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Alisha Palmowski shines in GB4 season opener, claims victory at debut

Alisha Palmowski was the protagonist of a stellar debut in GB4 Championship, claiming victory in her first ever single seater race and establishing herself as a potential contender for the 2024 championship.


Alisha Palmowski, Elite Motorsport, GB4 Championship, Oulton Park 2024
Photo credits: Jakob Ebrey

British racer Alisha Palmowski was the star of the opening day of the 2024 GB4 Championship, as she pulled away and claimed a dominant victory in race 1 at Oulton Park, becoming the first ever woman to win a non-reverse grid race in the series.


Palmowski is contesting her rookie season in formula cars, after graduating from the greatly-formative Ginetta Junior Championship, where the 17 year old went on to finish fifth in the 2023 standings, claiming 10 podium finishes across the season in only her second year of car racing. She had in fact won the Ginetta Junior Scholarship for the 2022 season and, after battling at the top of a stellar field in 2023, she graduated to single seaters.


Alisha showed her potential straight from testing, where she led several sessions - and carried that speed into the first weekend of the season at Oulton Park, a tight and challenging track that can be unforgiving especially in mixed weather conditions.


And weather was indeed a factor in the season opener, with rain starting on Friday ahead of the two practice sessions. Palmowski, who could count on the expert technical support of fellow racer Sarah Moore, was unfazed and topped the leaderboard in both sessions - six tenths clear of Granfors in the first session and 0.057 of a second faster than Burgoyne in the afternoon - which clearly confirmed that the Elite Motorsport driver would be the one to beat in the three races of the weekend.


Her first qualifying in single seaters was just as impressive: Alisha just missed out on pole position by 70 thousands of a second and would line up on the front row alongside Brandon McCaughan (KMR Sport) for race 1. She was again second fastest on the second to best lap classification, barely 0.049 behind the Irish driver, despite securing a front row start in both the full-point races.


Alisha Palmowski, Elite Motorsport, GB4 Championship, Oulton Park 2024
Photo credits: Jakob Ebrey

While it could have been a nerve-wracking experience for a rookie to get the chance to fight for the win, Alisha didn't crack under pressure and delivered: history was made in race 1 on Saturday afternoon. With a stellar start, she fired into the lead, ahead of Burgoyne and Harrison, who also jumped ahead of McCaughan.


Harrison was putting pressure on the KMR Sport driver - and this gave Palmowski the chance to open almost a 2 second gap in front. Harrison and Burgoyne banged wheels in the following couple of laps - and the Elite Motorsport driver picked up slight front wing damage that allowed pole-sitter McCaughan to reclaim third. Meanwhile, Alisha had further stretched her legs and extended the gap to 3.4 seconds, setting the fastest lap in the process. Burgoyne responded back with a 1:36.689 which allowed him to gain a couple of tenths again over the race leader - who kept him honest one lap later with another fastest lap.


Palmowski continued to set purple sectors - and showed no signs of slowing down as she signed a new benchmark on lap 7. With two laps to go, Palmowski was perfectly managing her lead - and crossed the finish line with a 3.6 second margin to win her first ever race in single seaters.


"I’m just absolutely over the moon", she commented. "I’m a bit speechless to be honest, it’s the first race win I’ve had in a while, so I’m absolutely over the moon. I was really nervous about the start to be honest, I’ve only done two practice starts so I was aware that could be the weakness that could catch me out and make or break the race. So to get the lead off the line, it was then keep my head down and being as consistent as I could with the lap times."


“I was monitoring the gap from behind, I was quite lucky because I think they started battling behind, Harry and Finn, my teammate. I just kept my head down. The adrenaline is just coming down now, I’m quite relieved."


It was a perfect debut for Alisha, who became the first woman to win a non-reverse grid race in GB4. Before her, Megan Gilkes had claimed two wins in 2022, with Logan Hannah also stepping on top of the podium in the same season in Donington.


Palmowski's pace in pre-season testing all the way through the season opener had already suggested that the young British racer had what it takes to battle at the top of the championship for the outright title - and her outstanding debut confirmed just that.


Alisha Palmowski, Elite Motorsport, GB4 Championship, Oulton Park 2024
Photo credits: Jakob Ebrey

"The car is feeling fantastic, Elite Motorsport have done a phenomenal job with the car. The setup is perfect, really comfortable. I just want to say a huge thank you to my sponsors, Lamplight Media and the Compliance Guys for all their support in getting me on the grid, it wouldn’t be possible without them and I’m looking forward to going again on Monday."


Two more races followed on Easter Monday - but weather had massively changed: heavy rain made for an extra challenge in race 2, which saw again McCaughan lined up on pole position alongside Alisha Palmowski.

At lights out, though, the yellow #21 Elite Motorsport car remained stationary and Saturday's race winner had to recover from the back of the pack.


After just one lap, though, Palmowski had already gained back a few spots and was eighth, now chasing Linus Granfors in a cloud of water spray. In clean visibility, McCaughan set the fastest laps and slowly pulled away from Burgoyne - under pressure from Harrison.

 

On lap 5, Harrison found a way past Burgoyne for second - but McCaughan had opened a 5 second gap. In his mission to catch the leader, Harrison went deep into Druids and crashed into the barriers, eventually bringing out the red flag.

The race wasn't resumed and, up to sixth, Alisha Palmowski still scored important points limiting damages from the starting issue. She would be promoted to fifth following post race penalties.


Alisha Palmowski, Elite Motorsport, GB4 Championship, Oulton Park 2024
Photo credits: Jakob Ebrey

The full-reverse grid race posed a bigger challenge for Palmowski, who would have to start from the last row of the grid. The rain meanwhile had ceased and the track was back to slick conditions, although off line the track remained damp and tricky.


Dan Hickey retained the lead from Marcus Luzio, as Mayer Deonarine moved up to third on a very hectic lap that saw McCaughan spinning off track and a few more cars finding the escape road. It was a sterling first lap for Palmowski, as the race 1 winner charged from P14 to P7 over one lap and was the driver to gain the most in the opening minutes.


The green flag flew with 10 minutes left to go and Hickey had a good restart, although he was soon under pressure from Deonarine. Palmowski made big moves and was already up to fourth place having kept it clean with many mistakes happening around her. Harrison went off and retired for the third time this weekend, and Hickey picked up damage after contact.


Her charge continued and, as she was about to grab third from Deonarine, Palmowski was hit and sent off track by the Canadian, with both having to retire from the race on lap 5.

While it was an unfortunate end to her weekend, Alisha Palmowski's debut weekend in GB4 was one for the history books, having definitely attracted the world's attention upon herself.

Palmowski now sits fifth in the drivers' standings with 54 points to her name.


The next round is scheduled for 27-28 April at the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit.


Alisha Palmowski, Elite Motorsport, GB4 Championship, Oulton Park 2024
Photo credits: Jakob Ebrey

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