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Maini takes championship lead in dramatic Donington race three

Sunday, September 21 2014

Arjun Maini has claimed the lead of the BRDC F4 Championship, after an enthralling and controversial final race of the weekend at Donington Park. Championship challengers Will Palmer, George Russell and Raoul Hyman all retired early, while drama also affected Sennan Fielding and Struan Moore.

Diego Menchaca claimed second place ahead of SWR - Caterham F1's Jordan Albert, who scored his first ever podium finish with third.

Douglas Motorsport's Charlie Eastwood and Rodrigo Fonseca claimed fourth and fifth with Rahul Mayer taking sixth. Connor Jupp scored his and Meridian's best result in F4 with seventh, ahead of Hillspeed's Alfredo Zabalza with championship contenders Sennan Fielding and Struan Moore ninth and tenth.

Pole sitter George Russell held the lead on the run down to Redgate on the first lap, while Maini, starting alongside made a better one, and was able to challenge Russell on the outside of the first corner.

Russell held the lead at the end of the first lap from Hyman, who climbed into second from third on the grid, with Maini falling to fifth. 

On lap two, the drama began to unfold. As Hyman tried a move on Russell for the lead at the Melbourne hairpin, Fielding and Palmer, running in third and fourth collided, dropping Fielding down the order and forcing Palmer into retirement at the final corner, and earning Palmer a 10 place grid penalty for the next race at Snetterton.

Moments later, Russell and Hyman both dropped out as well after they collided at the Old Hairpin, earning Hyman a 10 place grid penalty for the next race at Snetterton, although he has appealed this decision to the National Court. The incident promoted Maini not only into the lead of the race, but the championship also, with Moore promoted into second and Menchaca third.

Maini capitalised on his fortuitious position, and built a strong lead of over two seconds from Moore. But on lap six Maini ran wide on debris at the Esses, and Moore closed right up, with the Lanan duo crossing the line side-by-side starting lap seven. The drama allowed Menchaca to close up and he moved into second ahead of Moore, with Eastwood also passing the Lanan driver, with the top-eight drivers at this point covered by just 2.5 seconds.

Moore then hit trouble and fell to 11th, behind a recovering Fielding, while SWR - Caterham F1's Albert moved into third place after passing Eastwood.

Maini was able to build a gap once more, with his lead approaching one second in the later stages, but he appeared under threat once more starting the last lap, running just half a second ahead of Menchaca. But the Indian racer held on to claim his fourth win of the season, to dramatically take the championship lead.

Maini now leads the BRDC F4 Championship by 21 points, the first time since the Silverstone opener in April that anyone other than George Russell has led the championship. Russell drops to second while Fielding climbs into third. Hyman drops to fourth, with Struan Moore and Will Palmer still fifth and sixth, and mathematically still in contention in the championship battle.

Maini commented: "That was a really good race. I dropped a few places on the first lap but I got a bit lucky as everyone kept taking each other out in front of me. I got into the lead and built a gap, but someone went off in front of me and threw a lot of dust onto the track, and I got onto the dust and slipped off. After that, it was really hard but I think I did a good job to keep the lead.

"It feels great to be the championship leader, so close to the end of the championship. Taking the championship lead at this time in the year could be the perfect moment, but now the pressure is all on me. I need to use it positively and stay motivated to work hard."

By winning the race, Arjun Maini also claimed the Raymond Mays Silver Salver trophy from the Donington Park Racing Association Club. Maini, Menchaca and Albert were presented with their trophies on the podium by BRDC member and sports car racer Phil Keen.

BRDC F4 Championship, Donington Park race three result

1. Arjun Maini, Lanan Racing, 12 laps
2. Diego Menchaca, Douglas Motorsport, +0.783s
3. Jordan Albert, SWR - Caterham F1, +1.638s
4. Charlie Eastwood, Douglas Motorsport, +3.582s
5. Rodrigo Fonseca, Douglas Motorsport, +4.624s
6. Rahul Mayer, Hillspeed, +5.475s
7. Connor Jupp, Meridian Racing, +9.645s
8. Alfredo Zabalza, Hillspeed, +11.761s
9. Sennan Fielding, HHC Motorsport, +11.896s
10. Struan Moore, Lanan Racing, +12.034s
11. Tom Bale, Chris Dittmann Racing, +15.023s
12. Jai Nijjar, Meridian Racing, +26.038s
13. Diego Borrelli, SWR - Caterham F1, +33.574s
14. Michael Claessens, Mark Godwin Racing, +43.170s
DNF. George Russell, Lanan Racing, 2 laps
DNF. Raoul Hyman, HHC Motorsport, 2 laps
DNF. Will Palmer, HHC Motorsport, 1 lap
DNS. Gaetano di Mauro, Petroball, DNS