Formula 4 SEA fuelled by Petron, Rd 19-21 – Ghiretti wins three out of three at Sepang International Circuit

The battle for the Formula 4 Southeast Asia (F4 SEA) fuelled by Petron championship rages on as it visits Malaysia at the Sepang International Circuit once again, which plays host to the title fight between Alessandro Ghiretti of France and Kane Shepherd of Thailand.

The first race of the weekend at Sepang saw points leader Ghiretti follow Shepherd into Turn 1 right after the start, remaining in formation before making his first move of the race at the sharp, uphill Turn 9 under braking. Shepherd would maintain a consistent gap of within 0.7 second from race leader Ghiretti, who held position to take the race win.

More action took place further along the ranks in the first race. Malaysian Muizz Musyaffa had a difficult start owing to his grid placing on the damp side of the circuit, though he later found his rhythm and managed to sustain lapping consistently in the 2 minutes 15 seconds region. Muizz eventually closed the gap to race leaders Ghiretti and Shepherd, clocking the fastest lap of the race of 2:15.125 along the way.

Another battle brewed elsewhere in the field, with Emily Linscott of the United Kingdom and Shahkirah Shaharul of Malaysia battling for seventh place. Linscott started the race placed ahead of Shahkirah, though the Malaysian lass got a better run own the front straight and made the pass.

With six laps remaining, Linscott made her move on Shahkirah through the inside of of Turn 15. though at first it looked like Shahkirah would retake the position further along the front straight, Linscott held position and took the finish in seventh place.

The battle for second continued between Shepherd and Muizz with five-tenths between the drivers, with Muizz having taken aim on the last lap through Turns 2, 4, 9 and 14. Muizz chose the last corner of the last lap to strike, though the move couldn’t quite stick; the podium for the first race would see Ghiretti on the top step, followed by Shepherd and Muizz in second and third respectively.

Race 19, the second of this weekend at Sepang, saw pole position claimed by Lucca Allen of Ireland who joined to race from Formula 4 UK. Allen got a great start and got away from the rest of the pack, while Ghiretti similarly got the better of Shepherd due to more favourable track conditions on his side of the grid.

No shortage of competitive spirit here, as Shepherd and Ghiretti charged down either side of Muizz into the first corner. Alister Yoong of Malaysia and Ryo Komikado of Japan followed suit, with Muizz having to yield, joining Shepherd and Ghiretti for a four-car-wide contest for Turn 1.

Malaysian Adam Khalid took advantage of local knowledge, managing to convert a tenth-place starting position into fifth as the leading pack battled four-wide into Turn 1. Linscott started strong from second on the grid in this race, and had to defend against Yoong and Malthe Jakobsen of Denmark into Turn 4.

Winner of the previous race, Ghiretti saw a chance with the jostling taking place ahead of him, promptly charging three-wide into Turn 5 with Yoong and Linscott, subsequently closing the door on Yoong through Turns 7 and 8. Ghiretti took aim at Jakobsen next, making his move through the inside of Turn 9 just as he did on Shepherd in the race before.

Pole-sitter Allen opened up a healthy gap to P2 as the contest raged behind him, though this would not be for long as at this point second-placed Ghiretti continued to charge hard, setting fastest times for the first and second sectors en route to fastest lap and quickly closing in on the race leader.

Allen continued to fend off Ghiretti’s attacks, doing well considering his lack of Sepang experience in this company; though Ghiretti took the inside line through Turn 15 and edged past, Allen held on to reclaim the lead into Turn 1 and Turn 2. The Irishman had to relent eventually, as Ghiretti got hold of P1 one his next attempt, driving hard around the outside through Turn 4 and exited along the rumble strip.

Allen held on to contest for the lead over the next sequence of corners, though Ghiretti’s pace proved too quick and the Frenchman retained the race lead. The battle for third would continue for the rest of the race, comprising Malaysians Yoong, Muizz and Adam Khalid, plus Jakobsen.

The Dane held off mounting pressure from the attacking Malaysians, who swapped track position back and forth, Muizz eventually emerging to mount a challenge into Turn 9. Muizz unfortunately spun out into retirement and forced Jakobsen wide, while Adam and Yoong took advantage to advance their positions.

Jakobsen would emerge in P5 ahead of Komikado, leaving Yoong and Adam to battle it out for sixth. Yoong defended his position from Adam in nearly every corner possible, leaving the latter to attempt an overtake around the outside of Turn 14. Of the two, Adam emerged ahead, and though Yoong continued to chase it was Adam who would round up the podium ahead of Yoong, behind Ghirreti and Allen.

The third and final race for the weekend saw Shahkirah start from pole position alongside Linscott, the leading duo managing a clean getaway. It wasn’t long before the safety car was deployed, however, due to a mid-corner collision. Upon restarting, Jakobsen led Yoong, Ghiretti, Muizz, Shepherd and Allen; Ghiretti managed a great restart while Muizz, Yoong and Shepherd entered three-wide into Turn 1.

Muizz emerged ahead from that group, and was taking aim at Ghiretti next. More to come from behind Muizz, however, with Shepherd diving in through the inside of Turn 4, though Muizz managed to hang on alongside Shepherd as the former was pushed wide unto the rumble strip. Allen joined the party, attempting to make the same move on Shepherd through the exit of Turn 4 which kept Shepherd busy, allowing Muizz to regain position.

The ongoing battle enabled Jakobsen to further open the gap at the front of the pack, though Ghiretti continued to fight for the sharp end, the Frenchman making his move at Turn 15. All at once, Shepherd overtook Muizz at the entry of the same turn and was having a look at taking Ghiretti as well.

The Thai didn’t have much room to move with Jakobsen and Ghiretti blocking him in, thus had to follow the Frenchman down the front straight. Shepherd continued to make Ghiretti earn his keep of the lead, and keep the lead the Frenchman did as the earlier safety car period saw to the shortening of the race due to time constraints.

Muizz rounded up the podium for the third race of the weekend with Shepherd on the second step, while Ghiretti emerged from the battles with three wins out of the weekend’s three races.

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