GARRETT BERRY – MAGNY COURS – A MIXED BAG, AND MIXED FEELINGS.

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So let’s lead with the positives and this fantastic, brave double, no triple overtake into, around and off turn 5 at Magny Cours in Race 1 of Round 2 of Garrett Berry’s 2023 FFSA French Formula 4 Championship campaign. Although Garrett Berry did not know it at the time but this overtake was the high point of the weekend, “Yes it’s a track where overtaking is possible and although I lost a position at the start. After the safety car I had a good restart and was able to pass 2 cars around the outside of turn 5 and one on the exit, which secured me 8th place” and 4 more precious points in the championship to place Garrett 12th in the championship, after 2 rounds and 6 races, heading into Pau on 12-14 May. And Garrett sees the Pau race coming so soon as a good thing and a chance to put the rest of the Magny Cours weekend into the perspective of his rearview mirror, as Races 2 and 3 could be filed under L for a learning experience and L for lesson learned on the importance of keeping the car on the road, especially in qualifying.

In the several weeks since Nogaro, Garrett had been running Magny Cours on fairly heavy rotation on iRacing, reporting ‘Yeah the real life track is very close to the one in iRacing. And the iR-04 car is close enough to the real life car to be useful. And it’s a fun track to drive.’

Where things went wrong at Magny Cours, and what had a knock on effect throughout the weekend was going off in qualifying, “I actually spun on the exit of Nurburgring and got beached in the sand trap so I couldn’t finish qualifying. On base lap time, it was very possible for me to qualify within the top 5 if I didn’t beach myself, but as it turned out it unfortunately meant I was only able to get one push lap.” There was no hit the escape key, to reset to pit lane, try again like a simulator. It was session over. At least one lap was good for grid 12 in Race 1, and there was still cause for optimism.

For Saturday evening’s Race 2 (top 10 finishers from Race 1 reversed on the grid) saw Garrett once again starting grid 12, “I was struggling with overall pace with another poor start. As it later turned out my car had a worn suspension part which caused my steering to change from straight to crooked randomly which made it hard to brake as efficiently as possible. It was a serious issue, although never dangerous, but I just had to make sure where my steering was when I started the braking zone to make sure I didn’t lock the tires. This distraction caused me to drop back to P14 after fighting with another driver to try and keep P13.” Still this was another new experience to store away in the memory bank for the future.

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On the subject of stored memories we asked the native of Atlanta, Georgia how an American finds himself racing in France with the Winfield Racing School by way of Club100 Racing’s Rotax in the UK. “I started when I was 8 years old in a league called Procup Karting, running typically at Andretti go karting tracks in and around Georgia. I did this for a few years then switched over to the Endurance League with Endurance Karting, racing across the south east of the USA”, and their logo @endurancekartingUSA rides along with Club100 on Garrett’s F4 car, “I did this until I was 14 which was when I moved to the UK. Then for 2 years I did random leagues with Daytona Sandown and Milton Keynes, before switching over to Club100 where I have done the sprint and experience championships. I won many endurance karting races with my dad, and with Club 100 I finished 2nd in the 2022 Experienced Class even after missing 2 rounds.”

But why French F4? “I did F4 in France mainly because it was the most cost effective option into formula racing for me. I did a summer camp with Winfield which gave them the opportunity to see my driving and for me to see how they are. This season since there are no independent teams they act as a third party manager and help me with race coaching and mental coaching. They also gave me the opportunity to race at some circuits in the winter which gave me more seat time in the car. There is nothing close to this package in the UK, so British F4 was never a consideration.”

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Which brings us back to early Sunday morning at Magny Cours, where the off in qualifying caught up with Garrett after missing that 2nd push lap. Left languishing on grid 21, with a repaired car, and renewed pace and belief, but again, “I had a bad start from P21 that put me further down even though I was quicker than the guys in front. To try and make things happen I tried to push on the safety car restart but due to a mistake from me, and from drivers ahead, there was a collision with 2 drivers in front of me, which gave me too much damage to continue.”

I asked Garrett to summarise his Magny Cours weekend, “Overall, a rough weekend, I struggled with the starts of the races which caused me to lose places, and some of these were off poor grids due to the qualifying session off.” Perhaps it’s the bad weekends where you can learn the most, although don’t let it become a habit, and yet for all that even then there were still some points gained and Berry lies 12th in the championship.

“Now it’s time to focus on improving for the next race at Pau Ville, on May 12th-14th. I’m at a hotel outside Paris tonight before heading on to simulator practice before next weekend on the streets of Pau.”

Our best Club100 wishes for Pau and thanks to Garrett for his time.

Words: Chris Simpson
Photography: @kspreportages