Fortec Motorsport scored its 12th podium finish of the 2023 GB4 Championship season at Brands Hatch’s full Grand Prix circuit last weekend [9-10 September].
The Daventry-based team made the trip to the iconic, 2.4-mile Kent circuit looking to chase down an elusive first win of the season, having stood on the podium a remarkable 11 times already in 2023.
But in a tightly-packed field, qualifying proved to be the Achilles heel for the team’s pair of rising stars, Colin Queen, and Aditya Kulkarni, with a late red flag in the session consigning them to fifth and tenth on the grid respectively.
On a circuit not famed for its overtaking opportunities, the duo did well to move through the field in the first of three races, with Queen’s scorching start reminiscent of the weather as the American sent a beautiful lunge around the outside of Paddock Hill Bend to seize fourth.
Kulkarni was equally on the move, and the 15-year-old was able to improve two spots to finish eighth and start the weekend with a decent points haul for the team.
Sunday morning’s second race would prove a tougher affair for the team, with Queen and Kulkarni rounding out the top ten runners, but the reverse grid contest provided just reward for their efforts with a return to the podium.
Starting on the front row, Kulkarni made a strong start to hold stride with race leader Kai Dariyanani and kept the pressure on race-long for the lead.
A risk-free opportunity to pass never presented itself, and as the contest wore on, Kulkarni found himself under fire from a host of the championship’s leading lights, in typical reverse grid race fashion.
But the young Brit held firm and soaked up the pressure with a fine defensive drive to take second at the chequered flag. That earned Kulkarni a third trip to the podium in his rookie season, and the team’s 12th of the campaign.
Queen picked up damage after a charging start, and after pitting for a new front wing the 18-year-old demonstrated his front-running pace, at one point setting the fastest lap en route to an eventual 12th-place finish.
Queen and Kulkarni leave Brands Hatch fourth and fifth overall in the Drivers’ standings, with Fortec cementing second spot in the Teams’ Championship.
Donington Park’s Grand Prix circuit hosts the season finale on 21-22 October, 2023.
Aditya Kulkarni (#15) said:
“Every weekend is a learning opportunity for me at the moment. We didn’t quite have the pace last weekend at Brands Hatch, but it was a great chance for me to show my race craft instead.
“The last race in particular was a lot of fun. Liam [McNeilly] and Cooper [Webster] really pushed me hard, it’s clear why those guys are up at the front of the championship.
“But I hit all my marks, made sure I kept a defensive line and just tried to stay focused. It’s a difficult circuit to overtake on too, which helped me out to a degree, but even so, I was delighted to come home with second place.
“It’s nice to reward the team with a result like that after a tricky weekend, and now I’m looking forward to building on it at Donington.”
Colin Queen (#62) said:
“This past weekend’s results were definitely not what we worked for.
“We struggled with pace throughout the weekend, not showing our full potential from qualifying through to the second race.
“The reverse grid race made any hopes of a podium and even win possible but was quickly diminished due to unavoidable contact in Druids on lap 1. It was a bittersweet end to the weekend as we finally got to show our true pace with both lap times and consistency but did not get the results we wanted.
“I’m truly glad I got to experience racing on the GP circuit at Brands, as it was one of if not the most enjoyable track to drive on the calendar. It’s onward and upwards to the finale at Donington Park, and I am determined to earn great results.”
Oliver Dutton, Team Principal said:
“It was definitely a frustrating weekend, and one where the results don’t really reflect the pace we had in the drivers, or the car.
“But qualifying is so important in GB4, and we’ve had another reminder of that this weekend. The red flag was unfortunate; without it, perhaps we could have been higher up, and then it’s a different story.
“I was so proud of Adi’s driving in the reverse grid race – you can’t be quickest all the time, but on those days, you need the race craft to kick in and help, and boy did it!
“Colin’s pace after the wing change was also tremendous, so it just goes to show what might have been possible.
“We’ve got a bit of a break now to regroup before Donington, and we’ll be looking to end the season strongly.”