Abbi Pulling back on the podium in British F4
British teenager Abbi Pulling keeps turning heads in British F4, as she kept momentum at Croft and claimed her third podium of her rookie season.
Upcoming British race driver Abbi Pulling kept momentum into the seventh round of the 2020 British Formula 4 as the 17-year old enjoyed one of her best weekends in the series so far and claimed a third and fourth place finishes at Croft.
In changing weather conditions, Friday was a mixed day for JHR Developments team, as Pulling and Hedley first struggled in the first practice session before the outifit could get around a few setup issues.
Pulling then emerged from FP2 with the fourth fastest time, having briefly led the leaderboard during the wet-dry session when the rain eased and allowed the team to bolt on slicks tyres. The young Brit targeted the top four again in qualifying, but was left disappointed with fifth, despite finishing again on top of the JHR Developments squad.
Casper Stevenson (Argenti Motorsport) stole pole position from championship leader Luke Browning by only 0.040 seconds after a very competitive qualifying session that saw the top 10 within half a second. With no reverse-grid race in the Croft double-header, the grid for Race 2 saw the two front rows unaltered, with Pulling set to start on sixth place in Sunday's round.
“Going into the weekend I was quite confident after pre-season testing here." - explained Pulling. "We struggled a little bit in the wet in FP1: I was driving the car as well as I could, but it was a matter of trying to find the right direction with the set up."
"We put slicks on before everyone else in FP2, so we were the trendsetters and it gave us some confidence ahead of the dry qualifying where we finished P5. There was a bit more left in the bag but after not being as competitive in the wet it was a bit of a relief."
At the start of Race 1, Stevenson maintained the lead going into Turn 1, but could not resist O'Sullivan's attacks on the second lap, when the Carlin driver, starting from third on the grid, seized the leadership and never looked back, opening a safe margin on his competitors.
Meanwhile, points leader Browning was forced to a recovering race after an excursion off track at Turn 2 on the first lap, rejoining fourth behind Abbi Pulling. After a stunning start, she could in fact immediately move ahead of Bilinski and brought herself up to third, a position she would comfortably keep throughout the first race.
Browning fell back behind both Lubin and Bilinksi and, as he tried to make up for the lost positions, he also had to defend from Hedley and Connor.
The battles for fourth allowed Pulling to check out and extend her advantage by over five seconds from Lubin, while Stevenson attempted a late charge for the win but fell short of 0.4 seconds across the line.
Zak O'Sullivan took the chequered flag to take his sixth win of the season for team Carlin, ahead of Casper Stevenson and Abbi Pulling - the young lady claiming her third podium after Brands Hatch and Thruxton.
“I’m really happy with how race one went. It was wet and we were a bit nervous, but we got it right for the race." - she said after the race. "I got an amazing start and got by Roman [Bilinski], caught the top three, Browning then went off, and that promoted me to P3. I defended a little bit, but I was also on the attack and it gave us a lot of confidence heading into race two."
Other female racer in the championship, Saudi Argenti motorsport driver Reema Juffali, came out on top of the battle for eleventh place with Carlin's Matias Zagazeta and advanced one position from her starting place.
The second and final race at the Croft racetrack was held in dry conditions but there was drama early on when Roman Bilinski went off and into the barriers at Turn 1, bringing out the Safety Car. Meanwhile, Alex Connor in fourth had made contact with O'Sullivan in the Complex section. While the Carlin driver was able to continue, the Arden car was retired with suspension damages.
At the restart, poleman Stevenson got away well and could pull away when the championship rivals behind him engaged in a heated battle: after a first attack at the hairpin, O'Sullivan made the move stick around the outside of Turn 1 following a series of switchbacks.
Browning tried to respond back in the closing laps, but was ultimately unable to re-claim second place, as Casper Stevenson crossed the line to clinch his second win of the season by over one second on the battling cars behind.
Abbi Pulling led again the JHR Developments squad and finished fourth, in yet another impressive drive from sixth.
With her eighth place in Race 2, Reema Juffali equalled her best result of her 2020 season in British F4.
“I made sure I had heat in the tyres on the warm-up lap for the second race, got a good start, and was in a comfortable position into turn one." - commented Pulling after another solid performance.
"I thought I had the pace on Connor but then it got a bit hectic when the Safety Car boards came out and he had contact which promoted me another place. After that I was focused on the restart. I pulled a massive gap and then it was a case of managing it."
“I’m really happy with the result. I can’t complain and the team have done an amazing job. I’m in a good place mentally thanks to Alice [Powell, Pulling's coach and W Series race winner] and Gazing Performance Systems and I think people now know I’m not here to mess about and the top step shouldn’t be too far away.”
On a difficult track to overtake, Abbi Pulling once again showed superb racecraft and pace and, indeed, her first win now seems a mere matter of time.
After a stellar 2020 rookie season in British F4, Pulling now sits sixth in the championship standings with two rounds left on the calendar.
Next up will be Snetterton, Norfolk, on October 23-25.