Jack Beeton takes double victories as Tiago Rodrigues tops leaderboard

Oct 29,2023
  • AGI Sport Australian claims two wins at Zhuzhou season-opener
  • Asia Racing Team ace Rodrigues leads points after trio of podiums
  • Podium apiece for Jiang Fukang and Ethan Ho

Shanghai, China (October 29, 2023) – The revitalized Formula 4 South East Asia Championship (F4 SEA) returned in spectacular fashion with some excellent and dramatic racing at the 3.774km Zhuzhou International Circuit in China. Australian Jack Beeton starred with two dominant race victories for his home team AGI Sport, but he rolled out of the second race in a first-lap incident. That means it’s advantage Macau in the drivers’ standings after the three races, with Asia Racing Team’s Tiago Rodrigues claiming two second places and a third. 

Those consistent results mean that 16-year-old Rodrigues, who won the second race on the road only to earn a time penalty for the accident that eliminated 15-year-old Beeton, leads the championship by one point. Rodrigues, who also heads the Chinese F4 Championship, was the focal point of race one at Zhuzhou thanks to his epic charge from last to third.

Victory in that second race was handed to Rodrigues’s Asia Racing Team team-mate Xiao Kunpeng, who is tied for third in the points with another consistent scorer, Jiang Fukang of R&B Racing. Star rookie Xiao gets the verdict for third in the championship on results countback, owing to his win against Jiang’s best result of second.

It was an excellent start to the series, the first event for F4 SEA using the halo-equipped Italian Tatuus chassis and Abarth engine. Action resumes in two weeks’ time with an invitational event at the Macau Grand Prix on November 11 and 12, before two more points-paying triple-header rounds at Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit.

Driver quotes:
Jack Beeton: Winner Races 1 and 3
“The car was put together well and was really fast all weekend. I’m really happy with the team. My expectations for Macau should be quite high. I know the level of competition will be very high, with lots of drivers coming in from Europe, but I want to stay safe and keep it off the walls in Macau – keep it on the black stuff. But if I have a clean race and I’m up the front, I’ll be very happy.”

Xiao Kunpeng: Winner Race 2
“I’m very satisfied with this result and big thanks to my team, mechanics and engineers for giving me such a good car. I really appreciate racing with these very talented drivers, so I’m very happy and satisfied with the race today.”

Race 1
Inconsistent weather conditions led to a slippery track all day on Saturday, and Jack Beeton used his experience of racing in Europe throughout 2023 by dominating qualifying. He claimed pole position for race one by a remarkable 2.473 seconds from Jiang Fukang.

P3 was Tiago Rodrigues, who found himself stranded on the grid at the start. Once he finally got away, his recovery drive became a key focus of the race. By contrast, Chinese Taipei racer Ethan Ho started sixth in his Team KRC car, but managed to get himself up to third in the hectic opening corners, and then completed a move for second place on Jiang at Turn 11 on the opening lap.

The race began to settle down, with Beeton inexorably extending his advantage at the front, Ho in second and Jiang third, while Zhang Shimo ran in fourth position, but the Chinese H-Star Racing driver had incurred a five-second penalty for overtaking off the track during the opening lap. Rodrigues gradually picked his way through to fifth, and attentions turned to whether he could catch the cars ahead of him.

Then things began hotting up. On an ever-drying track, and with the field on slick Giti tires, Jiang picked up the pace and began to pressure Ho for second. On the 11th lap he dived inside Ho at Turn 5, but ran wide. Now Zhang put Jiang under pressure for third into Turn 8, only for his car to suddenly slow and pull off onto the grass on the exit. The undaunted Jiang tried again, and repassed Ho at Turn 11. He completed the manoeuvre, but then ran wide at Turn 14, allowing Ho back in front and Rodrigues into third.

Rodrigues attacked Ho and made his move into Turn 3 on lap 12, but the two cars collided and Jiang accelerated back ahead of both of them. Then the safety car was called to allow the stranded machine of Zhang to be retrieved.

This eradicated Beeton’s lead, and at the restart there was time for just one more lap of racing. Beeton judged it to perfection to claim his first F4 SEA race victory by 1.499s from Jiang, with Rodrigues third. Behind them, Ho came under pressure from Xiao Kunpeng and ran wide at Turn 10, dropping to an eventual eighth position. Xiao slotted through to claim fourth spot ahead of Chinese racers Wang Zhongwei (R&B Racing) and Zhang Yu (Asia Racing Team), plus Hong Kong’s Vivian Siu (BlackArts Racing). However, Xiao was given a five-second post-race penalty for final-lap contact with Ho. This cost him the Rookie class victory and relegated him to seventh overall.

Race 2
From the front row of the reversed grid, Xiao Kunpeng got the best start and beat pole position man Ethan Ho into Turn 1. From P8, Jack Beeton was already third as the field exited Turn 2, with Tiago Rodrigues behind him. Then there was drama at Turn 5. Beeton’s flip caused his elimination on the spot, Ho returned to the pits to retire, and the safety car was called to remove Beeton’s damaged car.

Zhang Shimo had also sustained damage, with the front wing hanging askew on the car running in second place. But this did not deter him at the restart on lap five. Zhang dived down the inside of Xiao at Turn 3 to take the lead. Xiao fought back on the exit of Turn 2 on the next lap, only for Zhang to repass him into Turn 11, the wing damage causing a dramatic locking of his front wheels every time he overtook. For three more laps he hung on in the lead, but a black-and-orange flag from the officials due to his damage forced him to eventually retire. Zhang was later excluded for ignoring the black-and-orange flag for three laps.

Zhang’s determination in hanging on with a damaged car had caused a bunching up of the front runners. Behind second-placed Xiao, Rodrigues passed Wang Zhongwei for third into Turn 11 on lap seven, and then Jiang Fukang attempted to also get ahead of Wang into Turn 14. Unfortunately there was contact and Jiang knocked Wang into a spin.

On the ninth lap, Rodrigues made his move on Xiao for second position. They ran side by side through Turns 1 and 2 before Rodrigues completed the move into Turn 3. With Zhang pitting at the end of this lap, Rodrigues became the new leader, and pulled away to beat Xiao by 4.256 seconds. Jiang pressured Xiao, but then it was announced that he had a 10-second penalty for his collision with Wang. With a lap to go, Jiang had extended his advantage over fourth-placed Zhang Yu to over 10s, meaning his podium position was safe.

It still wasn’t over, because after the race Rodrigues was also awarded a 10s penalty, in his case for his part in the incident suffered by Beeton and Ho on the first lap. This relegated Rodrigues to second, with Rookie class winner Xiao inheriting the overall race victory.

Race 3
Jack Beeton had dominated the tricky conditions of the second qualifying session to line up on pole position, and the young Australian proved to be equally supreme in the dry race. The hard-working AGI Sport crew had only just repaired Beeton’s car following his roll four hours earlier, and it worked to perfection. While he got away well, his front-row partner Ethan Ho also made a good start, only for Tiago Rodrigues to go around his outside at Turn 1 and claim the inside for Turn 2, moving up to second place.

Beeton was 1.380 seconds ahead of Rodrigues by the end of the first lap, and continued to pull away. After 16 laps, he took the chequered flag 16.818s in front of Rodrigues, who was equally secure in second.

Zhang Shimo once again showed his determination in the group behind. In a spectacular move on the first lap, he dived inside three cars at Turn 3 to go from seventh to fourth. Unfortunately, he carried too much speed and ran wide on the exit of the corner, breaching track limits and earning himself a five-second penalty. Zhang’s next target was Ho, who he passed on lap six. But all Ho had to do was keep Zhang in sight to move back ahead of him on corrected times. This he did, despite his steering rack not working perfectly following the second-race collision, to secure third place. Xiao Kunpeng was the other driver in this group, and he finally claimed fourth place, along with another Rookie class win, once Zhang’s penalty was applied.

The best battle of the second half of the race was for sixth position, with Jiang Fukang fighting off the attentions of Wang Zhongwei to prevail. Zhang Yu finished eighth, with the top 10 completed by Hong Kong racers Kwok Wai Hang, earning his first points with H-Star Racing, and Vivian Siu.