• Kiwi rising star still leads British F4 Championship title race
• Rodin Carlin-run racer secures two fiercely-fought third place finishes
• Last lap heroics further underline young New Zealander's talent
An astonishing final two laps of the ROKiT F4 British Championship Certified by FIA weekend at a sun-drenched Thruxton ensured that Rodin Cars-backed Louis Sharp was able to retain his place at the head of the championship standings following the fourth meeting of the season.
The rapid New Zealander headed to the fastest circuit in the UK on the back of a solid performance two weeks earlier at Snetterton, where he took his Rodin Carlin-run car to a third podium finish of the campaign.
As had been the case on the previous weekend, Louis would use Friday testing to work on set-up ahead of qualifying on Saturday morning, posting the seventh-best time following the two timed sessions.
Off-track, Louis would also have the opportunity to meet up with fellow Kiwi Howden Ganley, who competed in F1 in the 1970s for the likes of BRM, Williams and March, and also finished on the podium in the Le Mans 24 Hours for the Matra team.
Qualifying would prove to be an astonishing affair on the superfast track, with the leading seven drivers on the grid covered by less than a tenth of a second. Louis would be in the heart of the fight for pole throughout, and whilst his best lap was just 0.038s off pole position, he would line up only in fifth place for the opening 20 minute race later on Saturday afternoon.
Launching away well at the start, Louis made light work of clearing Kanato Le and Gabriel Stilp to move into third spot. He would be part of a three-way dice for the lead for much of the race, before the performance of his tyres started to drop away thanks to the abrasive nature of the circuit.
A late caution period to allow two damaged cars to be recovered from the circuit meant Louis had to settle for third spot, with focus then turning to the reverse grid race on Sunday morning where he would start back in 19th place.
In what would prove to be a challenging affair, Louis would be the victim of contact early on that damaged a tyre, and was then forced off-track whilst making up places, which saw him slip back down outside the top 20.
Undaunted and determined, Louis battled back well and – after a brief safety car interlude – fought his way through to 12th by the finish, scoring seven valuable points for the places made up from his starting position.
Once again starting from fifth on the grid for the final race of the weekend, Louis retained position through the first few corners on the opening lap and kept the chasing Le at bay in the early stages before starting to put pressure on race one winner Jimmy Piszcyk for fourth position.
Closing on his rival, Louis was part of a train of cars dicing for position and a audacious move on Piszcyk saw him go around the outside into the chicane on the penultimate lap to grab fourth.
Louis then launched an even more astonishing move around the outside at the flat-out Church corner on the final lap to sweep past Stilp and secure an incredible third spot – a great result that allows him to retain the championship lead ahead of the next round at Oulton Park.
"We didn’t do a new tyre run in testing on Friday so going into the weekend, I was confident we’d be right in the mix for qualifying," he said. "When I saw the lap time, I felt sure it would be up in the top three so to find out I was fifth was a bit of a surprise, although it was so close.
"I knew the starts would be vital and getting away well in race one allowed me to get into the podium positions. Running in dirty air behind the leaders, though, meant the tyres just dropped away a bit late on and prevented me making a move for second despite us having good pace in the car.
"Lining up in 19th place on the grid the reverse grid race was always going to be difficult, and it didn’t help that I got hit at the start, which damaged a tyre. To be honest, we were probably lucky that it didn’t puncture, and I was able to make up places. We got back through to 12th on a circuit where overtaking isn't easy which showed the speed in the car... although it could have been more.
"We tried something at the start of race three that unfortunately didn’t work, and it left us on the back foot as it’s difficult to pass cars ahead when you are in the dirty air. I felt a bit stuck and thought P5 was probably as good as it was going to get, but going into the final five minutes, I could see the others fighting ahead and realised there was a slim chance of getting on the podium.
"In those last few laps, I made two gutsy moves where there wasn’t much room and I had to trust the other driver, but I was determined to get that podium finish... and it all came off. It means we stay on top of the points heading to Oulton Park, where I’ll be pushing hard to get back on the top step of the podium."
Fuelling Louis' ambition, it was at Oulton Park last year that the teenager scored his maiden victory in the British F4 Championship.
2023 ROKiT F4 British Championship certified by FIA
(Points after 11 of 30 races)
1. Louis Sharp (NZL) 140
2. William Macintyre (GBR) 138
3. Dion Gowda (IND) 122
4. Kanato Le (JPN) 100
5. Aiden Neate (GBR) 91
6. Noah Lisle (AUS) 90
2023 ROKiT F4 British Championship certified by the FIA*
22/23 April Donington Park (National)
06/07 May Brands Hatch (Indy)
20/21 May Snetterton
03/04 June Thruxton
17/18 June Oulton Park (Island)
23/25 June Silverstone (GP)
29/30 July Croft
12/13 August Knockhill
26/27 August Donington Park (GP)**
07/08 October Brands Hatch (GP)
*Three rotunds at all 10 meetings
** Plus race 7 rescheduled from Snetterton