Fittipaldi extends Protyre FRenault lead with hat-trick & Middlehurst claims maiden BRDC F4 victory
The MGR/Pietro Fittipaldi juggernaut showed no sign of slowing down as the team’s young star completed another clean sweep of wins at Snetterton last weekend. Not only that, he was joined on the podium in Norfolk after round nine by Tarun Reddy and Matteo Ferrer.
There was also double joy for the Bardon outfit as reigning Protyre Formula Renault Champion Chris Middlehurst took his first win in the BRDC Formula 4 series at Brands Hatch on the same weekend.
As the two events kicked off simultaneously, it was Fittipaldi who laid down the first marker with his sixth consecutive triumph in the opening encounter at Snetterton. The young Brazilian had started from P3 on the grid and was running in that position when the two leaders were brought into the pits to serve individual penalties for jumping the start. This left Pietro out in front, with Tarun and Matteo slotting in line astern behind him. Despite coming under huge pressure from Ferrer, Reddy kept his cool and responded by opening a small margin of comfort. Sensibly, the trio avoided any unnecessary shenanigans and made it the team’s first podium lock-out of the season. Fellow MGR racer Colin Noble Jnr rounded out the top ten after a battling performance from the Scot.
Over in Kent, Middlehurst put more championship points on the board with a solid 7th place in the first race at the former Grand Prix venue. With the reverse grid format, this gave Chris P2 for the following race and his first front-row start of the season.
However, after struggling to get his car cleanly off the line, Middlehurst rapidly lost ground and dropped to 6th. This proved to be something of a blessing in disguise as he then had a grandstand seat as he watched three of the front-runners collide with each other. This moved him up to 2nd and he wasted little time in wresting the lead. With his nose now in front, Chris used his considerable experience to keep Arjun Maini at bay all the way to the chequered flag.
Back in Norfolk, a perfect start saw Fittipaldi leapfrog the stalled pole-sitter and ease away from the chasing pack. With his rivals unable to match his pace and consistency, he crossed the line well clear of his nearest pursuer. Tarun enjoyed another strong showing, ultimately taking 3rd, whilst Matteo and Colin completed the race in 6th and 7th respectively.
The third and final F4 race of the weekend saw Middlehurst finish the where he had started, in 9th place. After the dramas of the earlier race, stalemate appeared to be the order of the day and with such a closely matched field, the narrow confines of Brands presented few clear-cut opportunities for overtaking.Showing completely contrasting fortunes, Michael Claessens’ eventful and frustrating weekend was compounded by an unscheduled pit-stop hampering his chances of finishing his race on a high note. Having tagged a car with his front wing in the first race, the Dutchman had to nurse his car home at the tail of the field. A crash whilst attempting a fast lap saw him DNF in the second, before the spin that prompted his pit-stop in the third race.
It took nine of the twelve laps of the last Renault race of the weekend, before Fittipaldi could afford a moment’s breath after holding off the spirited challenges of Alex Gill, but as the chequered flag was readied on the penultimate lap, Gill redoubled his efforts and set up a nail-biting finish. The MGR driver edged it, completing a perfect weekend for the highly-rated teenager.
Despite giving it his all, Tarun was just unable to net his third straight trophy of the weekend and had to settle for a creditable 4th at the finish. In fact, it was only the presence of the chequered flag that resolved the race-long scrap between Noble and Ferrer as they disputed 6th place. Ultimately it was Colin who bested his team-mate on this occasion and the standard of their driving drew widespread acclaim from the crowd.
In the points standings, Pietro now leads the way, with Matteo 2nd overall. The series moves to Croft in North Yorkshire for its penultimate event on 20/21 September. MGR will again be busy, as the BRDC F4 series also heads into its home stretch with its penultimate meeting taking place at MGR’s home track, Donington on the same weekend.
Reflecting on the two days of breathtaking action, MGR’s Team Manager Steve Lynch said: “The team faced a challenging weekend with Renault and F4 taking place at different circuits, so to manage the situation as we did and come away with four wins is fantastic. For Pietro to have won eight consecutive races, in what is a very competitive championship, is astonishing. Hehad to work very hard for his success, showing great maturity, as well as fantastic pace. We are delighted that Chris was able to take his maiden F4 win at Brands Hatch after getting so close on a number of occasions this season. Overall it was a great weekend for our drivers but credit also needs to go to the mechanics for the fantastic work they put in to help achieve these results.”