Sennan Fielding made the perfect start to his and JHR Developments’ 2016 MSA Formula 4 title challenge with a win in the opening three-race meeting of the championship at Brands Hatch.
But JHR’s 2016 Simpson Race Products Ginetta Junior Championship squad just missed out on a podium finish in two frantic races.
Leading Dronfield-based JHR’s three car MSA Formula 4 team, Fielding together with returnee, Jack Butel and series rookie Billy Monger struggled on qualifying pace compared to the pole sitter.
In the round 1, Fielding made a storming start from 9th into 6th place and was up to 5th by lap 3, spending the race tussling with the 4th placed car.
Monger made an impressive single-seater debut from grid 16th, grabbing 3 places on lap 1, he ran in 13th for 6 laps, before taking 12th place on lap 10.
He then pressured JHR Developments’ teammate Butel into a mistake on lap 12, demoting him to 12th place, Monger finishing 11th, five places higher than his starting position when the chequered flag fell.
Round two saw Fielding return to the top step of the podium in a race that will be remembered as one of the most thrilling and dramatic in the history of the championship.
From 5th on the grid Fielding kept his cool as light drizzle turned into a downpour and drivers battled to try to keep temperature in their tyres. He was “immensely impressive on slicks in the downpour” praised JHR team boss Steven Hunter.
With masterful car control, Fielding steered his way into the lead, increasingly treacherous conditions caused the race to be stopped, and the race order rolled back one lap...
At the re-start, the field now shod on wet tyres, Fielding struggled with wheel spin off the line, from 2nd he dropped two places, as the poleman sped away in front.
Running in 4th, Fielding soon caught and took over 3rd-place, closing up on the leader and 2nd drivers as they fought between themselves, the Chesterfield 18 year-old brought himself steadily into play, with three laps left.
Seeing his opportunity as the cars splashed by the pits, Fielding gritted his teeth to overtake Jamie Caroline who tried as usual to shove him into the pitwall at 110mph, luckily there was just enough room to manoeuvre his way alongside.
Entering turn one, the cars were now three abreast, with Fielding on his favoured inside of the corner, deftly he left his braking to the last possible second and dived through into the lead.
It was to be the race winning move as Fielding took the lead and held out for the remaining laps, setting the fastest lap, to take the fourth Ford MSA Formula victory of his career, and a five point lead in the championship.
“It was all about picking up the pieces at the right time. The car felt really good, especially on the slicks”, smiled Fielding. “When I pulled the race winning move, I remember thinking maybe I shouldn’t be attempting this, but it was worth it and I managed to pull it off. I’m now really excited to follow-up with another great result tomorrow”.
JHR team boss, Hunter was delighted, “he blitzed them all, Sennan was the class of the field!”
While still learning the car’s characteristics on new rubber, Monger had a lot of pace finishing in 8th place.
In round 3, Fielding repeated his round 2-winning move of a late lunge up the inside into Paddock Hill to capture 6th place with several laps remaining.
However, his hard work was undone following the race after it was judged Fielding had jumped the start, it earned him a time penalty that demoted him to 14th. “I got cramp and couldn’t feel my foot on the clutch pedal and the car crept forward”. “Rather a harsh 10 second penalty”, commented Hunter.
Also in round 3, Monger was penalised for exceeding track limits, dropping him to 18th.
Showing consistency, Butel had 12th, 13th and 12th placed finishes.
The JHR squad in the 2016 Simpson Race Products Ginetta Junior Championship suffered a disappointing qualifying and were playing catch-up in a session cut short, “a very poor start to the weekend”, regretted Hunter.
Nevertheless, one of their rookie drivers, Sebastian Priaulx managed to set the 4th fastest time for round 1 of the series for 14 to 17 year-olds.
However he “had a massive learning curve”, and was judged to have crept forward on the grid, getting a drive-though penalty, he re-joined at the back working his way up to 18th.
Starting round 2 in 18th he fought through to 10th place until a fellow JHR rookie tapped him into a spin on the last lap, recovering to finish 14th.
From grid slot 12, Cameron Roberts by mid-race had climbed into the top-6 and was then locked in some close-fought battles to the flag.
Geri Nicosia and Kyle Hornby finished 8th and 9th, where Nicosia started 11th with Hornby making 6 places, as did series returnee Seb Perez finishing 11th.
Learning the ropes of racing in England, 14 year-old American rookie Dhyllan Skiba progressed from grid 22 to 19th, and finished round 2 in 17th.
For round 2, starting in the position where they finished the earlier races Hornby, Roberts and Nicosia were soon in the thick of the top-7 action by lap 3.
From the start Roberts was running in 4th place and repeatedly swapping paint as he squeezed into 3rd place, only to be nudged back again – he took the flag in 4th.
Also battling hard all race long Nicosia finished a place higher than he started, with Hornby ending one place down.
On the last lap, into the final corner, Priaulx was hard on Hornby’s bumper, followed closely by Perez who was dicing for 12th place with another car that started to slide and nudged Perez.
Unable to avoid colliding with his JHR teammate and namesake, Seb Priaulx was tapped out of a certain 11th, ending up 14th as Perez inherited the place.
JHR boss Hunter was pleased with their performances, “they had a good race pace, making places through traffic – it bodes well for the season!”