DONINGTON NEXT UP FOR MSA FORMULA
GB's Daniel Ticktum is the early MSA Formula leader. Photo: www.jakobebrey.com
Fresh from the success of a brilliant launch weekend at Brands Hatch, the Ford EcoBoost-powered MSA Formula Championship accelerates into Donington Park this weekend (18/19 Apr) with additional competitors, a host of potential race winners and a local hero hoping that home-track advantage will help him on to the podium.
The grid will be boosted by the arrival of a second Indian driver in the championship in the shape of 18-year-old Ameya Vaidyanathan, who joins the JTR team alongside its rapid 15-year-olds James Pull and Dan Baybutt. London-based Vaidyanathan, who is coached by former F3 frontrunner Riki Christodoulou, is a newcomer to the sport with only three car races under his belt.
Ollie Pidgley will meanwhile make his MSA Formula debut after putting together a deal with Richardson Racing to race alongside the experienced Louise Richardson in the family team. Said 17-year-old Salisbury driver Ollie: “I’m really looking forward to it. We started talking with the Richardsons just before Brands, but there wasn’t time to get the deal done before that meeting. Now it has all come together and hopefully I will do all the remaining races with them. I have done a couple of MSA Formula test days, one at Silverstone and one at Thruxton in mid-February, but that was the last time I was in a car, so I will be going into Donington a bit on the back foot. Hopefully if Thursday’s test day goes well then I should be somewhere near the pace.”
The fast sweeping curves of Donington Park are a huge contrast to the tight twists of the Brands Hatch Indy circuit where the opening rounds of MSA Formula were held over Easter. In testing at the Leicestershire track in early March it was Carlin’s young American, Colton Herta, who led the way, hotly pursued by TRS Arden man Sandy Mitchell, Carlin’s Lando Norris and Fortec’s Dan Ticktum.
Ticktum it is who leads the championship to Donington by dint of his brace of Brands Hatch podium placings, and 15-year-old Daniel maintained his pace in testing at Thruxton last week, where he topped the times by five-hundredths of a second from Mitchell, with Brands reverse-grid race winner Ricky Collard third quickest for Arden.
Before the racing gets underway at Donington Park, stewards will meet to determine the outcome of the third Brands Hatch race: Lando Norris crossed the finishing line in front but was excluded from the results post-race after he was judged to have infringed the regulations by passing another car under yellow flags. The Carlin team has appealed the decision and the results remain provisional pending the outcome of the stewards’ discussions.
Norris, who won the first MSA Formula race, ahead of Ticktum and Double R’s Matheus Leist, will start at Donington alongside Ticktum as one of the favourites for podium honours. The third race of the Donington Park weekend, on Sunday afternoon, is scheduled for transmission during ITV4’s marathon BTCC live show.
Hoping very much to join them on the podium steps is Chesterfield’s Sennan Fielding. The 19-year-old might have made the top three at Brands Hatch but for being caught out by the changing track conditions during qualifying and his JHR Developments car being tagged into a spin in one of the races. “I have gelled really well with the team,” said Sennan, “and we know we have very good pace and it will all come together. Donington is my home circuit and I really enjoy it there, plus we realise where we went wrong at Brands and we know where we can improve, so I am hoping for good things.”
Sennan is enjoying getting to grips with the MSA Formula chassis and in particular its 1.6-litre turbocharged Ford EcoBoost power unit: “It’s very good, very nice to drive and enjoyable. Really it’s the perfect car for a junior formula because it is very forgiving: the chassis tells you what it’s doing, and that’s a great help for younger, less experienced drivers. The engine is very nice also; the turbo boost is not sudden but progressive, very smooth. I’m really pleased with it; the car is a lot better than I dared to hope it would be.”
Fielding’s hopes were boosted in last week’s Thruxton test, which he ended fourth fastest overall: “Despite not having tested there before we went well in the first session and ran P1 for most of it. I was quickest in session two, and ended the day fourth overall. The car felt really good, and Thruxton is a circuit where having a lot of confidence in your car will repay you.”
Others looking for strong results at Donington include the Falcon Motorsport pairing of Darius Karbaley and Alexandra Marinescu, and SWB Motorsport men Jack Butel and Rafael Martins, the 16-year-old Brazilian who made an impressive debut at Brands Hatch. Romania’s Petru Florescu will be in action for Carlin and bidding to repeat his Brands top-10 form, as will Arden’s Enaam Ahmed, Fortec’s Josh Smith and MBM’s Jack Barlow.
Due to complete the Double R team’s line-up alongside Leist are Vaidyanathan’s countryman Tarun Reddy and Brazil’s Gustavo Myasava.
Donington’s action-filled weekend gets underway with a series of MSA Formula test sessions on Thursday, followed by official qualifying on Saturday morning and round four of the championship Saturday afternoon. Two further 20-minute races follow on Sunday.
The full meeting schedule can be found at Donington Timetable