After a difficult weekend last time out in Donington, Carlin’s Petru Florescu was looking to bounce back at Thruxton. A win in the first race got him off to a great start, but it wasn’t to be the Romanian’s weekend, with Sennan Fielding and Luis Leeds the real winners of the race weekend.
Florescu started the first race of the weekend on pole and flew away from the grid, leaving the rest of the field to squabble behind him for the rest of the podium.
“I pushed to pull away from the field as everyone was fighting for position behind me,” Florescu said after the race. “The car is really quick and although I didn’t test here last month, I did some work in the simulator and was able to be on the pace from the start. Donington was a difficult weekend where we did the best we could, but to be back at the front here is great. I’m so happy we’re back.”
Team mate Devlin DeFrancesco and JHR Development’s Fielding were battling for the second step of the podium, keeping one another on the edge as they raced around the fastest track on the calendar. It was Fielding on top for most of the race until, on lap twelve, a cleverly timed move from DeFrancesco made a Carlin one two.
“It was a really good fight with Sennan,” DeFrancesco said. “It was so exciting with lots of overtakes. I finally managed to make a move stick and it was nice to finish second. The last lap was nerve racking, especially at the last chicane. I think both of us demonstrated just how good the level of race craft is in the British F4 Championship.”
The second place was DeFrancesco’s best finish of the season, and his first podium, but there was more to come from the Canadian driver this weekend.
Elsewhere rookie Alex Quinn pushed hard at the end of the race, chasing Fielding over the line and finishing fourth, the top rookie of the race.
Race one was also rookie Ayrton Simmons’ first ever car race, having only just turned fifteen. The Essex driver finished the race in twelfth, third in the rookie standings.
Championship leader Max Fewtrell didn’t have such a fantastic race. The Carlin driver started P2, but lost out to Fielding and had to defend against team mate James Pull. Pull managed to get past Fewtrell on lap seven, but Fewtrell stuck close behind him, a little too close when they collided at the chicane. Fewtrell was sent airbourne, his Carlin car coming to a rest on top the tyre barrier. Pull managed to continue in the race, finishing the race in sixth.
Race two started with Jack Butel on pole, but the Brit didn’t keep the place for long, with Red Bull backed driver, Luis Leeds storming past him and into the lead on the opening lap. The Australian driver has already been on the podium three times this season but, at Thruxton, he was determined to stand on the top step.
Leeds built up a lead, only to have it dashed when the safety car was called out four laps into the race when Nicolai Kjaergaard beached himself on the exit of Church corner.
The Arden driver managed the safety car restart well and began to pull away again, whilst DeFrancesco and Butel restarted the battle the safety car had called a ceasefire on. The fight ended in disaster, with DeFrancesco colliding with Butel, bringing out the safety car once again.
Eventually, Leeds managed to bring the car home in first, with Jamie Caroline racing up the field from tenth to second, and Billy Monger from eighteenth to third.
“It was a little frustrating as the safety car kept wiping out my gap to the cars behind, but I was still able to control the race,” said Leeds.
“My goal is the championship this year and a win like this helps a lot.”
Caroline, who impressed in the rain in Donington, wasn’t best pleased with the beautiful sunshine at Thruxton, but still put in a fantastic race to finish second.
“I’ve always been good at starts and on cold tyres,” he said. “I learnt that in karting, so I’ve always had the upper hand on people in this aspect. I have so much confidence in myself and the car. I’m always pushing the limits and although there’s times when it might not come off that’s just me and I’ll keep trying. I managed to fend off Billy towards the end. It was a lot of fun with the two of us battling just like we used to in karting. I’ve had two second places this season so the win is definitely the aim now.”
Florescu had taken the lead of the championship after his spectacular race one, but he couldn’t keep that lead when a technical problem dropped him down the field.
In the rookie championship, Simmons found himself on the podium again, but this time it was a rookie class win for the fifteen year old after Jack Martin was excluded from the results.
“It was much better than yesterday, so we started off a bit in front, got a bit of an advantage,” Simmons said after the race. “I kept it cool, managed to stay out of trouble, that was the most important thing.”
It was Petru Florescu on pole for the third race of the weekend and again the Carlin driver shot away from the grid.
Behnd him, a three way battle was taking shape as Fielding took second position from Fewtrell, and DeFrancesco caught up with the pair. The two Carlin drivers dived down the inside of Fielding, pushing the JHR driver out of the podium places.
DeFrancesco pushed past Fewtrell into second place and began to chase down Florescu. Under pressure, the Romanian made a mistake, taking too much kerb at the exit of Club and losing places to DeFrancesco, Fielding, and Fewtrell.
It went from bad to worse for Florescu, when a spin sent him down to ninth towards the end of the race. It was a frustrating end to the weekend for Florescu, who leaves Thruxton fourth in the championship.
DeFrancesco also made a mistake towards end of the race, giving Fielding the lead. The Canadian retook control a lap later, keeping the battle for the lead going to the closing stages of the race.
Monger and Pull closed up behind Fielding and Fewtrell. Along with DeFrancesco, all five drivers battled wheel to wheel for the top spots. It was DeFrancesco who finished the race on top, with Monger in second after a late dive from the JHR driver.
“It feels unbelievable to get this win,” said DeFrancesco. “What a race! What a fight at the front! There was so much respect amongst all the drivers, with good overtaking and clean moves. I cannot wait for what the rest of the season has in store. There were so many touch-and-go moments out on track and the key was just trying to keep focused.”
“It’s not the top step, but we’re getting closer,” said Monger, who’s best finish before the Thruxton weekend was a sixth place in Donington. “I’m not here to make up the numbers. I wanted to prove to people that I deserve to be here and I think I have done that this weekend. We’ve had two podiums this weekend and I want to take this momentum to Oulton Park and get my first win.”
The championship standings look very different after Thruxton. It’s now Sennan Fielding at the top of the championship, with Luis Leeds two points behind him. Even after the poor weekend, Fewtrell is still the top Carlin driver, in third.
Image credit: Caroline Rhea