McKeown wins British F4 Esports championship at Brands Hatch | FOS Future Lab
Apex Racing Academy’s Luke McKeown has taken the first ever British F4 Esports championship title with a race win in the final round of the season, but it wasn’t enough to prevent Munster Rugby Gaming from claiming the team crown.
Entering the final double-header of the season at Brands Hatch, the two championships could barely have been closer. The Apex Racing Team of Peter Berryman and Jamie Fluke led the way by just three points from Munster Rugby, with the Apex Racing Academy junior team only two points further back.
Each had a car in the top three of the drivers’ championship too, with McKeown sitting first, Munster’s Josh Lad second, and Berryman in third – with only 17 points covering all three.
Berryman staked his claim for the title in qualifying, running out fastest in an Apex 1-2 alongside Fluke as the only cars under 1 minute 21 seconds. It was an all-Munster second row, and an all-Apex Academy third row – highlighting the three teams’ performance this season.
Lad had the worst start of the front six, slipping back behind Stanley Deslandes on the opening lap, before recovering onto the rear wing of title rival McKeown. However the crucial action came on lap six.
Alx Spetz, in the second Munster car, went to pass Fluke in Paddock Hill. It was a move which brought the two cars into contact, spinning Fluke into the gravel and well down the order. A second consequence was that it eliminated Berryman’s talented rear-gunner, and also brought McKeown into a Munster sandwich.
That paid off for Lad with six laps to go. Spetz placed his car in the middle of the road at Pilgrim’s Drop, tempting McKeown to go for the pass. Instead he was briefly held up on the wide line, allowing Lad to overtake and slot in behind his own team-mate. The two Munster cars swapped positions a lap later, bringing Lad up into second.
Berryman remained in total control throughout the race, taking the win by two seconds from Lad, with Spetz third and McKeown in fourth. Munster was in command in the teams’ championship, but the drivers’ title was now just a matter of four points between the top three – and with the reverse grid second race, McKeown would be starting ahead of his rivals.
Matt Caruana would start on pole with Joseph Loake alongside, but both suffered calamities in the opening lap. First Loake would skitter off the track at both Hawthorns and Dingle Dell, before Caruana dropped a wheel on the outside of Clark Curve and dropped down the order. Ted Bradbury inherited the lead, but it didn’t even last half a lap as McKeown had picked his way through all the mayhem – and passed his team-mate Deslandes – to hit the front through Hawthorns.
Apex Academy had its hands on the team championship too at this point, but an unforced error saw Bradbury lose control through Stirlings and Deslandes crashed right into the side of him. That put Spetz and Lad up into second and third, and sent the teams’ title back to Munster. With Fluke and Berryman able to clear Loake, it set up a very familiar-looking front five, with McKeown just under a second ahead of Spetz. However as the race wore on, Spetz gradually closed the gap to start fighting for the lead with five laps remaining.
Inevitably that brought Lad and Fluke right up onto the lead battle, and a thrilling final two laps as the front four all tried to find a way past one another. They’d cross the finish line just 0.18 seconds apart, with McKeown taking the win and the championship title. Another 2-3 – this time Spetz from Lad – secured the teams’ title for Munster Rugby Gaming.
The provisional 20-car “permanent” driver grid for 2023’s Esports WTCR has been formed following the final round of the Shootout, with some familiar names pencilled in for the five-round series next year. This third-of-three rounds took the grid to Motorland Aragon as more than 30 drivers looked to get into that final 20 for the €10,000 prize fund next year.
Another tight qualifying session saw the 32-car grid covered by less than a second, making Bence Banki’s second successive pole – by 0.14 seconds from Dorr team-mate Max Pfeifer – an impressive result.
It was quite the omen too, as Banki streaked clear right from the start and ran a controlled pace from there on. Eventually Pfeifer did catch up, but only to claim a formation-finish, 4.5 seconds clear of Juan Manuel Gomez in third. Martin Barna would take victory in the second, reversed-grid race after several drivers were disqualified for penalty point accumulation. That included both front-row starters Gasper Mrak and Kirill Antonov as they tried too hard to pick up points required for qualification.
Banki now heads into the 2023 season as the top qualifier, ahead of Petr Pliska and Barna, while defending champion Gergo Baldi just qualifies too.