Louis Sharp will head into the final rounds of the ROKiT F4 British Championship certified by FIA season in contention for a remarkable top three finish after securing victory on his first appearance at the iconic Silverstone circuit.
The rapid New Zealander headed to the famous Grand Prix venue on the back of a strong weekend at Thruxton, where he had powered his Rodin Cars-backed single-seater to a brace of podium finishes.
Pre-event testing at the home of the British Grand Prix saw Louis firmly in the mix towards the sharp end of the field although the final official free practice session on Friday would prove to be a more challenging affair as a brake bias issue saw his Carlin-run machine sitting in an unfamiliar 14th place.
Thankfully the issue would be resolved ahead of Saturday’s qualifying session, with Louis on fine form as he posted a time just 0.070s away from pole, although the close nature of the field around Silverstone's shorter National track layout meant that would leave him to start race one from fourth on the grid.
That in turn would mean seventh on the grid for the reverse grid second race, whilst his second fastest lap would be good enough to secure a fifth placed starting slot for the weekend finale.
The opening race would start in dramatic fashion as Louis moved up into third place off the line and was then able to take advantage of a clash between team-mate Oliver Gray and Alex Dunne to grab the lead.
Although Gray was able to nip back ahead, Louis remained firmly fixed onto the rear of his fellow Carlin man throughout the race whilst also defending his second position from Daniel Guinchard on two safety car restarts.
Second across the line for a podium finish on his Silverstone debut, Louis was then given further reason to smile when on track 'winner' Gray was handed a post-race time penalty that promoted him into first place, and a famous second victory in this his first season competing in international motorsport.
Lining up sixth for race two due to penalties elsewhere, Louis made up a place on the opening lap to run in fifth spot and when Guinchard and Eduardo Cosateng then clashed ahead, he was well placed to move up into third.
Despite another safety car period bunching up the field, Louis resolutely fought off those behind to claim his tenth podium from just 23 starts.
Race three would end in an unfortunate retirement when Louis stalled as the lights went out and was collected from behind by the car of Edward Pearson, but he still heads away from the penultimate weekend of the season having closed the gap to the championship top three to 21 points – an astonishing fact given he missed the opening event whilst waiting to turn 15.
"It was a shame that race three only lasted a few metres, but we have to look to the positives and to take a victory on my first outing at a circuit as famous as Silverstone is fantastic," he said. "To back up that special win with a third place finish in the reverse grid race was also really pleasing, and it means we’ve been able to score a good haul of points and close the gap on the drivers ahead in the standings.
"Securing third place is still possible with one round left at Brands Hatch, which would be a fantastic achievement when you consider that I wasn’t able to take part in the opening meeting due to my age, meaning everyone else got a three race head-start on me.
"The only way to approach the finale is to go there and fight hard for victories. The full Grand Prix circuit is one I really like and where I went well in testing, so fingers crossed we can end on another high."
The season finale will take place on the weekend of 8/9 October at Brands Hatch.
(points after 27 of 30 rounds)
1. Alex Dunne (IRL) 412
2. Oliver Gray (GBR) 310
3. Ugo Ugochukwu (USA) 264
4. Louis Sharp (NZL)* 243
5. Joseph Loake (GBR) 214
6. Aiden Neate (GBR) 210
*only contested 24 of 27 rounds as too young to enter the opening race weekend
2022 ROKiT F4 British Championship certified by FIA