Steve Hunter could not have been happier with the performance of his JHR Developments team’s squad of young drivers in the F4 and Ginetta Junior championships racing at Thruxton.
For Round 7 of the re-named 2016 British Formula 4 championship, Chesterfield’s Sennan Fielding qualified 4th for the Dronfield-based team grabbing a position at the start. Spending the race fighting over 2nd place, he eventually settled for a 3rd-place finish.
Teammates Billy Monger and Jack Butel had differing fortunes: Monger failed to finish through brake problems. Butel climbed from 12th to 7th, rather handily, this converted to pole position for the partial reverse grid Round 8.
Unfortunately on the opening lap Butel was ‘mugged’ at the Complex and fell back, then Fielding made contact with him, before Devlin Defrancesco finished the job, again at the Complex, hitting him and taking both of them out.
The contact caused Fielding to falter, losing multiple places dropping him to 14th place. His recovery drive had him climb back to 6th place at the flag and setting the race fastest lap.
From grid 18th Monger set to work moving up the field and after two lengthy Safety Car periods he had worked his way up to 3rd place, gaining his maiden podium finish. “A chaotic race, but I am happy with the result”, he commented.
Starting round 9 from 3rd, at the lights Fielding rocketed away off the grid taking 2nd place, with Monger running 6th and Butel in 17th.
On Lap 2, two Carlin team cars passed Fielding dropping him to 4th, but he fought back and overtook one Carlin car into 3rd, then when the other Carlin car ran wide, it gifted 2nd to Fielding.
Soon Fielding had closed on race-leader Defrancesco, when he made a mistake at the chicane Fielding saw his chance and was through to the lead.
But not for long as then thing got a bit intense, with a five-way lead battle places changed every lap, initially with Defrancesco recovering and taking the lead back.
Then Max Fewtrell got the run on Fielding demoting him back to 3rd for two laps, until a mistake by Fewtrell allowed Fielding back into 2nd place.
At three laps to go, Monger, having followed Fielding through was all over the back of him, before the pair were running side-by-side as they hurtled to the chicane.
Dicing for the lead had taken the best out of Fielding’s tyres, so Monger was able to be the bravest of the pair, leaving his braking to the very latest and squeezed past into 2nd place.
On the penultimate lap, two more cars overtook Fielding dropping him to 5th place, as Monger was overjoyed to claim runners-up spot on his second podium of the weekend.
Monger beamed, “It’s been an awesome weekend – we needed it! I have had the pace in previous races, but have been unlucky. So we needed results and now have some points on the board with two strong results”.
All this action made Fielding the joint Championship-leader along with Luis Leeds, but Fielding’s 100% finishing record gave him the lead.
Hunter was all smiles too, “the weekend went very well, as we took the race to a high budget, international racing team like Carlin. The kids drove exceptionally well, especially Sennan Fielding taking the lead in the British Formula 4 championship: to come away leading the championship against the cream of the world’s young drivers he did exceptionally well: I just cannot fault them”.
JHR’s Ginetta Junior championship drivers did not disappoint him either with Chesterfield 17 year-old Seb Perez securing pole position for round 6.
Unfortunately, he lost the lead and then to add insult to injury, as Perez’s car was rolling at the start, Officials imposed a jump start drive through penalty so he actually ended the race in 18th place. “A massive disappointment he couldn’t convert pole position to a win”, Hunter remarked.
JHR teammates Cameron Roberts and rookie Seb Priaulx came home in 4th and 5th having spent the race at the sharp-end of a five-car dice for 3rd place.
Perez and Max Bird tangled in round 7 bringing out the Safety Car until lap 4, but it allowed Priaulx, from grid 5th, to grab his inaugural podium in 3rd place after some defensive driving to hold his position on the final lap. Hunter applauded the 14 year-old, “I’m chuffed at Priaulx’s podium he drove fantastically in only his third race meeting”.
Geri Nicosia, climbing from 9th to finish in 6th-place, earned Hunter’s praises, “He’s doing a genuinely staunch job – finishing top-10 every round so far this season”.
A place behind in 7th was Kyle Hornby advancing 5 places during the race, making up for round 6’s opening lap problems where he was shoved out of 4th place, dropped to stone last and recovering to 12th at the flag.