Dream Weekend for Conrad Clark with Nic Lai Strong Results in FIA China F4
Ningbo International Circuit –
This weekend, FIA China F4 Series Championship-winning team BlackArts Racing [www.blackartsracing.com] continued its lead in the Driver and Team Championships with a dream weekend for Kiwi Conrad Clark and strong results from Macanese driver Nic Lai.
Conrad Clark [www.conradclarkmotorsport.com] led all test sessions for the week in wet, dry, and mixed conditions, on Friday joined by teammate Nic Lai who was driving the Formula 4 in wet conditions for the first time.
Saturday featured a packed schedule with both official practices, qualifying, and the first race of the weekend.
Clark led Saturday morning’s first official practice on a damp track by a full second, with teammate Nic Lai getting in laps to adjust to the tricky conditions. In practice two, under strong rain conditions, Clark led the field by just under a second, with teammate Nic Lai placing 6th of the 12 cars in only his second F4 drive in the wet.
In Qualifying, on the wet track BAR’s strategy paid off and Clark took pole after boxing in the pit for most of the session; unfortunately Nic Lai slid off turn one in the tricky conditions just after moving up to 6th, and wound up 9th as the track improved during the session for the other drivers. The pole position was Clark’s first of the FIA China F4 2019 season.
Race One was held Saturday afternoon under full rain conditions and a safety car rolling start. Conrad Clark led the race flag to flag despite a safety car period, while Nic Lai finished 7th of 12 despite it being his very first F4 rain race.
On Sunday, Race Two and Race Three were held, with Race Two in the morning on a wet track under cloudy skies. With a standing start, Clark immediately took the lead and again led flag to flag to finish seven seconds ahead despite a safety car restart, while Nic Lai took 6th, crossing the finish line on the rear wing of the 5th place car after making huge improvement in his newly-learned rain driving techniques.
Up to this point, Clark had experienced a flawless race weekend. However, Sunday afternoon’s Race Three was the infamous ‘reverse grid’ featured in worldwide FIA F4 series, where the top ten finishers of Race Two are reversed to determine the starting grid for Race Three; Lai started in 4th with Clark back in 9th.
With a downpour starting just before the Race Three, a safety car start was done in light of the severe rain conditions. When the start commenced, BAR’s Clark and Lai blasted through the field, Lai moving up to take the lead. However, Lai’s stellar weekend ended when a technical issue struck and he was unable to continue. Meanwhile, Clark charged up from 9th to 1st by just halfway through the first lap in an amazing display of courage and car control. From then on, Clark kept opening the gap until a safety car was deployed, then on the restart once again leaving the field behind to finish with a 6 plus second lead and complete BAR’s first ‘clean sweep’ for FIA China F4 since Round One last season under Daniel Cao, who now competing in Asian F3.
After the weekend, Clark is dominating the 2019 FIA China F4 season with a 65 point lead to P2 in the Driver’s points, while BlackArts Racing has a solid 35 point lead in the Team standings
“The weekend’s great outcome was one of those dream events where everything came together for us”.
“First time racing in Ningbo International Speedpark as 3rd round of my debut season in F4/CFGP by MITIME. It hasn’t been easy for me at all, despite the side of my personal life and budget issue, making such a tough decision coming for the race weekend.
So having to learn all the technical part of the track in such tough conditions, especially each time I jumped into the F4, it was always different weather condition. The weather wasn’t consistent, so the team had to make sure we were using the suitable tyres. During the practice, I had a spin and hit the wall with the front wing when car was sideways in T14, because of the damp track condition. In qualifying after a few laps warming up, I overspeed and couldn’t stop in time in T2, I spun out of the track and landed onto the gravel, it was disappointing.
For Race 6, I managed to get all confidence back, hence that my coach Pete Olson was intensively pointing me the things I needed to be worked on to gain a better pace. So in the end of the race, I was finished in 7th after driving carefully in the pouring rain.
Race 7, it was very intense, just the beginning of the race, in T3 I was so close crushing into another car since that his car had lost control and spun, but I managed to avoid that and carried on with the race, after chasing the car in front for the half of the race in the damp and very slippery condition, I was finished in 6th.
Race 8 in the heavy rain, I was all confident in the rain I don’t know why, but I just felt that I was all ready for podium this time! Lights out and all I could see was misty rain in front of me and behind. I was all along chasing dreams, passing by T3, a car spun in front,and I was one position up, chased down to T5 I managed to overtaken the other 2 cars in front in no hesitations. I then carried on my speed in T7 to the exit, and all of a sudden the car had shut off and I lost speed. I stopped by the side of the track. After the race, having been told by the technicians that ECU had problems, which has caused the car failure.
Ningbo, is where my dreams were coming true but then we had issues - but the team has done a good job to help me through the race weekend and I have made big improvements over the weekend. I hope that one day I can come back strong to race and get my foot on podium.”
Round 4 will be held at the new Shougang Motorport Valley Circuit in Qin Huang Dao, near Beijing, on August 17th-18th. Please visit www.blackartsracing.com for more information on the team or on facebook at www.facebook.com/blackartsracing/BAR. For testing and racing opportunities please email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
2019 FIA China F4 Championship Schedule:
Round One Shanghai International F1 Circuit* April 12-14
Round Two Zhuhai International Circuit May 2-4
Round Three Ningbo International Circuit July 13-14
Round Four Shougang Motorsport Valley Aug 17-18
Round Five Shanghai International F1 Circuit September 6-8
Round Six Shanghai International F1 Circuit September 27-28
*Formula One Support Race