A near-perfect weekend at Snetterton (October 23-25) has catapulted Gloucestershire’s Zak O’Sullivan into firm contention for the British F4 championship title with one round to go.
The 15-year-old Carlin driver took two wins and a second place in Norfolk and is now tied on 369 points with nearest rival Luke Browning (Fortec), ahead of the final meeting at Brands Hatch next month.
O’Sullivan actually crossed the line first in all three races but was penalised for an on-track clash with Browning in the opening encounter, denying him a clean sweep of wins.
His results over the weekend mean he has closed a near-60 point gap on 18-year-old Browning over the last three race weekends.
O’Sullivan qualified second on Saturday morning and was quick to challenge poleman Browning for the lead in the first race, making a robust move through Oggies and Williams to take a lead he would hold to the flag.
But a post-race time penalty for the pass relegated him to second ahead of Saturday’s partially-reversed grid second race, which took place under threatening skies.
Expecting rain, O’Sullivan went against the grain and didn’t fit new slick tyres to his car, but was still able to carve his way through the field from the third row to take a superb victory.
After passing Abbi Pulling (JHR) at the start, O’Sullivan overtook team-mate Christian Mansell, Roman Bilinski (Arden) and Casper Stevenson (Argenti) to take a win he described as his best of the season.
It also meant he could count on a new set of tyres for Sunday’s final race, which he started from pole position and controlled from lights to flag, finishing more than three seconds ahead of Browning.
O’Sullivan, from Withington, near Cirencester, said: “I didn’t really expect this coming into the weekend. You can never really predict what will happen but we weren’t ridiculously quick during practice.
“In race one, I knew I needed to get into the lead early and unfortunately there was contact with Luke. It was just one of those things – I think the penalty was probably deserved. I’m my own strongest critic and as a rookie I know that I’m still making some small mistakes.
“Learning whilst still fighting for wins is a challenge, but that’s really how I’ve progressed. I went from junior karting to Ginetta Junior, now FIA F4 and thankfully because of the competitive nature and quality of this championship, I’m already now looking at new opportunities at the next level.
“Heading into race two, it looked like it was going to rain so we stayed away from using our new tyres as we didn’t want to waste them. But the car was really, really quick and I was able to come through to the front – it was probably my best race of the year.
“That meant we saved the new tyres for race three and I was able to control the race from pole. It was an almost perfect weekend.”
After a three-week break, the season reaches its dramatic conclusion at the iconic Kent circuit over the weekend of November 13-15.
“I’ve clawed back more than 60 points, so I will just keep doing what I’m doing. I won’t be changing my approach for Brands Hatch,” said O’Sullivan.
“There’s no real expectation or pressure – I wanted this to be a learning year and it’s been really useful. I’ve done what I came here to do.”