- Norris claims his maiden qualifying top spot of the season
- Best-yet performance also from championship leader Ricky Collard, who takes P2
- Brazil’s Rafa Martins third on the grid
OULTON PARK 6 JUNE, 2015 – After qualifying in second spot for the first three meetings of the season, 15-year-old Lando Norris went one better at Oulton Park this morning to secure pole position for not one but two of the weekend’s three Ford EcoBoost-powered rounds of the championship.
After dominating yesterday’s timed test sessions, Carlin man Norris found yet more pace when it counted to set a lap time six-tenths of a second better than any of his rivals could achieve. And despite a red flag interrupting the final stages of the session, Lando came out fighting for the final five minutes of qualifying to set the leading second-best time by a margin of one-tenth; he will thus start from top spot in this afternoon’s 10th round and also in Sunday’s Round 12.
“I was a bit caught out by the red flag,” said Lando, “and before that I went off on what was going to be a good lap – just on the grass a little – so obviously I’m pleased to have got two poles. Hopefully I can make a break in the race…”
The red flag – caused by championship newcomer Toby Sowery rotating off the track at Druids, wiping off the front and rear corners of his Fortec machine – destroyed any hopes of Norris’s rivals that they might displace him from pole. Nonetheless Ricky Collard, who will line up P2 both this afternoon and tomorrow, was delighted with his best qualifying showing of the season so far: “What I am really happy about is that I am improving my qualifying performance. It’s been a weakness of mine. My goal was the front row and if I can get a Collard-type start I should be in a strong position because our race pace is good and tyre wear better than most. It’s a difficult track for overtaking and hopefully my experience should count.”
There were season-best qualifying showings also from SWB Motorsport’s Rafael Martins, Carlin man Colton Herta and MBM’s Jack Barlow: third, fourth and sixth respectively. Said Rafa, the leading Rookie class qualifier: “In pre-season testing Oulton Park was my favourite track, and the car is going well. We made some improvements since testing yesterday so it’s all good.”
Barlow nipped into sixth on his penultimate lap: just in time, as his car suffered a rear suspension failure on its final tour. “I felt it go loose and then spun,” said Jack, “but fortunately I just spun on to the grass without hitting anything. It was a shame because I think my last lap would have been my quickest.”
Matheus Leist was fifth fastest for Double R, with Fortec’s Dan Ticktum a disappointed seventh: “Very average. We have some problems with the handling in the first sector of the track. The car is not as I like it and we have some changes to make.”
The top 10 was completed by Sennan Fielding (JHR), Petru Florescu (Carlin) and James Pull (JTR). Pull and Arden’s Enaam Ahmed (16th fastest) will start the first Oulton Park race from further back due to a five-position grid penalty applied to each for driving standards misdemeanours at Thruxton last month.
Sowery recorded a time good enough for 12th before his crash – “Rookie error: the back end got away from me,” said Toby. Richardson Racing’s Louise Richardson battled through with badly blistered hands to 19th place, just ahead of championship newcomer Jess Hawkins (Falcon), who was pleased to be gaining speed with every lap completed.
Round 10 follows at 1420.
Provisional qualifying times Oulton Park 6 June 2015
Grid order for Round 10
1 Lando NORRIS / GBR / Carlin 1:22.143
2 Ricky COLLARD / GBR / TRS Arden 1:22.777
3 Rafael MARTINS / BRA / SWB 1:22.939
4 Colton HERTA / USA / Carlin 1:22.968
5 Matheus LEIST / BRA / Double R 1:23.002
6 Jack BARLOW / GBR / MBM 1:23.075
7 Daniel TICKTUM / GBR / Fortec 1:23.125
8 Sennan FIELDING / GBR / JHR 1:23.201
9 Petru FLORESCU / ROU / Carlin 1:23.208
10 James PULL* / GBR / JTR 1:23.227
11 Daniel BAYBUTT / GBR / JTR 1:23.321 etc
*Five-place grid penalty
Round 12 grid order (based on second-fastest times): Norris – Collard – Martins – Herta – Barlow – Leist – Florescu – Ticktum – Pull – Sennan Fielding (JHR) etc