Home Featured New faces to the fore as French F4 season opens at Nogaro

New faces to the fore as French F4 season opens at Nogaro

by Roger Gascoigne

Photo: FEED Racing

Rookies Kevin Foster and Evan Giltaire set the pace as the French Formula 4 season got underway at Nogaro with just over two hours of testing across five sessions during Friday.

Foster, who made his car racing debut at the end of 2022 in the Formula Ford Festival and the Walter Hayes Trophy, emerged on top of Friday’s pre-event ‘private practice’ sessions, setting an overall best time of 1m27.591s in the third of five 25-minute sessions.

Though Foster was fastest in only one session, he ran consistently at the front throughout the day, finishing in the top seven in each of the sessions.

The 19-year-old Canadian-Korean earned his place on this season’s grid through winning the 2022 FEED Racing shootout, run by 1997 Formula 1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve and former F1 test driver, Patrick Lemarie. He was also Canadian Rotax Max Challenge champion last year, and competed in the Formula Ford Festival and Walter Hayes Trophy through the Team Canada Scholarship.

The highly regarded Giltaire, 16, is stepping up to cars after a successful karting career which saw him win French senior and cadet titles, the IAME Warriors final and SKUSA Supernational titles in 2022, as well as finishing fifth in the European Championship in the OK class. He is continuing in karting alongside his F4 campaign this year.

Other newcomers to make a strong impression on their first appearance in the French series with top-seven times were Hiyu Yamakoshi and Yani Stevenheydens.

With Honda juniors, Souta Arao and Yuto Nomura, having moved on, Yamakoshi maintains Japanese representation in the series. He is not a complete F4 novice, having made his F4 debut in the UAE championship earlier this year. Running under a Philippine licence, he competed in both Kuwaiti rounds for Pinnacle VAR, scoring a best result of seventh.

Stevenheydens is flying the colours of the Belgian automobile club, the RACB, having won the national federation’s revived Volant shootout in 2022, and with it a seat in F4 – following in the footsteps of Stoffel Vandoorne, the 2010 champion. The 17-year-old Stevenheydens came second in the IAME Warriors Final, fourth in IAME Series Benelux and 10th in the IAME Euro Series in 2022.

Another notable name belongs to 16-year-old Louis Schlesser, the son of double World Sportscar champion and one-off F1 starter, Jean-Louis Schlesser. Despite a lack of experience, Schlesser topped the times in the second session to end up 10th overall.

An impressive ninth-fastest time was set by 15-year-old Karel Schulz, who moves up from national karting. Not far behind in 11th was the youngest driver on the grid, Paul Alberto, who only turned 15 one week ago.

The third session proved the quickest of the day, with the top seven drivers recording their best times of the day in this session.

Giltaire set the second fastest time, 0.138s behind Foster’s best, ahead of sophomores Enzo Richer, Enzo Peugeot and Edgar Pierre. Peugeot, who finished fifth in 2022, headed the opening session of the morning from another returnee, Romain Andriolo.

Andriolo reversed the order in the afternoon to edge Peugeot to top spot with his best time of the day, although both were pipped in the final session of the afternoon by Max Reis, who seemed to have found a better set-up having languished in the midfield in the morning’s running.

Sophomore Reis is part of a three-car ADAC Formula Junior Team launched following the demise of the German F4 championship. He is joined by rookies Finn Wiebelhaus, the reigning ADAC Kart Masters champion in the X30 Junior class, and Tom Kalender, runner-up in last year’s German Junior Karting Championship.

In addition to Andriolo, the Winfield Racing School will support three rookies this year: French karting graduate Adrien Closmenil, Ukrainian drifting champion Yaroslav Vesalaho, and American Garrett Berry who did ‘arrive and drive’ Club 100 karting in Britain before making his French F4 debut at the final round of 2022.

Berry is not the only rookie with an unconventional background on the British racing scene, with Gabriel Doyle-Parfait a winner in the Junior Saloon Car Championship last year.

Arthur Dorison, the 2022 French junior karting champion, was 15th of the 27 drivers on Friday but won’t be able to compete this season as he doesn’t turn 15 until a few days after the season finale in October.

Combined testing times
Pos Driver Time Gap
1 Kevin Foster 1m27.591s
2 Evan Giltaire 1m27.729s +0.138s
3 Enzo Richer 1m28.019s +0.428s
4 Enzo Peugeot 1m28.065s +0.474s
5 Edgar Pierre 1m28.190s +0.599s
6 Hiyu Yamakoshi 1m28.240s +0.649s
7 Yani Stevenheydens 1m28.291s +0.700s
8 Romain Andriolo 1m28.304s +0.713s
9 Karel Schulz 1m28.453s +0.862s
10 Louis Schlesser 1m28.547s +0.956s
11 Paul Alberto 1m28.583s +0.992s
12 Max Reis 1m28.585s +0.994s
13 Adrien Closmenil 1m28.656s +1.065s
14 Pol Lopez 1m28.732s +1.141s
15 Arthur Dorison 1m28.870s +1.279s
16 Leonardo Megna 1m28.953s +1.362s
17 Edouard Borgna 1m29.008s +1.417s
18 Tom Kalender 1m29.141s +1.550s
19 Andrei Duna 1m29.142s +1.551s
20 Finn Wiebelhaus 1m29.420s +1.829s
21 Gabriel Doyle-Parfait 1m29.632s +2.041s
22 Luca Savu 1m29.644s +2.053s
23 Jason Leung 1m29.737s +2.146s
24 Yaroslav Veselaho 1m29.751s +2.160s
25 Joao Paulo Diaz Balesteiro 1m29.753s +2.162s
26 Frank Porte Ruiz 1m29.812s +2.221s
27 Garrett Berry 1m29.884s +2.293s