Ford-powered racers revved up for Snetterton

  • Ricky Collard leads the MSA Formula title hunters to Norfolk
  • Louise Richardson hoping to capitalise on her first podium finish

31 JULY, 2015 – The long summer break is almost over and for the contenders in the Ford EcoBoost-powered MSA Formula Championship next weekend’s (8/9 August) resumption of racing action at Snetterton in Norfolk cannot come soon enough.

With 15 races run and 15 to go, just 25 points separate the leading contenders seeking the inaugural MSA Formula crown – and the FIA Formula 4 Champion of Great Britain title which accompanies it. With three race wins under his belt and five second-place finishes in addition, Ricky Collard, son of BTCC star Rob, starts the second half of the season in the box seat.

Collard, who turned 19 yesterday (Thursday), has been a cool and consistent finisher all year, but he knows that he will need to maintain his recent improvements in qualifying form if he is to maintain his championship lead, which is under threat from 15-year-old Lando Norris, who has yet to qualify outside the top two and who has gone on to record four race victories for the Carlin team.

The tussle between Collard and Norris will be complicated by a host of other drivers looking to get in on the act. The first half of the season saw seven different race winners, with TRS Arden man Sandy Mitchell, JHR Developments driver Sennan Fielding and Fortec’s Dan Ticktum claiming two victories each. Brazilian ace Matheus Leist (Double R) and Racing Steps Foundation driver Josh Smith (Fortec) took a win apiece, and all of the above have the speed and opportunity to claim further silverware.

A number of the frontrunners have been keeping their eye in during the MSA Formula season break by racing around the world. Fielding is due this weekend to make his UFS2000 Championship debut at Mid-Ohio, while Leist will be in action for the Double R team at Austria’s Red Bull Ring in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship. Ticktum last weekend made his Formula Renault 2.0 NEC debut, claiming a pair of top-15 finishes at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.

Meanwhile, law student Louise Richardson has been busy working as an paralegal intern during her break from racing. The 22-year-old is keeping her focus on the top step of the podium after her season turned a corner in June at Croft, where she scored her maiden podium, bracketed by a brace of top-five finishes at the wheel of her Richardson Racing-prepared car.

“Croft went really well,” said Louise. “We were all a bit disheartened after the Oulton Park rounds because we had such a miserable weekend there, so we were not looking forward to Croft as much as would have normally. But the team worked so hard on the car and changed so much on it… The attitude was ‘if it doesn’t work, then we have nothing to lose and at least we tried…’ but it did work.

“It was a combination of changes: I went to a simulator before Croft, which helped the driving side, and so many things were changed on the car. The combination gave us such a strong package and hopefully we can keep it up for Snetterton. We are still testing and trying new things, still working away at it and finding more time, and I need to continue to drive like I did at Croft. I quite like Snetterton, so hopefully the fact that I enjoy the circuit will help.” Louise’s regular team-mate, Ollie Pidgley, will be in action in Norfolk also and seeking to net a top-10 finish.

There will be plenty more talent on the Snetterton grid… Norris’s Carlin colleagues Colton Herta and Petru Florescu enjoyed their most competitive showings of the year last time out with 15-year-old Californian Herta following Smith home for second place in the Croft reverse-grid race and Romania’s Florescu taking an overall fourth and his maiden Rookie class win.

Falcon Motorsport duo Jessica Hawkins and Darius Karbaley will be looking for further strong results, as will the trio of quick drivers from JTR: Dan Baybutt, James Pull and Ameya Vaidyanathan. Jack Barlow is set to return with MBM after skipping a meeting, and then there is Double R’s Tarun Reddy, who will be buoyed by scoring his first podium finish at Croft, Jerseyman Jack Butel, now racing with Fielding for JHR Developments, and the TRS Arden team’s third man, kart champion Enaam Ahmed. Rafa Martins will meanwhile be hoping for a return to the form which brought him a podium finish at Thruxton and a top-four result at Oulton Park for the SWB Motorsport team.

The Snetterton action begins with two timed official test sessions next Friday, followed on Saturday by qualifying and the first of the weekend’s three races. Sunday afternoon’s finale will be screened live on ITV4.

Snetterton timetable
Fri 7 Aug: 1040 & 1440 Testing
Sat 8 Aug: 1100 Qualifying, 1510 Round 16
Sun 9 Aug: 0920 Round 17, 1520 Round 18 (live ITV4)