Antonio Astuti first in action-packed Formula 4 sequel in Sydney
Antonio Astuti has won the second race of the weekend in the CAMS Payce Australian Formula 4 championship. The AGI Sport driver started third but battled through the field in the action-packed 11-lap outing at Sydney Motorsport Park.
Astuti told Highway F1:
Very tight race, had someone right there the whole way through, whether it be Ryan or Lochie, it was a very tough race. I even had Luis behind me, pressuring me during the early stages. I think, especially being a reverse-grid race, you do your best to try and keep clean, but you also have to capitalise on being one of the faster cars. So I'm happy to made the most of it, grabbed the win, which is important for the championship side of things, but also I love racing, that's why I do it, so I really enjoyed it.
Looking forward to race three, starting from P4 - so let's see how it goes.
Jackson Walls and Tommy Smith lined up on the front row of the reverse-grid race, and Walls leapt off the line at the start, firmly holding the lead from his F3 Asia rival. Lochie Hughes had the best start of anyone in the lead group, surging into second by the first corner.
Walls and Hughes led the pack into T1, with Smith and Astuti side-by-side behind them. Astuti pulled ahead of Smith, but clipped the left-rear of Hughes, who was pulling inside to prepare a challenge on Walls. The contact sent Hughes up onto two wheels, and he was forced to pull off the track and retire.
Meanwhile, Ryan Suhle surged past Tommy Smith for P4. The lead pack was incredibly tight, with less than 0.8 seconds separating Walls, Astuti, championship leader Luis Leeds, and Suhle.
Suhle was hot on the tail of Leeds, who suffered the most from their battle, running wide and dropping to the rear of the six-car field.
At the front, Astuti pulled alongside Walls for the lead as they started lap 4, completing the move into turn 1. Suhle was quickly breathing down the necks of the lead pair, immediately challenging Walls for position. The pressure paid off as Suhle won second on lap 5, in a carbon copy of Astuti’s attack on Walls from the lap before.
A charging Luis Leeds got past rookie Emerson Harvey, and the podium appeared within his reach. Walls, Smith, and Leeds had a three-way drag race down Brabham straight for third. Leeds appeared to have the upper hand into turn 2, before he ran wide, giving back both positions and giving Walls some breathing room for the first time in the frantic race.
At the front, Astuti’s lead seemed under threat, as Ryan Suhle drew closer and closer in lap 7. As they crossed the line and headed into turn 1 to begin lap 8, Suhle was so close to Astuti’s gearbox that commentator Rob James asked if Suhle had “bump drafted” the leader.
Astuti and Suhle drew wheel-to-wheel coming out of turn 2, and the pair locked wheels. It seemed as if the battle would end in tears, with Astuti jerking across the track and Suhle detouring through the dirt, but the AGI sport driver regained his lead, and crossed the line in first. Suhle followed for a well-deserved second.
Behind the lead pair, the battle was just as close, with rookie Emerson Harvey locked in a battle with Tommy Smith. Smith ran wide and fell back, but Harvey had no time to celebrate as a surging Leeds appeared in his mirrors. Leeds attempted to take Harvey around the outside of T2, but the rook held him off in the battle for P4 in his second-ever circuit race.
Jackson Walls seemed to be in a race of his own ahead in P3, but Leeds finally got past Harvey on the final lap, and shocked the crowd when he was able to pass Walls on the finish line to steal the final podium spot.
The stewards announced several post-race investigations into the contact during the race, leaving Astuti waiting for final confirmation of his victory.
MORE TO COME
CAMS Payce Australian Formula 4 - Race 2 @ Sydney (Provisional)
Ryan Suhle +0.824s
Luis Leeds +7.080s
Jackson Walls +7.176s
Emerson Harvey +8.611s
Tommy Smith +16.414s
Lochie Hughes (DNF)