• Rising star grabs seventh and eighth podium finishes of the season
• Kiwi youngster challenges at the front once again at the fastest circuit in the UK
• Carlin-run racer consolidates top four championship slot
Louis Sharp retained his place inside the top four in the ROKiT F4 British Championship certified by FIA standings with a strong double podium from the eighth meeting of the season at Thruxton.
The rapid New Zealander returned to the fastest circuit in the UK – the only venue to host two rounds of the leading junior single-seater series – looking to cement his position in the championship top four, whilst also chasing a repeat of the podium finish he secured on his first visit earlier in the year.
Reflecting the highly-competitive nature of the field, Louis would end Friday practice with the third fastest time – his best lap being only 0.040s behind the outright pace-setter. This set the scene for a titanic battle for pole position on Saturday morning.
There, Louis would replicate his practice result at the wheel of his Rodin Cars-liveried racer to secure a place on the second row of the grid, despite the fact he was unable to benefit from a draft during the session – a fact that could well have seen the talented teenager challenge for pole.
Getting away well off the line when race one of the weekend kicked off, Louis almost lost his position when he was boxed in heading up to the complex for the first time but emerged from the opening corners having retained his third place.
Although not quite able to keep pace with the two drivers ahead, Louis was easing away from fourth spot when the safety car was deployed following an incident on track and backed up the field. Following the restart, Louis was once again able to gap the pack behind to take the flag in third place and secure a seventh podium of the campaign.
Eighth on the grid for the reverse grid second race, Louis charged his way forwards through the opening two laps to climb up into fourth spot. A rare error when he took too much kerb at the chicane and lost momentum onto the main straight would ultimately play a part in Louis slipping back to seventh at the finish, although that still allowed him to take points out of two of the drivers ahead in the standings.
The final race of the weekend – shortened to 15 minutes due to an incident in one of the other races on the package – saw Louis once again line up on the second row of the grid and he held station off the line to remain in third spot through the opening lap.
Keeping pace with the front two until a mid-race safety car period, Louis pushed hard over the final three laps in a bid to make up places but had to settle for another third place finish, setting his fastest race lap of the weekend on the very final lap.
The double podium allows Louis to retain his top four championship placing – despite missing the opening round whilst he waited to turn 15 – and increases his advantage over the drivers behind with just two rounds left to run at Silverstone and Brands Hatch Grand Prix.
"I knew after qualifying that we could have a strong race car and the opening race was a solid start, even if we didn’t quite have the pace to keep up with the leading pair," he said. "Race two looked good in the early laps, but then I made a small mistake that I’ll make sure I don’t repeat in future and it cost me places, which was unfortunate.
"I feel I improved in how I drove in the final race and we were able to run with the leading pair until the safety car came out. I didn’t get the best restart which was a shame, as potentially we could have gone for second place or even the win, but the key thing is that I was able to beat the people who I needed to beat in terms of the points.
"Coming back to Thruxton, I wanted to try and get back onto the podium, so it’s great that we have been able to come away with two top three finishes. Of course it was a bit frustrating in race two, but I feel the other results make up for it, and it’s been a pleasing weekend as a whole."
2022 ROKiT F4 British Championship certified by FIA
(points after 24 of 30 rounds)
!. Alex Dunne (IRL) 382
2. Oliver Gray (GBR) 276
3. Ugo Ugochukwu (USA) 240
4. Louis Sharp (NZL)* 205
5. Aiden Neate (GBR) 188
6. Joseph Loake (GBR) 187
*only contested 21 of 24 rounds as too young to enter the opening race weekend