Snetterton 300 Circuit in East Anglia provided a challenging series of races for SWR during the latest instalment of BRDC Formula 4 Championship action – seventh place for car racing rookie Jack Barlow during round nine on Sunday, 16th June, the highlight of a frustrating weekend.
All three of the Chipping Norton squad’s drivers, Barlow, Matty Graham and Chinese racer Zou Sirui, encountered more than their share of misfortune across the event but with great determination they each delivered some strong race performances despite the difficulties.
There was also some confusion during the final race of the weekend when Graham’s car suffered gear selection issues as a result of a problem with the steering wheel. It later transpired the SWR racer’s original, which had been taken away by officials following the second race to be tested, was replaced with a different unit which unfortunately had a fault.
“It’s been a very tough weekend, there were a lot of incidents to contend with”, explained team principal Ken Page, “Then there was the issue surrounding Matty’s steering wheel in the final race, we were given a different one to use and it turned out to be faulty.
“That spoiled any hopes Matty had of battling his way into the upper order but he still raced well, as did Jack and Zou, and they all deserved more from the weekend. You have to take the rough with the smooth sometimes, so we’ll put this one behind us and look forward to Oulton Park now.”
Qualifying on Saturday, 15th June, took place in testing wet conditions with Edmundbyers racer Graham the best of the SWR contingent with the 12th fastest time, a mere 0.028 seconds quicker than Barlow, while Sirui was 19th fastest.
Disappointingly, round seven was nothing short of a nightmare for the team with all three competitors hitting trouble. While Graham moved into 11th place at the start, Sirui ran at the tail of the top 20 but Barlow’s car suffered brake problems on the opening lap which resulted in a pit-stop.
With excellent work from the team enabling the Hastings 18-year-old to rejoin the race just half a minute down on the tail of the field, he managed to recover into 18th position but was later credited with 16th place when Diego Menchaca and Pietro Fittipaldi were excluded from the results.
An unfortunate spin for Graham on lap two, during which debris from trackside boards became lodged in his car’s sidepods, meant he slipped down the order before pitting to have the rogue material removed.
He eventually finished in 20th place which then became 18th post-race due to the exclusions. Sirui, meanwhile, also had to make a pit visit after picking up debris following an excursion and was 17th on the amended classification.
With all three drivers having to start round eight from uncharacteristically low positions, as per the finishing order of the first race, Barlow and Graham each made fantastic getaways and surged into the upper order around the top 10. Unfortunately for Graham, heavy contact to the rear of his car, as the lead bunch braked to avoid contact ahead on the run to the hairpin, led to instant retirement.
As a result of the two-car tangle which triggered the incident involving Graham, the race was red flagged, meaning Barlow had it all to do again having climbed into 10th place before the stoppage. At the fresh start, Barlow charged into the top 12 while team-mate Sirui moved into 16th position.
Taking 10th on lap two, Barlow then broke into ninth place on lap five but was elbowed back to 10th on the final lap. Sirui, meanwhile, made his way into the top 15 and during the closing stages was in a very tight battle with Malaysia’s Rahul Raj Mayer.
Piling on the pressure, the SWR driver got a great run out of the chicane on the last lap and pipped Mayer for 14th on the line by 0.070 seconds – the result matching the Chinese racer’s previous best in Formula 4. In round nine, he was unfortunately unable to build further on that when contact on the first lap resulted in a non-finish.
Barlow, starting the final race from 14th position, again made fantastic early progress to move into the top 10 just ahead of team-mate Graham but the latter’s problems with gear selection – during which the digital readout went completely blank – limited him to a 13th place finish.
Barlow was able to race through into ninth, which then became seventh post-race following two further exclusions. Graham was also elevated in the final classification for that reason, moving into 11th position.
Oulton Park in Cheshire will be the next venue on the BRDC Formula 4 Championship calendar with rounds 10, 11 and 12 taking place three weeks from now on Saturday, 6th July.
2013 Provisional BRDC Formula 4 Championship Driver Standings (after Rd9):
7th Jack Barlow, 121pts; 9th Matty Graham, 110pts; Zou Sirui – Does Not Score