Gloucestershire teenager Zak O’Sullivan announced himself to the British F4 paddock in fine style at Donington Park, taking a win in his first single-seater race meeting and bagging an early championship lead into the bargain.
The 15-year-old arrived at the much-delayed season start in Leicestershire looking to build on his first year in car racing, which saw him crowned Ginetta Junior Rookie Cup champion. And it was mission accomplished by the end of Sunday’s action, with O’Sullivan taking a fourth and a third to bookend a victory in Sunday morning’s chaotic reverse grid race, giving him 52 points and a 16-point gap to second-year driver Luke Browning (Fortec) in the standings.
Driving for the multiple title-winning Carlin team, series rookie O’Sullivan showed strong pace in Friday’s two practice sessions, setting the second best overall time, before securing fourth on the grid for Saturday’s opening encounter. He dropped back a place to fifth at the start but raced well throughout, eventually passing pole-sitter and former Ginetta rival James Hedley (JHR) in the closing stages to take fourth at the flag.
Sunday’s race was red flagged on the opening lap after a crash between Alex Connor and Roberto Faria left both stranded in the middle of the road. After the clean-up operation was complete, O’Sullivan maintained fourth at the start, which became third when Browning went off the track in front of him. He set about chasing down Rafael Villagomez (Fortec), passing the Mexican for second at Coppice, before reeling in Casper Stevenson (Argenti) and passing him at Redgate for a lead he would never lose, and had extended to nearly two seconds at the flag. Taking fastest lap completed his excellent morning’s work. With only a set of used tyres left for the finale, O’Sullivan nevertheless improved one spot on his grid position of fourth to hold off Faria (Fortec) for the final spot on the podium.
O’Sullivan, from Withington, near Cirencester, said: “It’s a good weekend and a good way to start the championship. A big thanks to Carlin, my engineer and my driver coach at Kokoro – it’s that teamwork which helped us take the win. We made a few small adjustments to the car overnight from practice, which were baby steps as we didn’t want to go backwards. In the first race, I got held up a bit by Hedley and a backmarker but we had strong pace overall. In the reverse-grid race, I messed up the start and lost a position but the car came in and it was really quick. We just managed to get through everyone all the way. I was running on used tyres in the last race, so I am happy to take third and leave Donington with the championship lead.”
O’Sullivan is quickly back in action as the F4 championship heads to the Brands Hatch GP circuit this weekend (August 8-9). “Although it’s close to London where I was born it’s really not my favourite track,” said O’Sullivan.“It’s a beautiful setting but the sequence of corners makes overtaking in a single seater quite difficult. Despite that, I’m looking forward to the challenge and I hope I can get myself up towards the front in qualifying.”