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18 Aug 2014

Rahul Raj Mayer - Silverstone GP Alfredo Zabalza - Silverstone GP

Rahul Raj Mayer produced another impressively consistent showing for Hillspeed during the latest three rounds of the BRDC Formula 4 Championship season at Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit over the weekend, 16th/17th August, to secure a hat-trick of solid scores and a best result of eighth place.

Having made significant strides already in his second year with the Hathersage squad, the Malaysian driver consolidated his position just outside the coveted top 10 in the championship standings with a very encouraging return outing to the home of the British Grand Prix.

Team-mates Gustavo Lima and Alfredo Zabalza each experienced difficulties over the course of the three races, not least in the second encounter where unfortunate contact between the pair led to a non-finish for Lima. Zabalza, however, did manage to secure, by far, the best result of his maiden season during Saturday afternoon’s opener – the Mexican posting a tremendous ninth place finish.

“Rahul was in very good form from the start this weekend, he raced strongly and it was only tyre choice in the wet second race which prevented him from possibly challenging in the top three or four”, said team principal Richard Ollerenshaw.

“Alfredo did a great job in race one and now both he and Rahul are based in the UK it’s helping their development considerably. They are available for additional testing and that seat time is helping them feel more at home with the car, without the long breaks they experienced earlier in the year.”

Ollerenshaw added: “Gustavo just had one of those weekends. He was the only driver to get penalised for track limits infringements which was madness. At MSV’s tracks the technology is there to police this – other circuits need to follow that lead. The word is consistency, and it’s not applied.”

Mayer, from the eighth row of the grid, delivered a tremendous drive during round 13 on Saturday to claim a fantastic top eight finish and, with it, the ‘reverse grid’ pole position for race two. Gaining no fewer than four positions on the opening lap, the Malaysian remained in 12th place until lap four when he was able to carve his way into 11th position.

On a real charge, Mayer than passed team-mate Zabalza on the next lap to move into the top 10 before profiting from a drop down the order for Charlie Eastwood and Gaetano Di Mauro a couple of laps from the finish to claim an excellent result.

Zabalza, meanwhile, also turned-in one of the best performances of his maiden season during race one with an excellent drive to ninth place. Starting the contest in 17th position, behind Mayer and Lima, the Mexican produced a terrific opening lap to surge into 11th place.

Moving into the coveted top 10 on the third tour, Zabalza held his placing until Mayer managed to pass him at mid-distance. Zabalza was, though, able to climb up into an outstanding ninth place following the problems for Eastwood and Di Mauro.

Category race winner Lima was handicapped by a five second time penalty, having been adjudged to have exceeded track limits, and so ended the race in an uncharacteristic 13th position. Without the infringement, the Brazilian would have finished the race sandwiched between his team-mates.

Sunday morning’s race, round 14, was all about tyre selection. Heavy rain half an hour before the scheduled start looked all set to make the encounter a wet race but, with a delay to the preceding support championship’s contest, a drying line had appeared before the F4 action got underway.

Mayer, starting on pole position, opted for treaded tyres and made a fantastic start to open a clear lead into Copse. By the end of lap one, though, Raoul Hyman was within just 0.2 seconds of the Malaysian and at Becketts the pole-starter was edged back to second before then being mugged almost immediately by George Russell.

Battling hard with the slick-shod car of Sennan Fielding to try and keep hold of third place, as the track got drier and drier there was nothing Mayer could do with his wet-weather tyres losing pace and he eventually slipped back to a ninth place finish.

Zabalza, starting ninth on wets, remained in the top 10 early on before being dropping to 13th place on lap two. Elbowed down to 17th position soon after, the Mexican ultimately had to settle for the placing at the flag but was elevated into the top 15 post-race when two rivals were excluded.

Team-mate Lima, meanwhile, was one of only six drivers to make the correct gamble of slick tyres and put together an excellent first lap to climb from 13th place into ninth. Frustratingly, his race was over on lap two following unfortunate contact from Zabalza at Stowe – an incident which meant the Mexican was handed a five position grid penalty for the final race, putting him in 19th place.

Lima started round 15 in seventh position, with Mayer in eighth, and even though both drivers got away from the line well they were each shuffled back. Mayer lost a couple of places to drop to 10th while Lima was nudged down to 14th position and the latter remained there to the chequered flag.

Mayer moved up into ninth on lap two and raced well to keep Diego Menchaca at bay during the middle part of the encounter. Passed on lap eight, Mayer was then elbowed down to 11th place on the penultimate tour after sustaining bodywork damage dicing with Menchaca.

Zabalza managed to gain three places on lap one to move up into 16th position but after slipping back a spot on lap four, contact with Diego Borrelli at Aintree on lap six cost Zabalza a further two positions – the Hillspeed driver ending the race in 18th position.

Next on the BRDC Formula 4 Championship schedule is a return to Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit in Kent for rounds 16, 17 and 18 over the weekend 30th/31st August.

Provisional 2014 BRDC Formula 4 Championship Standings (after Rd15):
9th Gustavo Lima, 173pts; 11th Rahul Raj Mayer, 141pts; 21st Alfredo Zabalza, 46pts