Fortec Motorsport took its first victory of the ROKiT F4 British Championship certified by FIA’s second-generation era this weekend [6-7 May], courtesy of James Higgins at Brands Hatch.
The victory, Higgins’ first in Britain’s FIA Formula 4 series on just his fourth weekend in the championship, moves him up to a clear second in the title race behind early leader Louis Sharp after six rounds.
Daventry-based made the journey to the 1.2-mile Kent venue looking to build on the podium – and solid points haul – earned at the Donington Park season opener a fortnight ago.
Qualifying proved to be a session of contrasting fortunes for the team’s duo of Higgins and Alpine F1 junior Aiden Neate. Higgins mastered the wet conditions to take an emphatic double pole, but a gamble to switch to slicks on a drying track backfired for Neate, as the heavens opened upon leaving the pit lane.
Higgins started the weekend as he would end it – on the podium – the 15-year-old making a first visit to the overall rostrum in third during the opening race. Neate was also able to demonstrate his true pace, navigating the tricky conditions to rise ten spots from 18th to finish a commendable eighth.
Neate could well have won the reverse grid race on Sunday morning, too, but for falling foul of an optimistic move from another car on the run through Druids on the opening lap.
The contact dropped Neate back to third, which then became second post-race after the offending rival was penalised by championship officials for an infringement prior to the start. Higgins started at the back by dint of the reverse grid but rose five spots to finish 12th.
It would be during Sunday’s ITV4-televised finale, however, that Higgins wrote the headlines, expertly taking a lights-to-flag victory from pole position.
It was far from easy, with Higgins absorbing race-long pressure from second-placed Will Macintyre. The two lapped nose-to-tail for the majority of the 20-minute contest, the eventual winning margin a mere half-second at the flag. Neate was once again on the comeback trail, mirroring Higgins’ race two effort to claim 12th.
Their combined efforts keeps Fortec in the hunt for Teams’ Championship honours, the team sitting third heading to the next event at Snetterton on 20-21 May.
View from the Cockpit
James Higgins (#18) said:
“It’s fantastic to get my first win in British F4. It was a mega race from the team and I, but to be honest, the car felt perfect all weekend long.
“It’s really satisfying to have that pace and to convert it into a result like this. Now we look to push on and keep moving towards the top of the standings at Snetterton.”
Aiden Neate (#57) said:
“On such a short circuit like Brands Indy, qualifying is almost everything, as after the first lap of racing, no one can do too much. Unfortunately, rain on my out lap when gambling for slicks put me severely out of position and for the rest of the weekend that followed.
“As a team at Fortec, we had really good pace in the car and I was able to make good progress throughout the races, where we could. Unfortunately, the chance to win Race 2 was taken away from me, it was completely out of my control.
“Nonetheless, we still came away with a podium, and three in total as a team, which shows the immense hard work and dedication we’ve put in. So I can only thank and congratulate the team for that.”
Oliver Dutton, Team Principal said:
“To get a win this weekend is a really important step forward for the F4 team. We had a lot of pace at Donington, but the results didn’t reflect that. There was still more in reserve this weekend, too, but this is definitely a step closer to where we want to be.
“James defended superbly, and I think it’s easy to forget this is only his fourth weekend in the championship. He’s put himself firmly in the mix now at the sharp end of the championship, so I’m delighted for him.
“And Aiden just got unlucky in qualifying, it’s as simple as that. The track was dry when he boxed for slicks, and it started raining as soon as he left the pit lane – you can’t legislate for something like that. It was a gamble, sometimes things don’t go your way, but he showed his true pace with some great recovery drives.
“Without that, he’d have been up there with James for sure. Now onto Snetterton, where we can hopefully have them both fighting up front together.”