IT’S NUMBER 1 FOR NORRIS!
Norris becomes the first ever MSA Formula champion with Carlin – Photo: Jakob Ebrey
On a weekend that closed out the inaugural MSA Formula championship, the glory was taken by Carlin’s Lando Norris, who claimed his crown with enough points in Race 2 to put the title out of reach from his rival, TRS Arden’s Ricky Collard.
Coming into the weekend, Norris held the points lead from Collard and took the initial advantage with fastest time in Friday practice, while Collard suffered misfortune with an accident at Hawthorns which damaged the gearbox and suspension on his #11 car. Norris continued his form into qualifying with pole position for Races 1 and 3, with Race 2’s grid to be a reverse of the first race’s result. Collard would line up 4th, separated from his rival by Norris’ teammate Colton Herta and JHR’s Sennan Fielding.
Norris didn’t appear to put a wheel wrong from start to finish in Race 1, although he did have to see off a fast starting Herta on the run into Paddock Hill Bend. Once in front, Norris wasn’t to be headed and took his 8th win of the season from Herta. Collard managed to secure a podium with 3rd, although he too had to deal a challenge from his fellow TRS Arden stablemate as Enaam Ahmed, contending for the Rookie Cup at the same time, also got the better of him at the start. Collard righted this at Druids and maintained position to reach the podium. Ahmed and Fielding completed the top 5, with Ahmed clinching the Rookie Cup win ahead of SWB’s Rafael Martins and the third Arden car of Sandy Mitchell.
With Race 2 running slightly delayed due to earlier incidents earlier in the meeting, the field took the start with the impending threat of fading light. Reverse grid pole was handed to JTR’s Dan Baybutt with Mitchell, Martins and Ahmed behind him. This order wouldn’t stay the same for long as the 3 Rookie drivers made it past and dominated from the front in a battle of their own. Mitchell put in a sterling drive to lead all the way to the last lap, where he went into combat with Ahmed for the top step. Despite just touching wheels, Ahmed made a clean pass at Hawthorns and pulled a second clear to secure his first overall victory of the season along with Rookie honours. Mitchell and Martins remained 2nd and 3rd to complete the first all-Rookie overall podium.
MBM Motorsport’s Toby Sowery was the first Championship class car home and just missed out on the podium, followed by Herta. However it was the two cars behind the American that mattered the most. Collard finished ahead of Norris on the road in 6th and 7th respectively, however it wasn’t enough to stop the Carlin driver from clinching the MSA Formula title in the process. Both drivers deserved it in equal measure, however it was Norris who came out on top.
With the main title decided, come Sunday all that was left was for the Rookie Cup to go someone’s way. With no Dan Ticktum all weekend in light of the events at Silverstone, it was Ahmed’s to lose. Norris held the lead from pole at the start, but an error at Clark Curve gave teammate Herta all the incentive he needed and come the same corner a lap later, he was a second clear. By race’s end, the American had pulled clear and completed his season with win number 4 from champion Norris. Ahmed did everything he needed to and with another podium in 3rd, he claimed the Rookie Cup title as his own. Sowery took another 4th ahead of Fielding, while vice champion Collard finished a subdued final race in 8th.
On a side note, along with the Rookie Championship, Ahmed was also awarded a very special accolade in the end of weekend awards, as he was selected as the recipient of the prestigious Joe Tandy Memorial Trophy – something which has seen previous winners subsequently progress to great achievements.
So, that concludes a magnificent inaugural season in the championship’s new guise. MSA Formula will return for another season in 2016 with new drivers ready to join the remaining competitors contending for success. As for Lando and Ricky? Well, they look to move on with Norris planning progression to Formula Renault 2.0, while Collard will contend for the BRDC McLaren Autosport Young Driver award, alongside MBM’s Sowery. Ahmed will surely be a contender for overall honours next year, as will the likes of Herta and Sowery should they decide to remain another year.
The club wishes to extend its own personal thanks to all those involved at MSA Formula, the FIA, Ford Performance, Hankook Tyres, all other championship suppliers and partners as well as its teams and drivers for an incredible year’s racing. Congratulations to Lando and Enaam and roll on 2016!