Garret Berry – Crushing it in Misamo! Amother Win!

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Saturday afternoon Race 2 wins are becoming something of a speciality for Garrett Berry with his second win of the season in another safety car strewn Round 5 (the casual viewer would lose count of them at 6) in 3 races, of the latest French F4 Championship event at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli in Santa Monica-Cella, Italy. Indeed it seems as though Garrett was the only driver to get a look in at the top step of the podium as Enzo Peugeot took the other 2 wins on offer as he overhauled his chief rival Evan Giltaire in the championship to take a 1 point lead in the table from which he maybe difficult to dislodge. A point only emphasised by a desperate battle for the lead on the last lap of race 3 (worth a watch from 29mins), both drivers want this title very much, that is obvious. There may well be more fireworks before the end of the season.

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In terms of the championship Berry’s steady rise to 6th in the championship is only tinged with a ‘what might have been’ after his slow start to the season, but now that he is qualifying ahead of all the trouble (the lower reaches of the top 10 and beyond), it’s obvious, qualifying, and better qualifying is priority, as he has emphasised throughout. Now he is wracking up the points. With 2 rounds (Ledenon in mid September, and Paul Ricard at the beginning of October) and 6 races to go, he has moved to within 21 points of Japan’s Hiyu Yamakoshi in 5th place, and the momentum is with Garrett, commenting ‘For this season my goal was top 5 and it still is my goal. Anything more than that is a bonus’. Peugeot and Gilitaire have twice the American’s points and they will fight out the championship. Canadian Kevin Foster and Frenchman Romain Andriolo are 50 points ahead, and making progress any further into the top 5 will be something of a stretch goal for Berry. But who knows now? Garrett Berry has that winning habit, ‘Overall it was a good round and I will do my maximum to keep this good progress and momentum going for the rest of the season.’

Berry started race 1 on Saturday morning from P7 making an excellent getaway with the leading pack and avoiding the banana skin scrum behind him, and with Leonardo Megna and Andrei Duna, he was challenging Foster for 5th place, A spectacular rollover for Yaroslav Veselaho brought out the first safety car on lap 3 and demonstrated the importance of the halo on lower formula cars.

They’ve even made him the thumbnail for Misano!

With 12 mins left on the clock racing went green again, Peugeot grabbed 0.5sec over the start line while Andrilio was left busy with Giltaire, Garrett was holding 6th. Contact for Edouard Borgna and Louis Schlesser at the bottom of the top 10 brought out safety car #2. Excellent marshalling cleared the way for 7 and a half minutes of action, Peugeot left his restart late this time, jumping away as Giltaire grabbed 2nd, giving Berry a chance to pass Foster which he couldn’t convert. This left Garrett preserving his car and tyres as the race settled down until Foster’s pace dropped off but there wasn’t time capitalise on a late challenge for 5th.

With the Top 8 reversed from the Race 1 result, Frenchman Karel Schulz was joined by Leonardo Megna on the front row for Race 2, and in his current form, Garrett Berry must have had the faint whiff of a 2nd win in his nose although he’d have to get a hurry on before Peugeot and Giltaire on row 5 arrived on the scene, all the while holding off Foster beside him on grid 4. ‘I spoke with my coach and I know I have more experience towards the front and have showed better pace so I wanted to get in front of them as fast as possible. As I had Kevin Foster right behind me. I wanted to go for maximum points in race 2. So I put new tires on for that race while everyone else starting in front of me in race 3 saved them for that race. I think it was the right call because earlier in the weekend I found new tires come in early in the race and fall off later in the race while older tires aren’t good in the beginning but are really quick towards the end of the race.’

Race 2

The first order of business was to nail the start, and was this accomplished, leaving Foster behind him, with Garrett diving inside Megna into turn 5 on the brakes. Garrett would not be intimidated out of the position and exited the Esses, heading off after the leader. Behind him 3 wide were Duna, Megna, and Foster, the former clashing into the next big braking zone, the pair exiting stage right. Inevitably with another safety car. Bad news for Garrett, he lost his gap to Foster, but on the positive side of the equation it brought leader Schulz back on to Garrett’s nose.

Schulz brought them slowly back to the green flag, and managed to get the drop on Berry leaving the Canadian right up under his rear wing but it’s a short run to turn 1 at Misano, Foster followed him and perhaps too closely, maybe lost some front aero, and Garrett was able to run out of the opening complex and set off after Schulz. Surprisingly it would not take long, Garrett diving through at the end of the long back straight into the final corner complex, suggesting our man was more confident on his fresher tyres, as they came back up to temperature. Garrett was away. Stretching the tow and concentrating on being tidy waiting for a mistake from Schulz, or a challenge on Karel from Foster, who clearly also had the pace, and aggression to go for it. Foster moved into 2nd place and the lead jumped out to 1.2s lead. But the the job is never done when another safety car is imminent.

By now the Club100 logo was getting plenty of TV coverage and with a rolling restart to perform, not unlike an A Final, Garrett had the skills to play it right, Foster had come through Rotax in North America, so obviously knew the rolling start game well. Approaching the green flag on 6mins to go Garrett let the pace car go and went very early giving him 0.9 over the start line. This was smart and his control was restored leaving Foster to deal with Andriolo, who had come through to 3rd. But there were other issues to deal with, ‘It was so hot, the velcro holding something down in the cockpit had given way so there was something flying around my pedals towards the end of the race. This meant for some braking zones I had to right foot brake so my left foot could stop the part from interfering with my braking. I decided since I had a gap, I would play it a bit safer and into that margin. Fortunately there’s nothing blocking or separating the pedals so you can do whatever you want in terms of what foot to use but it was definitely uncomfortable as I had never done that before.’ Foster closed back in, Garrett, driving with one eye on his mirrors into the final few corners, had it all under control. The win was his.

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Sunday offered grid 8, hottest weather in the middle of the day and what was left in two race old tyres. Peugeot and Giltaire were joined once again on the front row, Duna, Andriolo, Foster, Pierre and Schlesser ahead of Berry. A mediocre start saw him lose out to Schulz but this would be reversed in short order. Reis got beached in the gravel, for another safety car. Peugeot has had so much restart practice that it was no surprise that he surprised Giltaire, although Evan must be getting better at restarting from 2nd, you would have thought. On 12mins to go the top 3 pulled clear, behind Berry pulled off the move of the weekend for this observer around the outside of Schlesser into turn 1 for P7. Just as well, 2 corners later Megna and Yamakoshi clashed bring out another safety car. The Japanese was out of the race and that’s brought him into range of Berry in the championship battle.

Race 3

The last restart on 4mins, is well worth a watch, and also on to the finish as Peugeot and Giltaire appeared to have a right tear up to decide the championship before the summer break, as the top 6 split into 3 pairs Berry set off after Pierre and Foster, with the Canadian bravely pushing through, Duna slowed from P4 with a mechanical, to release Andrilio but Foster would challenge him hard at the finish. Berry closed on Pierre, and looked to have a go, however ‘I tried to make the move multiple times but they didn’t work and I didn’t want to risk contact going for that move. I felt I was much faster even though I was on older tires. I had a lot of pace even though I didn’t have the new left side tires. I’d started P8 and by managing the safety car restarts and staying out of trouble I was P6’. Giltaire passed for lead with a send on the last lap into turn 1 but Peugeot would return it in kind with a send of his own in the final corners to take his 2nd win and championship lead.

Words: Chris Simpson
Photography: @kspreportages