Now into the back half of its second season, the Formula Challenge Series continues to go from strength to strength as a ‘no holds barred’ dash for the power that comes with a Formula Pro Series birth.
2022’s third round demonstrated the willingness to explore a lesser utilised venue in the Daytona International Speedway. Round 4 followed suit with Donington Park’s Grand Prix layout offering plenty of Formula 1 nostalgia.
Philipp Drayss was an unlikely winner two weeks ago yet through sheer, top-level consistency Sander Kallas remains the pilot to beat out on track. Turkka Hakkinen and Martin Hemmingsen remain in contention for the Formula Pro Playoffs, but both suffered their own misfortunes last time out.
Darius Andrei pulled off the move of the race at Daytona; unfortunately, it was deemed illegal by the stewards and thus a podium finish became tenth. The Romanian displayed great speed around Donington, occupying pole position for a long time across the qualifying session. Kallas had other ideas, however, nabbing the top spot by less than a tenth.
Enduring a steady campaign to this point, Risto Kappet claimed his best starting position of the season with third ahead of fellow mid-table Timotej Andonovski. Daytona’s pole-sitter sat one place ahead of the last round’s race winner – Joseph Hurlock and Drayss fifth and sixth respectively.
Hakkinen found himself outside the top fifteen whilst Christian Michel could only manage 15th himself. Hemmingsen was a no-show, practically killing off any chance of reaching the playoffs.
Hurlock had learnt his lesson after slumping to eighth from first during the early stages of the third round. Here, he had the best launch of anyone inside the top ten – overtaking Andonovski in doing so. Hakkinen also made good on the getaway climbing five places in total by McLean’s.
The second lap brought with it one of the defining moments as Andrei ramped up the pressure in an effort to take the lead.
Breathless scenes ensued as the leading pair ran side-by-side down the Craner Curves. The pass would be successfully completed but in fighting so hard against it, Kallas overdrove his way through the Old Hairpin and span off.
Although the Estonian did well to keep it out of the wall, he would venture into the gravel trap again just one lap on up at Coppice. 18th place was now how far he had fallen.
Andonovski was also on a downward trajectory. From fourth on the grid, the North Macedonian had slipped to tenth with tyres not delivering the grip as required. He would also receive a post-race 10-second penalty.
Hurlock, on the other hand, was thriving. The Jean Alesi driver was past Kappet now and into second, albeit over three seconds adrift from Andrei.
Jordy Zwiers, a stablemate of Hurlock, was getting agitated behind Kappet and lined up a move with 40 minutes to go. It could not have gone worse as he overshot into McLean’s before spinning at Coppice thanks to Michel slipping through into fourth. The German had been on quite the tear himself, rising eleven places already. He wasn’t done there, Kappet was in the rear view mirrors just one lap later.
A no-stop strategy was expected of the R8G driver but did himself no favours with wayward chicane exits. Both Drayss and Mattia Crupi were both past in quick succession. The race would settle into a groove for the following fifteen minutes before these two would hop into the spotlight again. After many laps of trying, Crupi passed Drayss thanks in part to a poor Esses exit by Michel ahead.
Controlling the race beautifully, Andrei was set to be handed a horrible slice of bad luck encountering a backmarker rejoining the circuit haphazardly at Starkey’s Bridge. This cruelly undid all his good work and saw Hurlock take the lead with a few tenths to spare. The stint in front was short-lived ultimately as Hurlock pitted at the end of the lap, rejoining in eighth.
Into the final twenty minutes, Andrei made his stop. This overcut was ultimately an excellent call, seeing the Volante driver back ahead of Hurlock. After such great work, the Englishman fell down the order thanks to reasons undetermined – although the time lost pointed to a drivethrough penalty for pitlane speeding.
The chase was on for Andrei. With ten minutes to go he had passed everyone but Risto Kappet who led on his no-stop strategy.
Tension reached boiling point on the final lap with Andrei hitting Kappet through McLean’s. Excellent sportsmanship from the Romanian saw Kappet allowed to retake first place; it also afforded the Estonian the final push he required to complete a fantastic drive to victory.
Championship leader Kallas ultimately ended his day outside of the top ten.
- Risto Kappet – R8G Esports – 39 laps
- Darius Andrei – Volante Racing +0.56
- Christian Michel – Cetrez Nitor Velox +2.01
- Philipp Drayss – needracing.com +06.26
- Mattia Crupi – Jean Alesi Esports Academy +16.39
- Trukka Hakkinen – PMK-SimRacing +24.60
- Timotej Andonovski – R8G Esports +26.10
- Jukkkapekka Lalu – Super Venturi +28.25
- Joseph Hurlock – Jean Alesi Esports Academy +29.23
- Jordy Zwiers – Jean Alesi Esports Academy +29.59