GARRETT BERRY – SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS – EAU ROUGE & MOVING UP!

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Be pleased to report that Garrett Berry’s great form kept rolling on, and through, the daunting and fearsome Spa grand prix circuit for round 4 of the 7 round of the 2023 FFSA French Formula 4 Championship. A 3rd place in Race 2, being a stand out, although 5th place in Race 3 was as equally impressive as an observer of the YouTube streams below. The points haul from the weekend has moved Berry to 7th overall just 3 points behind 6th placed Yani Stevenheydens, and while the title battle appears to be a straight fight between Evan Giltaire and Enzo Peugeot for the moment, a points system offering 3 races per weekend and 25 points for a win, down to 1 point for 10th place, means 3rd through 5th in the championship – Kevin Foster, Romain Andriolo and Hiyu Yamakoshi are catchable, Garrett commenting,“I have the momentum now since Pau and I just need to do my best to keep it for the rest of the season. Overall I found I have good race pace I just need to qualify better to put me in a better position to run at the front to secure better results in each race.”

Before getting into the nitty gritty of the weekend, and at the risk of sounding too much like a tourist, I had to ask, Eau Rouge, is it as awesome as they say? “Spa is an amazing track to drive. It was my first time there and a lot of confidence needs to be built up to be fast. Eau Rouge and Radillion is definitely one of the peaks in Formula 4. And Yes! It is flat but barely, so you’ve got to be careful when following someone close or on cold tires. That said the most challenging part of the track for me was turn 9 (the innocuous left hander after Rivage, that has/had no name) as you have to carry speed there and get to full throttle asap, and what with the gravel on the outside, you need a good run through turn 9 to get a quick run down to Pouhon and Fagnes and through Stavelot. And I struggled there the entire weekend.”

By Lucamedia @lucamedias on instagram

Once again qualifying was qualifying, “Qualifying was a mess! In the fact everybody wanted to have a draft so we spent the first 10 minutes trying to get into a train, but no one wanted to lead. This caused many of us to waste peak tire performance, and for me, left me qualifying behind people who just went with clean air. P10 for race 1, and P7 for race 3.”

In terms of mess, matters did not improve for Saturday’s Race 1 spent mostly circulating behind the safety car after a series of incidents. The safety car was first scrambled at the end of lap 1, when Berry had dropped to P12 off the start. There was a very brief period of green, before it came out again for a car stranded at La Source. This left time for a 3 lap sprint, put to good use by Berry in retrieving his P10 grid position, holding off Adrien Closmenil to the finish. Important as 10th place became pole position for Race 2 when the top 10 were inverted. We will spare you the YouTube replay.

Race 2 – Pole Position

Instead watch Race 2, off pole position Garrett held his lead off La Source but was the locomotive for the slipstream train up to Les Coombes and Enzo Peugeot off grid 3 swept around the outside approaching Les Combes, “I was following Enzo until Romain Andriolo got close enough and passed me for P2”, again drafting by on the Kemmel Straight. “This caused me to fall into the pack behind me, leading me to have to defend for the rest of the race to hold on to P3”. Edgar Pierre would dive through at the bus stop only for Berry to have the benefit of the Kemmel slipstream, to bravely hold his nerve as Pierre squeezed him into a tight, but fair car’s width on the inside into Les Coombes, Pierre turned in over Garrett, Berry lifted, and the pair had a tense side by side duel down through Malmedy and Rivage with Garrett hanging on around the outside to have the inside for Turn 9 and held on to P3. That was great to watch!

If he had a measure of control of P3 by then it came at the cost of the top 2 being long gone. Pierre cut the bus stop chicane to go by and was wise to give Garrett his 3rd position back. It would however bring a charging Hiyu Yamakoshi into the 3rd place slipstreaming battle and Berry would continue to make his own defence stout and resolute, both into the last chicane and up to Les Coombes each lap. On to the last lap Yamakoshi had poor run through La Source leaving his own hands full of Pierre, allowing Berry a clear run up to Les Coombes and to make 3rd place his own, and took a step on the podium.

Race 3 – Grid 7

The following day, on a hot Sunday afternoon for a change, Garrett started grid 7, straight into P6 into Les Source as Louis Schlesser struggled to get rolling off grid 6. Once again championship front runner Peugeot had started just behind Berry and got by somewhere out in the Ardennes countryside when the cameras came back to the pair, running back to the start line to complete lap 1. While Peugeot moved forward setting off after Foster and Yamakoshi fighting over 2nd, championship leader Evan Giltaire was already clear and had an untroubled run to the win, a win that looked easy. For Garrett, he joined Adrien Closemenil and Tom Kalendar in a dice for 5th place, before Closemenil departed to pit lane and Berry moved by Kalendar into 5th. Kalendar was replaced by Porte Ruiz with Garrett the target of a 6 car battle over 5th, “Race 3, was a fairly average race for me.” But he held his nerve, held back the tide, and also took another 10points at the finish. Two rounds, two very different tracks, and Garrett Berry has demonstrated the full tool kit of skills. It’s all up to him from here.

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Next stop Italy, and Misano 15–16 July. Our thanks again to Garrett for his time, and his support of Club100.

Words: Chris Simpson
Video: Lucamedias @lucamedias
Photography: @kspreportages