Garrett Berry – So Close to Another Win! Paul Ricard

garrett berry so close to anothe

Only a determined Belgium, weaving for all he was worth (lets be charitable here) to break the tow, came between Garrett Berry and a third win of the season in Race 2 of the final, seventh round, of the 2023 French Formula 4 Championship, at Paul Ricard. There is no doubting the young American’s courage. Three times he went to the outside of the fearsomely fast Signes corner at the end of the famous Mistral straight, trying to find a way around Yani Stevenheydens, and three times he was shown to the outfield at Double Droite du Beausett, particularly on the last lap with Kevin Foster and eventual champion Evan Giltaire closing fast.

The Belgium RACB supported Stevenheydens clearly desperately needed wanted the win, and undoubtedly to have any chance of catching Berry for 6th in the final standings in the final race on Sunday morning, he needed it. Garrett had finished 7th in Saturday morning’s Race 1 after improving his qualifying again but starting directly behind Stevenheydens on grid 8, although 10 points behind, and finished the race with a 12point deficit to Garrett. Technically Japan’s Hiyu Yamakoshi in 5th place was catchable but a 33 point deficit would be a near impossibility, especially as he started Race 1 in grid 6.

Race 1

As is the fashion in French F4 Race 1 they could not get through turn 1 without incident, an almost inevitable safety car was deployed at the end of lap 2, Berry had 8th place at the end of the first lap, then 7th with Yamakoshi’s departure to pit lane. Up front Foster had inserted himself between the championship protagonists, Evan Giltaire, in his first single seater season, after moving up from a successful karting career, and his main rival Enzo Peugeot, who was trying to secure the title in his 2nd season after finishing 5th overall in 2022. A shunt behind the safety car in the back of the midfield would keep it out for even longer than normal and there would be only 6mins and one lap left when it went green again. Berry would latch on to the 3rd place battle of Pierre, Peugeot, Alberto without being able to make any progress. A fast recovering Romain Andrilio would catch and pass him at the start of the last lap, Garrett commenting ‘Romain got passed into turn 1, since I knew he put new tires on and he was much faster than me, I fought him as much as I could but he managed to get passed’, but that gave Garrett pole position for his speciality, winning Race 2, ‘The tire strategy was put new tires on for race 2 and keep the right side tires good for the whole weekend.’

It might be worth highlighting that only champion Giltaire and runner up Peugeot have more race wins in the championship Garrett Berry (a statistical stretch I know, with just 2wins, a long way down on their win number) but its true! A third win looked on the cards for Saturday afternoon. Multiple contacts off the line, behind the top 3 left Enzo Peugeot off grid 5 sidelined with suspension damage with the championship title slipping away from him before Race 3, where he’d need a mathematical magic to pull off the championship win. Stevenheydens made a slightly better start but Berry got the lead, as they headed out on to the Mistral, Yamakoshi soldiering on in 4th places with a broken front wing until he withdrew. A poor last corner Virage du Pont put Stevenheydens on Berry’s rear wing, off th Mistral straight the 2nd time, and off camera Steveheydens made his move, ‘Yani got passed in le Beausset by going full throttle mid corner and getting ahead at the apex. I was not expecting this so he managed to make the move stick.’

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Berry’s Mygale Club100 sidepod logo was resplendent in the late afterrnoon sun, as he kept up the pressure on the leader. Behind Kevin Foster moved passed Jason Leung to take up the chase of the top 2 with a front row seat as Stevenheydens led Berry on a merry dance down the Mistral into the Chicane Nord then again into Signes, every lap. Into the final five minutes had ran out of ideas, and Foster and Giltaire had arrived to make a group of 4, and then German Max Reis put his car on it’s roof at Signes bringing out the safety car. This left again with a 2 lap dash for the cash. Stevenheydens got a good jump leaving Berry with two last chances on the Mistral at the chicane, and then got his nose ahead around the outside at Signes, but Stevenheydens looked prepared for contact and to run him off the track through Beausett, and Garrett was lucky to hang on to 2nd place ahead of Foster, while Giltaire moved into prime position to win the championship on Sunday morning with 4th place, as he would start in pole position with his rival Peugeot, out of this race, starting on P4. Stevenheydens’ win in Race 2, allowed him to close back into 9 points behind Berry in the championship.

Race 2

Sunday morning and closing out his championship with a positive result looked likely starting grid 8, next to Stevenheydens, just following him home would be more than enough, indeed at this point after two terrible races Hiyu Yamakoshi, 5th in the championship, and starting P6 for race 3 was mathematically catchable, a high unlikely Berry win, fastest lap scenario was required, and nil points for the Japanese, so wouldn’t be on Garrett’s maturing mind, ‘I feel great looking at what I’ve accomplished throughout the season. I made so much progress from Nogaro and my driving has gotten much better. Qualifying and the starts are some of the most important parts of the race weekend. Because if you qualify down the field, the harder it is to make progress. With the slicks and wings, I did a testing program through the winter which allowed me to get comfortable with the car. But I still struggle in qualifying getting the full potential out of the tires.’

Judging by the myriad of sponsor logos on his car, Evan Giltaire is a name to watch, as one of France’s next big hopes for Formula One racing glory, in 2 or 3 years, maybe, in this his debut season in single seaters out of karting, he has been superb, and he led from pole position in Race 3, pushed hard by Foster through the opening corners, by the time, his rival Peugeot had cleared 2nd place, Giltaire was gone. Remember his name. Meanwhile Stevenheydens and Berry had gone through the same corners side by side and when it came to the back straight chicane he’d been weaving his way down the Mistral, Berry was ahead turning into the corner, but was forced to bypass the 2nd apex by the Belgium bouncing over the kerbs in the chicane. Garrett emerged the other side of the chicane in 7th place, on the tail of the leading group, while Stevenheydens, possibly with damage to his floor, sank into the midfield. 6th in the championship was clinched.

Race 3

Ending lap 1 Giltaire was stretching clear of Foster with Yamakoshi in tow, Andrilio and a pushing, ragged Peugeot, Alberto, then our man Berry. Peugeot intimidated Andrilio enough into bouncing over the Nord Chicane kerbs to pick up 4th place, Yamakoshi went side by side with Foster through Signes to take 2nd. Peugeot, clearly on a mission, before Giltaire got too far clear, then dived bombed Foster into the last corner for 3rd, but would need to try again into Virage de l’Hotel (turn 3) bouncing across the inside kerb, pitch over on to his rear left, that then hopped over to land, breaking Foster’s rear right suspension, with the Canadian pirouetting off the stage right and to a halt, Peugeot set off after Yamakoshi. Berry moved up to P6.

A lap later Peugeot had closed that gap and the next time down the Mistral, Yamakoshi put up a token defence but probably knew Peugeot was coming through into the chicane, no matter what. There were 5mins and one lap left of the season, Giltaire’s lead was 4 seconds, and Peugeot had given his tyres quite the work out up to that point. The championship was lost the day before, and Giltaire held his nerve and delivered the win. I expect with a package of sponsors, and there was hardly enough room on his Mygale sidepods for them all, he already has backing of the FFSA that he might appear on the F1 undercard as soon as next season in Formula 3. Perhaps Peugeot as well. Kevin Foster was a safe 3rd in the championship coming to Ricard. And I had witnessed a French 4 race without safety car finally.

The top 6 in the championship was completed by Andriolo, Yamakoshi and our man Garrett Berry in his first full season of single seaters. Fantastic. ‘With this year being my rookie year in formula racing, I am satisfied with the result as I have learned so much this season.’ What next Garrett Berry? Follow him on Instagram @gberry03 to find out, ‘I want to say thank you to you and Club100 for the support, I’ve enjoyed reading back our blogs. And as for my career, I plan on staying in motorsport but we don’t know where that is going to be next. Not yet at least.’

A chapter closes but the adventure continues.

Words: Chris Simpson

Photography: @kspreportages

Videography: Luca Médias @lucamedias