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  • Writer's pictureRACERS

Abbi Pulling returns to British F4 with top-10 in Donington

Abbi Pulling made her return to British F4 after last competing in the series in 2021, and collected a seventh place finish in race 1 at Donington Park, in a mixed-feelings weekend that didn't show her speed after a very positive qualifying.

Abbi Pulling, Rodin Motorsport, British F4, 2024 Donington Park
Photo credits: Jakob Ebrey Photography

Alpine Academy's Abbi Pulling returned to British F4 for the first time since 2021, when she last ran a partial campaign that still saw the British star collecting three podium finishes.

Pulling was initially forced to halt her season for budget constraints, but was later picked up by W Series, where she went on to claim three more podiums and finished fourth in the final championship.

Pulling - who meanwhile joined the junior program of Alpine F1 Team - committed to the inaugural season of F1 Academy in 2023, where she finished five-times on the podium and, albeit missing her first victory in single seaters, she was fifth in the standings. She has returned for her sophomore campaign in 2024, under the banner of BWT Alpine, in a Rodin Motorsport's run entry.

At the season opener at Jeddah, Pulling was the only driver able to keep up with Doriane Pin - and has then topped the Zandvoort in-season test.

The Rodin Motorsport deal for 2024 also includes a double campaign with British F4 - which will allow Pulling to maximise her track time aboard the Tatuus T421 car.

British F4 pre-season testing showed that Pulling had not lost her touch and she often featured among the top positions in most sessions across the British tracks.

With the opening round of the 2024 season being held at Donington Park, Pulling had realistic expectations to be running at the front - and the pre-event tests confirmed that, as she was in the top ten in both sessions, contested in mixed weather conditions.

Qualifying on Saturday morning was effectively the first fully dry session of the weekend - and Pulling offered a glimpse of her potential, setting the fifth fastest time both in the first and second-best lap classifications. The field was so compact that 20 cars were separated by one second: pole-sitter Alex Ninovic and Abbi Pulling were in fact barely one tenth of a second apart.

Race 1 of the weekend saw Ninovic lining up alongside James Higgins (both Rodin Motorsport) - but it would be Deagan Fairclough to leapfrog both of them and take the lead into turn 1. Fairclough then extended his gap and drove away over the course of the 20 minute race that opened the season.

Despite a few spots of rain just before the start, the track remained dry; Abbi Pulling lost two positions over the first lap and dropped to seventh place - then battled with Ella Lloyd, who could find a way past Pulling on lap 2. The Alpin junior, though, remained glued to the back of the JHR Developments Tatuus and applied pressure for most of the race, although she also had to watch her mirrors from Daryanani and Abrahams right on her tail.

Pulling intensified the pressure and Lloyd eventually made a mistake on lap 12, as the Welsh racer - on her single seater debut season - locked up and Pulling was through for seventh place with 5 minutes to go.

When August raber went off in the final minute, the race was red flagged and Deegan Fairclough took victory in the opening race of the weekend, preceding Higgins and Ninovic. Abbi Pulling returned to British F4 with a solid seventh place that gained her the first 6 points of the season.

Pulling was looking to top that result on Sunday, but heavy rains disrupted the racing program and ultimately the morning race was cancelled. The only race of the day therefore took place in the late afternoon once the rain had stopped and the track had dried up once again. As per this year's format, the reverse grid race sees the inversion of the top-12, with the rest of the grid starting in the fastest lap order from Saturday's qualifying.

JHR Development's Joel Bergstrom was therefore on pole position, alongside Yuanpu Cui.

Just like in race 1, the third-placed driver - Alex Berg - moved into the lead at lights out, preceding Mika Abrahams, who gained three spots off the line. The safety car was briefly deployed at the end of the first lap for an off track for Martin Molnar.

From eighth on the grid, Abbi Pulling lost three positions and, at the restart, she held P11.

Things went even more sideways when she was handed a 5 second time penalty for track limits - and the extremely busy and tight midfield saw constant positions changes, with Pulling ending up 15th.

The race leader Berg also hit trouble, as the Canadian also received a track limits penalty.

At the chequered flag, Berg therefore dropped to sixth and gifted the victory to Abrahams, who preceded Fairclough and Sherwood.

After penalties were applied, Abbi Pulling completed the race in P17, with most of the field once again separated by tenths of a second.

While the second race at Donington surely wasn't representative of Pulling's pace, the British racer showed that her qualifying speed could soon be converted into a top five, in what is currently one of the most competitive F4 championships in Europe.

The ROKiT British F4 Championship will return to action in a couple of weeks' time at Brands Hatch - but Abbi Pulling will have to tackle the second round of the F1 Academy championship before, as the all-female series will support the F1 Miami Grand Prix at the Miami International Autodrome, from 3-5 May.



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