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Robertson battles back for a podium


CHARLIE ROBERTSON had to call on all of his resolve and determination at Oulton Park on Saturday to claim his fifth podium of the year.

The Whyteleafe driver battled back strongly from a worrying car fire in qualifying and a collision in the first race to secure vital championship points with a hard-earned top-three finish.

Qualifying started well for the 16-year-old, who had set the pace in pre-event testing, and he was half-a-second clear of the field when a pain in his right leg alarmingly alerted the HHC Motorsport racer to an electrical fire which had started when a failed battery tether caused a short-circuit.

With great presence of mind, Robertson's focus immediately switched to finding a trackside marshal with a fire extinguisher and, as a result, he had to settle for an eventual starting position of seventh place for race one, round 10.

"It was only a very small fire," said Charlie. "But I didn't know the cause, or how quickly it would spread, so finding a safe place to stop and get out was my priority.

"My race suit got a bit burnt, but it did its job and protected my leg from serious injury."

At the beginning of Round 10 on Saturday morning, the Surrey youngster held position over the course of the first four laps and piled on the pressure to James Fletcher.

Unfortunately, though, a pass for sixth place at Old Hall on the fifth tour ended with a bitterly disappointing retirement following contact between the pair.

As well as costing him a healthy amount of points, the incident also relegated him to the back of the 20-car grid for Round 11, with the finishing order of the opening encounter setting the grid for the second race.

Choosing instead to start from the pit lane, he rapidly closed down the hefty 20-second deficit to the rest and steered his Investigo-backed car into 14th place.

More importantly, though, he posted the fastest lap of the race with a sensational time of 1.38.526 (98.36mph) to secure pole position for Round 12 later in the day – the only driver in the race to lap in the 1.38-second bracket.

Making the most of his pole position start, the MSA Academy driver held the lead through the first turn and remained at the head of the pack until lap eight at Knickerbrook.

Having run slightly wide, his compromised exit cost momentum up Clay Hill and so Robertson was pushed back to second place.

Instantly trying to hit back, he was then elbowed down to third on lap 10 at Hislops but remained almost seven seconds clear of the chasing pack to bag the fifth podium of his rookie season – a strong way to cap off a trying event.

"It was a difficult weekend, that's for sure," said Robertson.

"We had good pace, as we showed with the fastest lap in race two, but it's obviously really disappointing to lose the championship lead through a few things out of our control. It just makes me more determined to come back fighting at Brands Hatch in three weeks."

As one of the top six drivers in the BRDC Formula 4 Championship now the season has reached its halfway point, Charlie is to be part of a specially organised visit to the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking for a guided tour of the FIA Formula One World Championship team's headquarters.

Next on the BRDC Formula 4 Championship calendar is a visit to Charlie's home track, Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit, over the last weekend in July.

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