The BRDC Formula 4 championship is proving to be an exciting, close-fought series with drivers and their teams having to be on their mettle in every race. Perhaps this explains why MGR and Jake Dalton left Brands Hatch (19 May) with an extended lead in the points table.
His margin of victory may have been barely two car-lengths as he crossed the finishing line, but it was enough to put Jake ahead in the new championship and give his team the psychological upper hand at the DTM meeting. To make his success all the more memorable, Dalton was handed his silverware by none other than 1996 Formula One World Champion, Damon Hill.
Jake secured pole position with a superb run in timed qualifying and capitalised on his grid advantage by rocketing off the line to lead the 24-strong pack into Paddock Hill Bend. Despite coming under huge pressure from behind, Dalton was never headed to seal a perfect lights-to-flag victory.
Diego Menchaca was narrowly pipped to a top ten finish, taking whilst Pietro Fittipaldi also overcame the gearbox 11th problems that had wrecked his qualifying chances, to secure 13th spot.
Sunday’s first of two races, gave the large crowd a real treat. The challenging nature of the Brands Hatch Indy circuit and its lack of clear overtaking points, inevitably led to drama and incidents. The Safety Car was required when a car became stranded against the pit wall at the exit of Clearways.
Having started 8th – courtesy of the top eight finishing places in Race One being reversed for the start of Race Two – Jake made up ground to eventually finish fifth, maintaining his championship lead.
Diego enjoyed a strong drive to 8th place, claiming that position with an incisive move at the exit of Clearways, having lined up Jack Barlow for the pass at Surtees.
Sadly Pietro’s race ended in the gravel at Paddock Hill Bend, as a result of front wing damage sustained earlier in the race and further damage occurring to his car’s left-front suspension and left-hand sidepod in the second incident. On its arrival at the MGR awning, the team sprang into action, facing the seemingly impossible task of repairing the car. Mark Godwin’s entire squad were joined by Jake’s father and Pietro himself to get the Brazilian youngster onto the grid for Race Two – and they did it, with just seconds to spare.
A fighting 2nd was just reward for a mature drive by Jake in the weekend’s third and final race. Although clearly frustrated that his older rubber was unable to match the pace of winner Charlie Robertson’s fresh tyres, Jake acknowledged the positives: “I got a good start from fourth and (Raoul) Hyman made a mistake at Paddock (Hill Bend) and I punished him at Druids. My thanks go to everyone at MGR who made such a big effort this weekend.”
British DTM stars Andy Priaulx and Gary Paffett were enthusiastic spectators of the two BRDC F4 races and so were enthusiastic presenters of the trophies Dalton and his fellow podium winners.
Jake’s result extended his points advantage, but with the field so close and four different winners from the six opening races it is too early to talk about the title: “I’m not thinking about points or championships,” he said, “I’m taking each race as it comes.”
Discounting the widely held theory that overtaking would prove difficult in the aerodynamically sensitive cars, Diego enjoyed a storming drive. The Mexican teenager started from eighteenth place and carved his way up to 9th place at the finish.
In contrast to the fortunes of his team-mates, Pietro was again reduced to the role of a spectator after being hit off the circuit in a reckless challenge. During the second lap, Fittipaldi was up into the top four having started seventh but an over-zealous lunge by Struan Moore destroyed his right-rear suspension and driveshaft. “A driver locked up his tires behind me and used me as his stop!” he tweeted afterwards.
MGR owner and Team Principal Mark Godwin shared his driver’s displeasure: “It was immensely frustrating to see Pietro’s race end so early, particularly after the mammoth effort that went into repairing the car from the previous race and it looked liked Pietro was shaping up for a good result as well. I think he dealt with the disappointment better than I did, which shows his level of professionalism at such an early stage. I was appreciative of the offending driver coming up during the race to apologise and it was clear to see he was quite upset about it. Diego had a strong weekend of racing and I think if we hadn’t had the gear selection problems in qualifying, the weekend could have had delivered so much more. However, the pace and potential is there and it’s only a matter of time before Pietro and Diego start to compete regularly at the front.”
He added: “Jake had a great weekend and came away with some really solid points on his first ever visit to the Kent circuit. It’s clear to see that this championship is going to be very hard fought, but I’m very encouraged by our progress to date, particularly as we started on the back foot before Brands, with only half an hour of dry running. The team is really looking forward to the next race at Snetterton, as recent testing there showed good pace and I know there is still much more performance in the car to unlock”
Rounds 7, 8 and 9 take place at Snetterton on 15/16 June, supporting the British GT Championship.
Provisional 2013 BRDC Formula 4 Championship Standings after Rd6: 1st Jake Dalton, 139pts; 9 Pietro Fittipaldi, 31pts
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