Louis Sharp enjoyed a strong start to the second half of his ROKiT F4 British Championship certified by FIA campaign with his second double victory of the season as the series returned to action at Croft.
The rapid New Zealander had topped the championship standings after the opening weekend of the season at Donington Park following back-to-back race wins but lost his advantage in the final meeting before the summer break at Silverstone after a tough qualifying session hampered his chances across the three races.
Having used the five-week summer break to regroup, Louis and his Rodin Carlin team arrived at Croft – a circuit where he had scored a podium finish last season – in a confident mood, and the teenager showed he meant business in Friday’s two Free Practice sessions as he topped the times by quarter of a second.
Louis then carried that form into Qualifying, where he would set no fewer than three laps that would be good enough to secure his first pole position in the series. Such was his dominance of the session, his second quickest time also ensured he would start both main points-scoring races over the weekend from the very front of the grid.
Given the challenging nature of the Croft circuit, Louis headed on track for the opening race aware of the importance of the run to turn one, and a solid start allowed him to retain his advantage at the front of the pack.
Having safely made it through the opening series of corners, Louis then ran untroubled for the remainder of the race despite light rain starting to fall in the closing stages, posting the fastest lap as he took the flag nearly four seconds clear of his closest rival.
The downside to a superb qualifying performance was that Louis would line up dead last for the reverse grid second race of the weekend, where the focus was simply on making up as many places as possible; each place gained being worth a vital championship point.
Starting from 19th, Louis was able to avoid a number of incidents ahead and gradually picked his way through the field as the race wore on to climb up to 11th place by the chequered flag.
However, there would be a twist in the tail after the race, when Louis was handed a five-place penalty for contact, which dropped him down to 16th in the results.
Unphased, Sharp was back on pole position for the final race and Louis again held the lead into turn one before an incident behind saw the race red-flagged.
Another fine start saw Louis retain his advantage over the chasing pack on the restart, and in a repeat of race one, he was able to lead from start-to-finish for a fourth victory of the season, adding another fastest lap into the mix.
Having become the season’s first four-time victor and outscored points leader William McIntyre in all three races, Louis has now closed from 28 to just six points of the championship lead and heads to the next event at Knockhill in Scotland in confident mood.
“We started the season so well at Donington Park with the double win, but then things haven’t quite gone our way,” said the 16-yeard-old rising star. “We’ve had some bad luck and at times we haven’t quite had the pace we should have done for some reason, but the team worked hard over the summer break, and I worked hard in myself, to make sure we came back fighting when we got to Croft.
“Scoring my first pole position in qualifying was a fantastic way to kick things off, and I knew the start of race one was going to be vital because of how hard it is to overtake here in these evenly-matched cars. I focused on making sure I got away well off the line and then it was a case of getting my head down and pushing to build a gap.
“When I saw rain on the visor in the last few laps I could afford to back off a little just in case because I had the advantage, but luckily it didn’t come down hard enough to have any impact on the race.
“Race two was always going to be tough from the back of the grid and I was pleased to come through in the way I did. To then get a penalty was unfortunate, but we more than made up for it in race three and to score another lights-to-flag victory was fantastic.
“A weekend like this is just what we needed for the championship and huge credit has to go to everyone in the Rodin Carlin team for their efforts, as they have given me the tools to go out there and get the job done. We’ve now got to try and take the momentum from here into Knockhill in a couple of weeks and try to reclaim the points lead.”
Words & Images: Supplied