Jack Barlow delivered a remarkable performance on his maiden visit to Oulton Park International Circuit in Cheshire on Saturday, 6th July, by claiming his second BRDC Formula 4 Championship race victory of the season for SWR – having earlier secured his first ever pole position start in cars.
Despite having never seen the challenging track prior to pre-event testing on Friday, 5th July, the Hastings youngster shone in qualifying by taking the top spot on the grid for round 10 with a best lap of 1m37.702 seconds (99.19mph). Netting the win with a faultless lights-to-flag drive, Barlow added seventh place in round 11 and fourth in round 12 to move into the coveted championship top six.
Team-mate Matty Graham was also consistently strong and competitive throughout the fourth race meeting of the year. Hopes of a podium finish in the second of the day’s encounters, though, were ended on lap four of the race at Old Hall following contact from a rival while running in third place.
Finishing in the top six in rounds 10 and 12, however, enabled the Edmundbyers teenager to conclude the Oulton Park weekend equal ninth in the title race for Chipping Norton-based SWR, tied on points with the experienced James Fletcher.
“It’s been a very strong weekend for SWR, we’re delighted to be back on the top step of the podium with Jack”, said team owner Sean Walkinshaw, “He’d never even seen the track before Friday and even though he had a big shunt in testing, he bounced back amazingly to take his first pole and then win the first race – it was a fantastic performance.
“Matty was very strong and consistent all weekend, he really did deserve a podium and was very unlucky not to get one after the contact in race two. Even so, two top sixes in the other races have kept him in the championship top 10 which is obviously important.”
With qualifying and all three Oulton Park races taking place on one day, the action was hectic for the teams and competitors. Everything started brilliantly for SWR though with Barlow claiming his maiden pole and Graham lapping just 0.5 seconds shy to secure a row four start for round 10.
Making a good getaway, Barlow maintained first place on the run into Old Hall and was never under any real threat throughout the 12 lap duration as he took the win 1.2 seconds to the good. Graham, meanwhile, maintained eighth position early on before climbing into seventh on lap five and then taking sixth next time around.
With the top eight finishers of race one ‘reversed’ on the grid for round 11, Graham lined-up in third position with Barlow on row four. Holding on to their respective places for the first third of the encounter, on lap four everything went awry for Graham when his bid for a podium finish came to an abrupt end in the tyre barriers at the first corner following a tangle with Ross Gunn.
Barlow, therefore, inherited seventh place and ran in a tight quartet of cars all contesting fourth position. Running closely behind Jake Hughes lap after lap, the SWR man just couldn’t quite force the mistake he needed and was seventh at the flag – less than a second outside the top four.
For round 12, Barlow started in third place – by virtue of having set the third fastest racing lap of the weekend up to that point – with Graham in eighth position. Although slipping to fourth on the first lap, Barlow held station for the remainder of the 12 lap contest despite some intense pressure from Raoul Hyman and the second SWR car of Graham.
Having moved into seventh on lap one, Graham challenged hard for the top six and made his move on lap three to take the position from erstwhile championship leader Seb Morris. Then setting his sights on Hyman, the karting graduate had to be satisfied with sixth with no further opportunities to try and make more gains opening up.
Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit in Kent will host rounds 13, 14 and 15 of the BRDC Formula 4 Championship season three weeks from now on 27th/28th July. Chinese driver Zou Sirui, who wasn’t in action at Oulton Park this weekend due to a clashing racing commitment in his homeland, will bring the SWR attack back up to three cars for the fifth event of the campaign.
2013 Provisional BRDC Formula 4 Championship Driver Standings (after Rd12):
6th Jack Barlow, 183pts; =9th Matty Graham & James Fletcher, 140pts
Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.