HILLSPEED TAKES FIRST VICTORY OF F4 SEASON AT BRANDS HATCH
Brazil’s Gustavo Lima secured his maiden single-seater race victory during round five of the BRDC Formula 4 Championship at a sun-kissed Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit on Sunday, 18th May, to deliver Hillspeed’s first success of 2014.
Under incredible pressure throughout the 14-lap contest, with reigning Protyre Formula Renault Champion Chris Middlehurst just a few tenths of a second behind, Lima never gave the Briton an opportunity with a fantastic performance.
Beginning the second of the weekend’s three races from pole position, the Hillspeed racer got away from the line cleanly to hold the lead through Paddock Hill Bend and thereafter controlled the action supremely well. In the end, Lima took the flag just 0.044 seconds clear in the closest ever F4 finish.
“Gustavo did a fantastic job with the win”, said team principal Richard Ollerenshaw, “He had to soak up relentless pressure but didn’t put a wheel wrong, he stayed calm and focused and produced the performance we knew he was capable of. It’s great to be back on the top step of the podium.”
Malaysian team-mate Rahul Raj Mayer lined-up 10th on the grid for Sunday morning’s race and instantly moved into ninth where he remained for several laps. Nudged back to 10th on lap seven at Druids, Mayer was then edged wide on lap 11 to lose another spot before being elbowed back to 12th place. Post-race, though, he was elevated into 11th position following a penalty for a rival.
Car racing rookie Alfredo Zabalza finished the outing in a competitive 16th place, having battled back from 19th position on more than one occasion. Beginning the encounter on the eighth row of the grid the Mexican became embroiled in some close action early on, losing several places, but he fought back impressively. Due to the aforementioned penalty, he was moved up to 15th post-race.
In round four on Saturday, 17th May, Lima started in a disappointing 14th position but made a clean getaway and began his quest of trying to break into the leading group. Within a handful of laps, the Brazilian was into the top 10 where he remained almost to the conclusion. At the final corner, though, contact between Nicolas Beer and Diego Menchaca meant Lima was able to grab eighth.
Mayer, from 16th on the grid, also made decent progress and ended the encounter inside the top 10 having run in 12th position until the final couple of corners. Zabalza, meanwhile, produced a nicely judged drive to finish the encounter in 15th position from 19th on the grid.
The last race, round six, on Sunday delivered a frustrating conclusion to the weekend for Lima and Hillspeed when an ongoing electrical issue – which had intermittently been a problem since first practice – resulted in his car not firing-up on the grid prior to the formation lap.
Thought to stem from the relay linked to the master switch on his car, the issue was investigated by the team and the F4 technical personnel but a solution couldn’t be identified. After great work in the pits, the Hillspeed crew got Lima’s car going and although losing significant time he did manage to finish the race in 18th position.
“We’ve been chasing the electrical problem all weekend”, explained Ollerenshaw, “It wasn’t an issue when the car was actually running, only when you tried to start the car – sometimes it would start and other times, like in the assembly area and on the grid for race three, it wouldn’t.
“Everyone at F4 was very helpful trying to resolve the problem but we’re all yet to fully get to the bottom of it. We changed a lot of things on the car and did all we could in the pitlane to get Gustavo back out on track. Unfortunately it has cost us valuable points in the championship but he still showed top four pace which proves Gustavo’s strength, and that of the Hillspeed car.”
Round six also proved to be less than enjoyable for Zabalza who was eliminated on the opening lap after contact from a rival. Tearing off the front wing of the Hillspeed car, it became lodged under the front wheels and resulted in an immediate retirement.
Mayer, meanwhile, posted a 14th place finish having run on the fringe of the top 10 for the majority of the encounter. Moving up well from 15th on the grid into the top 12, the second year racer was 11th by lap two and remained there until past mid-distance before a slight error dropped him back. Even so, Mayer ends the weekend an improved 11th in the championship, three places behind Lima.
“Rahul is getting there, he’s just got to find that last bit of performance from the tyres”, commented Ollerenshaw, “He hasn’t had the time in the UK to go testing and that’s been his Achilles Heel really, but he’s been very strong this weekend. Alfredo kept his nose clean and did everything we asked, he’d never seen Brands before the weekend but did a very good job.”
Snetterton 300 Circuit in Norfolk will host rounds seven, eight and nine of the F4 season five weeks from now on 21st/22nd June. In the meantime, Hillspeed’s Protyre Formula Renault Championship squad will be in action over the weekend 31st May/1st June at Donington Park in Leicestershire while its Ginetta Junior Championship squad will be back on track at Cheshire’s Oulton Park on 7th/8th June.
Provisional 2014 BRDC Formula 4 Championship Standings (after Rd6):
8th Gustavo Lima, 86pts; 11th Rahul Raj Mayer, 57pts; 21st Alfredo Zabalza, 17pts