British F4 driving standards called into question as BTCC supports visit Silverstone

Alex Dunne will have to wait to be officially crowned the 2022 British Formula 4 champion as contact with title rival Oliver Gray overshadowed proceedings at Silverstone. Elsewhere on the TOCA support bill, Kiern Jewiss is on the cusp of the Porsche Carrera Cup crown, while the Ginetta Junior and GT4 Supercup title battles will also go down to the final round

British F4 driving standards called into question as BTCC supports visit Silverstone

There was a distinct end-of-term feel to British Formula 4’s penultimate event of the year at Silverstone. Driving standards were shocking and there was repeated contact between key protagonists Alex Dunne and Oliver Gray, which left Dunne not quite able to land title glory.

The drama began on the very first lap of the opener, when Dunne challenged Carlin’s polesitter Gray into Brooklands. With Gray unwilling to relent, there was contact at Luffield that damaged Gray’s front wing and left Dunne spinning to the rear of the field. That incident then set the tone for a hot-tempered weekend.

While Gray clung on to win from team-mate Louis Sharp – managing two safety car restarts, the first after a hit from Aiden Neate sent Ugo Ugochukwu spinning on the Wellington Straight – Dunne set about storming through the order, finishing fourth.

But Gray was judged at fault for their collision and initially handed a grid penalty that subsequently became a demotion behind Dunne to fourth in the result, a decision that is set to be appealed to the National Court. “He ran me out of road and I had nowhere to go,” protested Gray, who believed he had a nudge from Hitech driver Dunne before the main contact occurred.

While JHR’s Georgi Dimitrov streaked clear in the partially reversed-grid race, Gray and Dunne were at it again. Dunne made repeated attempts to pass Gray for sixth, including through Woodcote, where Gray chopped across and forced Dunne off-track. The Irishman retaliated at Becketts, barging Gray out of the way and, unsurprisingly, the pair – who spent the cooldown lap millimetres apart and entered the pitlane side-by-side – were both sanctioned.

Dunne then needed to beat Gray in the finale to secure the title with a round to go but this proved to be a non-event. Just three full racing laps were held as a series of collisions and safety car periods – including officials restarting the race and questionably immediately deploying the pace car again having failed to respond to Dimitrov’s stopped car – left Dunne unable to pass Gray and Joseph Loake.

Dunne was left frustrated not to officially land the title but was not surprised about it being such a hard-fought weekend. “I think I expected that – we’re two quick drivers who race hard going for a title,” he said. A title that Dunne may now formally clinch at Brands Hatch without even being present, such is his superiority.

Two wins ensured Kiern Jewiss bounced back from tricky Thruxton event

Two wins ensured Kiern Jewiss bounced back from tricky Thruxton event

Photo by: Porsche

In line with the other British Touring Car support categories, the Porsche Carrera Cup GB title fight has not quite been settled but Kiern Jewiss took a giant step towards taking the honours after a double Silverstone win.

Considering the fine margins that have separated the Porsche protagonists for much of the year, and that Jewiss was recovering from a tricky time at Thruxton last time out that resulted in just a pair of fifth-place finishes, it is somewhat remarkable that the Team Parker racer now enjoys a 22-point lead with 26 still available.

Key to Jewiss’s commanding position was qualifying on pole in Northamptonshire and then converting that to an early lead. Jewiss himself admits “it’s no secret my starts haven’t been so great this year”. But the 2018 British Formula 4 champion’s “weakness” was not in evidence at Silverstone.

Not only did Jewiss make a decent getaway this time but he was soon able to pull clear as a close scrap for second featured JTR’s Theo Edgerton emerging from Copse ahead of both Adam Smalley (Redline) and Will Martin (Richardson Racing) on lap two. And that was how it stayed to the finish, aside from Gus Burton demoting Martin a further place with a bold dive down the inside of Becketts, Jewiss concentrating on managing his tyres to the flag.

It completed a strong turnaround for Jewiss from his Thruxton disappointment. “It was very tough, we still haven’t quite got to the bottom of it,” he admitted of his Hampshire struggles. “But we’ve bounced back in a very strong manner. We were fastest in testing on Wednesday, fastest in the official test on Friday, got pole and have won.”

But Jewiss’s fortunes went from good to even better in the partially reversed-grid second contest. He was up to second from fifth by the end of the opening tour after his two closest rivals tangled at Becketts. Smalley, having received contact from Edgerton, sent Martin into a spin and was heavily delaying in the process – Smalley and Martin ultimately finishing fifth and seventh, respectively, in the Pro class.

Jewiss then began pressuring Burton late in the race when the Century driver was handed a five-second penalty for abusing track limits that gifted Jewiss the spoils and means he is now on the brink of title glory. However, already celebrating was Charles Rainford, who has regularly mixed it with the Pros this year and wrapped up the Pro-Am honours.

Sam Weller (right) battled with Alex Denning for much of Silverstone weekend

Sam Weller (right) battled with Alex Denning for much of Silverstone weekend

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

Sam Weller is looking in good shape for the Mini Challenge title with a round to go after co-dominating the penultimate round at Silverstone with Irish rookie Alex Denning.

Hybrid Tune ace Weller led the early going in the opener before spectacular former Mondello Park Ford Fiesta hotshot Denning got in front on the third lap. Weller fought back and reclaimed the advantage, but his move did not gain official approval and he was penalised down to second, giving Graves Motorsport’s Denning victory. This duo’s battle brought Jason Lockwood and Ronan Pearson into contention in a tight quartet, with Lockwood pulling off a fine outside pass at Becketts to claim third.

A brilliant run out of Copse after the start gave Denning the lead in race two, and from there it was a case of keeping out of arm’s length of Weller to make it a double. Once again, Lockwood and Pearson battled before Pearson escaped to chase the leading pair – he nearly caught Weller, who struggled with visibility late on due to oil from Denning’s car on his windscreen.

Like Denning in race two, Weller managed fantastic momentum from Copse to move into the lead of the finale, while Pearson took his Excelr8 car into second. Their battle was intense, including spending most of the fourth lap side by side, but Weller narrowly held on to claim a fine win from Pearson. Denning ran wide on the fourth lap at Luffield, dropped to ninth, stormed back to third, then got hit with 15s of track-limit penalties, promoting Lewis Brown.

Josh Rowledge’s penalty gives
Will Macintyre (l) slim title chance

Josh Rowledge’s penalty gives Will Macintyre (l) slim title chance

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

A track-limits penalty was all that prevented Josh Rowledge from snatching the Ginetta Junior title with an event to spare after an otherwise impressive weekend.

Despite only qualifying seventh, Rowledge was third after two laps of the opener – aided by chief rival Will Macintyre tagging polesitter Sonny Smith at Becketts and also delaying Harri Reynolds. A tour later, Rowledge snuck into the lead when Liam McNeilly’s attempts to pass Kanato Le proved unsuccessful. But it was not straightforward from there, Rowledge having to resist constant pressure from Le.

It was a similar story in race two. As those around him made mistakes, fifth-place starter Rowledge kept his cool to thread his way to the front by lap three of 16 and again stayed there.

With polesitter Rowledge merely needing to outscore Elite’s Macintyre to claim the title, the finale should have been the most straightforward. But a tussle with Reynolds out of Becketts left Rowledge fifth and Le in the lead. Rowledge had risen to third before Smith made an optimistic move on Le at Brooklands that spun the leader to fourth as Smith was disqualified. With Rowledge’s penalty, Macintyre and Reynolds were a surprised 1-2 and the title battle continues.

Tom Emson (left) and James Kellett had two entertaining Silverstone scraps

Tom Emson (left) and James Kellett had two entertaining Silverstone scraps

Photo by: Jakob Ebrey

It was a record-breaking weekend for James Kellett in the Ginetta GT4 Supercup but he is yet to be confirmed as the category’s final ever champion.

Four races, including one rearranged from Thruxton, presented Kellett with the opportunity to seal the title early. However, those plans were instantly derailed in the opener when a sheared bolt connected to his differential left him stranded on the grid. The field just avoided him but, with Tom Emson winning, it meant the title was out of reach for now. “Something was going to happen at some point,” said Century driver Kellett in reference to his previously unblemished reliability record.

But he bounced back in the ‘Thruxton race’, storming from fourth to first on the opening lap – featuring an exceptional move around the outside of Darren Leung at Brooklands – to claim a 12th win of the season, a new series record.

He made it 13 victories in the third race, despite starting at the back due to his earlier DNF. Kellett stormed up to second inside four laps before Elite driver Emson put in an excellent defence to hold him at bay. That was until the final tour, when Kellett squeezed ahead at Becketts. But there was no such disappointment for Emson in the finale as he resisted Kellett this time.

Reports by Stephen Lickorish and Marcus Simmons. Photography by Jakob Ebrey Photography/Motorsport Images. Want more reports from the world of national motorsport? Subscribe today and never miss your weekly fix of motorsport with Autosport magazine

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