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Downham Market schoolboy denied a dream double in the States

PUBLISHED: 10:09 31 October 2018

Oliver Clarke (car 51) in action at the Circuit of The Americas Picture: Gavin Baker

Oliver Clarke (car 51) in action at the Circuit of The Americas Picture: Gavin Baker

© 2018 Gavin Baker Gavin Baker www.GavinBakerPhotography.com

A change of team has put a spring in the step of Oliver Clarke as the Downham Market schoolboy very nearly recorded a pair of top-10 places in the final round of the F4 USA Championship.

The 15-year old looked odds on to finish the opening race, held at the Circuit of The Americas (COTA) in support of the recent Grand Prix, in seventh place with just four corners to go until disaster struck.

“I was devastated when the driver behind made a serious error and completely took me off the track.” explained a highly disappointed Clarke.

“To finish seventh would have seen me in the points and it was awful to see them taken away so close to the end of the race.”

Clark’s first introduction to the COFA circuit, in Austin, Texas, was a walk around to look at the racing lines, kerbs and run-off areas

“I just had to take in that this is where I would drive, on one of the biggest F1 race weekends of the year, and would be on the track before Lewis Hamilton on Sunday. It is a world away from being back home and at school in West Norfolk,” he said.

Clarke, supported by Ryan Motorsport Insurance, Fenland Windows and EHF Gym, drove the COTA track for the first time during Friday’s qualifying session, which was cut short after a red flag, leaving him to start the opening contest from 22nd on the grid.

Clarke cut through the field and was running seventh before damage, inflicted by a rival, forced his retirement.

“It made me determined that on Sunday I would get myself in the points,” said the Iceni Academy, Methwold schoolboy.

Starting the second race from 14th on the grid he again made his way up the race order and saw the chequered flag, without mishap, to match his best result of the season with seventh place.

“It has been a massive step for me to leave karting and I am pleased to be able to say that I raced at COTA on the F1 weekend,” said Clarke. “It had been an interesting rookie season, learning so much and putting myself out there in another country at tracks I have never seen before till I arrive there in race week.

“I hope to be able to winter test and return to cars next year,” he added.

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