a pretty good run through turns five and seven. That brought me towards Ugo and I took the opportunity when it came, and from then on, I just tried to do my best to catch Joseph, but it wasn’t really enough.

“We extended the championship lead, and then that’s all I needed today.”

“It was a good race,” Gray acknowledges. “I managed to get into third, with a gap in front and a gap behind, and then just started saving the tyres for tomorrow. Hopefully we can refine the car to make our race pace a tiny bit better and go for the win in race three.”

Behind the top three, Kiwi rising star Louis Sharp (Carlin) enjoyed a steady run to fourth under the watchful eye of his principal backer, Rodin Cars’ David Dicker.

Sharp kept pace as the fifth member of what was a five-car train contesting the lead for the majority of the 20-minute contest but couldn’t get close enough to give Gray cause for concern.

Eduardo Coseteng’s steady weekend in the Scottish countryside continued, the Hitech racer fending off Phinsys by Argenti’s Aiden Neate for fifth and sixth after a race-long scrap. Oliver Stewart (Hitech) took seventh and a popular Rookie Cup victory on home soil, delighting the local contingent out in force to support the Beauly-based racer.

Georgi Dimitrov and Noah Lisle made it all three JHR cars in the top ten, the pair sandwiching Virtuosi Racing’s Edward Pearson. Pearson started on the back row but moved through the order impressively to ensure the trio took the chequered flag in eighth, ninth and tenth on the road.

Michael Shin finished 11th on the road ahead of a recovering Ugochukwu and Argenti’s Adam Fitzgerald but was penalised 10 seconds post-race for a false start. 11th-placed Fitzgerald starts tomorrow’s partially reversed grid race at 10:20 from pole position, with a golden chance to take his first silverware in Britain’s FIA Formula 4 series.

Daniel Mavlyutov (Hitech), namesake Daniel Guinchard (Argenti) and the demoted Shin therefore round out the finishers, with all 15 cars classified after a frenetic start to the weekend.

To view the full race result, click here.

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