Derbyshire motor racing team Hillspeed suffered a costly outing over the weekend, 18th/19th May, during the second event of the BRDC Formula 4 Championship season at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit where an incident-filled race meeting wrecked the squad’s hopes of retaining the series lead.
Arriving at the 1.2-mile Kent track with Seb Morris heading the title race after a podium hat-trick on the opening weekend at the end of April, the Hathersage squad encountered a difficult event from the off with qualifying not going according to plan and setting the scene for three tough races.
Morris was the best of the Hillspeed qualifiers for round four, albeit with an uncharacteristic ninth fastest time in Saturday’s session, while team-mates Struan Moore and Rahul Raj Mayer were 16th and 22nd quickest respectively.
Welsh teenager Morris made a sensational start to the first of the weekend’s races and brilliantly sliced his way through into ninth but wasn’t able to make any further inroads thereafter with passing opportunities nigh-on impossible.
Moore, meanwhile, climbed into 15th position on the opening lap and continued his strong rate of progress to move into the top 12 a couple of laps later. From there though, the Jersey youngster spent the remainder of the race running in the midst of the tightly packed five car battle headed by Morris. Moore did, though, post a best lap time just 0.1 seconds off the fastest of all.
Mayer held 22nd position for some time before slipping to 23rd late on but the Malaysian made a marked improvement in round five on Sunday where he raced to a strong 17th place. He did climb as high as 14th position but was shuffled back during the latter stages.
For Morris and Moore, round five turned into a nightmare with both getting caught-up in the same incident at the end of lap four. As Morris battled hard to retain ninth ahead of Jack Barlow, the pair touched on the run into the pit-straight as Morris moved across to take the racing line – the resulting spin for the Hillspeed driver leaving his car prone on the track against the pitwall.
Thankfully avoided by the next group of cars, Morris had to retire on the spot while Moore had to take evasive action across the grass on the outside when almost collected by a rival. Although able to recover to the track, Moore thumped through an advertising hoarding heavily and the damage to the front of his car meant he also had to retire a few laps later.
Working incredibly hard to repair the two cars in time for round six, with only 90 minutes or so in which to turn them around, the Hillspeed mechanics did a superb job and Morris was able to work his way through from 17th on the grid into 13th position. Moore, meanwhile, was forced to retire with yet more damage on lap four while Mayer posted a 19th place finish.
“It really has been an incredibly tough weekend, certainly one we’d like to forget”, commented team principal Richard Ollerenshaw, “We haven’t done the amount of testing the others have been doing which put the drivers on the back foot a bit going into the weekend.
“We’re disappointed for Seb and Struan, especially with both of them losing points finishes in race two, although Rahul did make strong progress on his first time racing at Brands Hatch. All in all, a very tough weekend but one we will all bounce back from.”
The BRDC Formula 4 Championship now takes a four week break from action with the third event of 2013 taking place on 15th/16th June at Snetterton in East Anglia. In the meantime, Hillspeed’s Protyre Formula Renault Championship squad will be back on track for the sixth, seventh and eighth rounds of its season on 1st/2nd June at Thruxton in Hampshire.
Provisional 2013 BRDC Formula 4 Championship Standings (after Rd6):
6th Seb Morris, 90pts; 16th Struan Moore, 36pts; 19th Rahul Raj Mayer, 22pts
Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.