Home Featured GB4 season review: new series provides Taylor-made triumph

GB4 season review: new series provides Taylor-made triumph

by Steve Whitfield

Photos: Jakob Ebrey Photography

The statistics point to a dominant season from Nikolas Taylor, who won more than twice as many races as anyone else, but the Fortec Motorsports driver’s route to the inaugural GB4 crown was far from comfortable

With plenty of testing but no car racing experience heading into his rookie single-seater campaign, Nikolas Taylor immediately made his mark by winning the inaugural GB4 race at Snetterton from pole ahead of Elite Motorsport’s Alex Walker. Having been a multiple race winner in National Formula Ford 1600 in 2021, the more experienced Walker began the campaign as one of the title favourites, and he started to deliver on that tag by winning three of the next four races.

A duel for the title was starting to look a possibility during the first visit to Silverstone for round three, with Taylor prevailing in a battle with Walker to win race one before triumphing again in the subsequent encounter despite a clash which put Walker out with suspension damage. But Taylor’s weekend ended on a dampener by crashing out of the reversed-grid race as he tried to climb through the field.

The Anglo-Malaysian teenager took another win in race one next time out at Donington Park, while Walker experienced more woe by retiring from the second contest after stalling on the grid and dropped to third in the points behind the super-consistent Max Marzorati as the season reached its halfway point.

But the narrative dramatically changed at the next round at Snetterton, with Walker surprisingly deciding to end his campaign without explanation after initially entering the round as a privateer. That left Marzorati as Taylor’s chief rival, and the Hillspeed driver snatched the lead in the points after Taylor, who again won the opening encounter from pole, retired in a final-lap collision with Tom Mills in race two.

Taylor regained the advantage on GB4’s second visit to Silverstone in emphatic style with a hat-trick of wins.  He put himself in position to win his fourth race in a row at the penultimate round at Brands Hatch by leading race one, but slid off into the barriers in wet conditions and it allowed Marzorati to draw level with him at the top of the standings.

Marzorati leads the way

But Marzorati’s challenge unravelled from there, with a lack of pace in races two and three leaving him down the order, while a win and a second place gave Taylor a 31-point lead heading into the final round at Donington Park.

Again Taylor didn’t make it easy for himself by crashing heavily at the finale in qualifying, but the resultant red flags prevented Marzorati from being able to capitalise having not registered a competitive laptime. With his car repaired, Taylor came home second in race one before sealing the crown with a race to spare with fourth in the sequel.

“I didn’t make it easy for myself,” Taylor said afterwards. “It’s a relief. The team did a mega job fixing the car before race one. I owe them every race because the hard work they do is amazing, every time I went to the factory they were on it. [It’s been] nerve-wracking. Inexperience really cost me at Brands, and maybe at Snetterton and Silverstone.”

“It was a learning year and he made some mistakes,” added Fortec team manager Oliver Dutton. “We could’ve capitalised a little bit earlier and maybe had it done at Brands, but we’re proud of him, he’s done a good job. The pace has always been there, he’s always been fast, we knew that the first time he got in the car.

“He’d never raced before so we weren’t too sure how his racecraft would be. He’s proved himself to be a top driver and he’s won the championship, it’s fully deserved. An exciting future hopefully ahead of him.”

How the maiden GB4 season was received

Using Tatuus F4-T014 cars bought second-hand from teams racing in FIA F4 series across Europe, which had switched to the halo-shod second-generation T-421 chassis for 2022, GB4 was able to provide a more affordable route into slicks-and-wings racing for drivers without the bigger budgets to race in British F4 or abroad.

Taylor admitted after winning the title that this was key to him choosing GB4 for his first season in car racing. “It was the only way,” he revealed. “British F4 was way too expensive, GB4 was the cheapest option.”

With his championship success earning him a £50,000 prize fund, Taylor is aiming to put it towards a GB3 seat with Fortec next year, a move that will be important in showcasing GB4 as a viable step on the single-seater ladder.

While GB4 served its purpose for Taylor, grid numbers were modest in the series’ inaugural season. Despite as many as 12 teams officially declaring an interest in entering beforehand, only seven drivers were confirmed for the season as the first round approached. A late flurry of entries including two from Hillspeed, who initially planned to only join from round two onwards, bumped the field up to 12 cars for the Snetterton season-opener.

Budget issues ended the season early for Fortec’s Elias Edestam and Walker’s mid-season exit dealt a further blow, as grid numbers dropped into single figures for two rounds.

There was disparity in budgets as well across the field, with some able to change tubs later in the campaign – as many of the cars bought from Europe had already done at least five seasons of racing and even more more mileage in testing before being used in GB4 – while others were having to work hard to stretch budgets to the end of the season.

Despite the small field, the racing proved spectacular, with the two rounds on Silverstone’s Grand Prix layout delivering some of the highlights of the season. They were the first ever races using FIA F4 cars to run on the full track as British F4 has only used the National layout since the series’ 2015 inauguration.

The grid picked up to a season-high of 14 at the final round, thanks to the addition of a few series debutants evaluating options for 2023. And with sportscar outfit Fox Motorsport announcing a multi-car entry for next year there are hopes, at least, that grids will improve in GB4’s sophomore season.

“I think the grids will grow in season two,” Jonathan Palmer, CEO of GB4 creator MotorSport Vision, told Formula Scout.

“I think it’s not going to be a GB3-level of grid, partly because GB3 sits in a very distinct niche, there’s nothing to compete with it. Obviously, at a starting level, those people that can afford £300,000 or £400,000 will probably go and do British F4. But, that’s a hell of a lot of money – and that’s fine. We always accept the fact that there’s going to be people that can afford to spend a lot more money.

“But I want to provide an opportunity – and we are doing – for those that might find £100,000, £150,000, maybe at tops £200,000, to go single-seater racing. So, I’m sure the grid will grow next year, and then I think we’ve just got to work hard and just keep filling that low-cost niche.”

Late rally earns Kevin Mills Racing the teams’ title

It was a season of two halves for highly successful FFord outfit Kevin Mills Racing as it joined slicks-and-wings racing in GB4.

Things started well with three podium finishes from the opening round and a reversed-grid win for Jarrod Waberski next time out at Oulton Park, but technical gremlins and set-up issues held the team back in the early rounds.

GB4’s second visit to Snetterton signalled a turnaround in KMR’s fortunes, with Waberski taking a win and a second, while a final-lap clash with Taylor denied Tom Mills a likely podium finish in race two.

More podiums followed for both drivers at the next round before Mills took a maiden win in race one at Brands Hatch after a double overtake on Waberski and Elite’s Jack Sherwood.

A collision with team-mate Waberski in the second encounter put Mills out, but both drivers remained mathematically in title contention prior to the Donington finale, where the team finished the season in style with a clean sweep of wins.

A second triumph of the campaign for Mills and two more for Waberski enabled KMR to overhaul erstwhile leader Hillspeed to clinch the teams’ title, while Waberski snatched second in the standing from Marzorati, who was hampered by a collision with team-mate Megan Gilkes in the deciding race.

“Overall, I think it’s been an exceptional season,” said Waberski, who is aiming to make the step up to GB3 next year.

“I wasn’t even meant to do this championship in the first place. Having no [pre-season] testing and one in-season test day, I think what we’ve achieved this year has been really good, and how much I’ve developed as a driver – I’m really happy with it.”

The other contenders

After a slow start to his first campaign in single-seaters, Sherwood hit form mid-season with an unmatched run of five podiums in a row. And the Elite driver never looked back after that, remaining in title contention until the final round, scoring two reversed-grid race wins and a pole position.

Former W Series racer Gilkes shone in the first half of the season with two wins. After leading a Hillspeed one-two in the first reversed-grid race of the year at Snetterton, the Canadian showed impressive speed at round four at Donington, passing Taylor to seal a comfortable win in race two, having qualified on pole. But incidents and penalties hampered her chances of adding to the victory tally in the final four rounds.

Gilkes was one of three female drivers to stand on the podium across the year. Jessica Edgar (Fortec) and Logan Hannah (Graham Brunton Racing) both scored a second place finish in reversed-grid contests early on, with Hannah then taking victory in race three at Donington on the same day as Gilkes’ triumph. Along with GBR’s Chloe Grant, it meant four of the nine full-time entries in GB4 were women.

Hannah and Gilkes

Oldfield Motorsport’s FF1600 star Lucas Romanek was also a reversed-grid race winner during a one-off appearance for himself and the team in round three at Silverstone. Valour Racing was another team to make a solitary appearance as it evaluated a full-season assault in 2023, scoring a podium on debut with its Radical SR1 Cup racer Daryl DeLeon Taylor.

Formula Scout’s top five drivers

Key Percentage of team’s points scored (TP), Average qualifying position (QA), Average points per race (AP)

5. Max Marzorati ENGLAND Hillspeed
3rd in standings, 482 points (2 poles, 10 podiums, 2 fastest laps) – TP 54.3%, QA 4.75, AP 20.1

The former BRDC British Formula 3 racer wasn’t even expecting to be on the grid for the opening round, and was having to raise budget in order to continue as the year progressed. So to take the title fight almost down to the wire was impressive. Consistency was his strong point, finishing in the top four 15 times from 18 starts prior to a dip in form at the final two rounds. The lack of a win and having relatively more experience than his rivals sees him lose out in the rankings to the other four in this list.

4. Jack Sherwood ENGLAND Elite Motorsport
5th in standings, 417 points (2 poles, 1 pole, 9 podiums, 5 fastest laps) – TP 57.0%, QA 4.5, AP 18.1

The Ginetta Junior graduate was put in the shade by his more experienced team-mate Walker in the first four rounds, but really upped his game after Walker’s departure, scoring two wins and four other podiums in the season’s second half – a record only bettered by Taylor and Waberski. He also earned himself the reputation as one of the best overtakers in the field. There was little to separate him and Mills overall, but it’s the latter that shades him in the rankings due to a better record in races one and two of each round, where starting grids were determined by qualifying performance.

3. Tom Mills ENGLAND Kevin Mills Racing
4th in standings, 435 points (2 wins, 8 podiums) – TP 46.7%, QA 5.0, AP 18.1

After an impressive maiden single-seater campaign in FF1600 last year, it was no surprise to see Mills shine after stepping into a slicks-and-wings car with his father’s team. It took a few rounds for things to click for him, with the aggressive driving style that had served him well in FF1600 not as effective in a GB4 car, though with great racecraft he was able to hustle himself up the order on occasion when the outright pace wasn’t there. But he really hit form late in the season with wins at each of the last two rounds.

2. Jarrod Waberski SOUTH AFRICA Kevin Mills Racing
2nd in standings, 496 points (4 wins, 14 podiums, 1 fastest lap) – TP 53.3%, QA 5.0, AP 20.7

The South African was a late addition to the grid, only heading over to the United Kingdom days before the season-opener. Despite the lack of testing and UK circuit knowledge, coupled with a team that was “green” early on in the words of its owner Kevin Mills, Waberski quickly asserted himself with one win and four other podiums in the first four rounds. He only missed the podium on three occasions in the season’s second half once the team hit form, outscoring eventual champion Taylor by one point across the final four rounds while adding three more wins to his tally.

1. Nikolas Taylor ENGLAND/MALAYSIA Fortec Motorsports
1st in standings, 546 points (9 wins, 9 poles, 14 podiums, 10 fastest laps) – TP 61.9%, QA 2.1, AP 22.8

Undoubtedly the standout driver of GB4’s inaugural season, recording by far the most wins, poles, fastest laps and laps led, despite having less racing experience than his rivals prior the campaign. That inexperience did show at times, with collisions at Silverstone and Snetterton and a crash while leading at Brands Hatch among a few incidents that prevented Taylor from wrapping up the title earlier than he did. But he was consistently fast, and there were more than enough moments of star quality on display, including a clean-sweep of victories at Silverstone in July.

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