Once again Enzo Peugeot was the star of the French Formula 4 2023 championship with 2 wins over the weekend, and while Evan Giltaire remains within 14points, going to the finale at Paul Ricard the momentum looks to be with Peugeot for the title.
And what of our Club100 man? Maybe it was the long break since Rd.5 at Misano, where he’d won and Garrett had been building some championship momentum of his own, or maybe it was the Ledenon track, a twisty, genuinely ‘technical track’, or even the wind blowing a gale down the French Massif Central, with a circuit spread over a couple of hill tops, but Ledenon was not a friend to our American and saw the return of the recurring thorn in his side of poor qualifying. The result, or rather results for whatever the reason were not what was wanted. Only 4 points from the 3 races over weekend, and where a 2nd place for Hiyu Yamakoshi behind Yani Stevenheydens in Race 2, along with a 4th place for the Japanese in Race 3 saw Yamakoshi pull 33points clear ahead in the race for 5th in the championship. Also that win for Stevenheydens moves him to within 10points of Berry in a race for 6th in the championship heading to Paul Ricard with maximum points for all 3 races totalling 69points Garrett will have to be back on his A game.
Garrett Berry reported ‘Yea, the qualifying in F4 is the most important part of the weekend as some of the circuits are hard to overtake on. Ledenon is super technical and lower speed so it is naturally much harder to overtake. I did quite a lot of laps on iRacing, the track is identical to the iRacing model, but the French F4 car feels completely different [to the F4 car] in the sim. Ledenon is in the ‘windy region’ of France so the car was quite unstable coming over some of the crests and in the high speed corners. It’s a fun track to race and to drive though but because of its difficulty, there was bound to be safety cars.’
But the problems started earlier, Garrett again, ‘with a poor qualifying, I got blocked when I had optimum tires two laps in a row. Putting me P14 for Race 1-2 and P13 for race 3’ had he gone quicker by just 3/10ths he’d have started P8 for race 1, that would have put him clear of the worst of the scrum, and starting where an 8th place finish would’ve given him pole position for the reverse top 8 grid for Race 2. Instead he was starting behind the proverbial 8 ball in the midfield, ‘I started 12th due to some grid penalties of other drivers and had a decent race until a bit of contact, from an optimistic move, gave me some handling issues and sidepod damage. I still finished but out of the points in 11th.’
Now you can watch Race 2 and 3, and you can see the problem, overtaking. If you’ve not driven this circuit on iRacing (and I recommend it, and I’d never heard of Ledenon until seeing it announced on the sim and recognising it from the French F4 calendar), what a circuit! Like a kart track spread over a hill top, uphill start like Knockhill, turn 1 like Rye House, only 3 apexes, downhill hairpin over one brow to a tight hairpin, then back over a hilltop into a rapid right hander and another tight hairpin, back over the crest to an even blinder double apex, followed by a ‘snakey’ roller coaster to the bottom of the hill again, before a heavily loaded left turning uphill to start another lap, all in under 2miles. And the white lines that demark the edge of the track? Think of them as just a rough guide, they do not delineate edge of the track and the racing line ignores them several times. Indeed, if it were a kart track, John Vigor would not be happy about track limits, most of the time!
Anyway, our man continues, ‘Race 2 was a disaster. I had a really good start but had some contact into turn 2’, this would necessitate a safety car for somebody else, ‘and really messed up my alignment. It put me 1-2 seconds off the pace. This then pushed me backwards causing me to get into more incidents. So it was a race to learn from and forget.’ If you look closely you’ll see his engineer checking Garrett’s front wishbones in a mid race pit stop. Meanwhile his main rivals Stevenheydens had overtaken Yamakoshi for the win. A shocker!
Sunday. Race 3, and here I sort of wonder if Ledenon is the right track for the penultimate round of a highly competitive single seater championship, with lots of young, some head strong drivers, I don’t think it lends itself to 3-4 wide racing. This was a scheduled 20min race, and would be marred by a safety car picking up the field end of lap 1, followed by another at the end of the restart lap, that become a red flag to clear the number of broken cars. By the time the shrunken field took the restart there were only 2mins 30secs plus 1 lap left of the race, what could you in the 3 remaining, not a lot, but ‘I had an amazing start putting me into P11 and with some collisions ahead and penalties, I managed to get some points with P8.’
‘Overall not the weekend I was aiming for but after qualifying and the first two races, I am happy to walk away with some points. I feel confident for Paul Ricard as I have done the most laps around there in my training. I think Ledenon is just a one off weekend caused by my poor qualifying.’ So Garrett Berry shakes that one off, the Paul Ricard circuit couldn’t be more different, flat and high speed, and it’s only a few weeks away. Everyone here at Club100 Racing wishes him the very best for a strong finish to his 2023 season.
Follow him on Instagram @gberry03 and if there are any sponsors interested in supporting a quiet, but quite remarkable, good looking, globe trotting, young American race driver and potential brand ambassador, reach out to him for 2024!
Words: Chris Simpson