Herta wins by a whisker in thrilling Rockingham finale

  • Closest finish of the season so far as Colton Herta pips Lando Norris to victory
  • Top two separated by 0.248s at the line, with Dan Ticktum third

ROCKINGHAM 6 SEPTEMBER, 2015 – Rockingham’s bumper BTCC crowd was treated to a nail-biting finish to the MSA Formula Championship weekend with Colton Herta claiming the narrowest of wins over his Carlin team-mate Lando Norris in the live-televised 24th round of the Ford EcoBoost-powered championship.

Norris whittled away Herta’s lead to a quarter-second at the line – the closest finish of the season so far but just enough for the 15-year-old Californian to claim his third win of the year and become the third different MSA Formula winner of the Rockingham weekend. Having wrested the championship lead from Ricky Collard with his Saturday race win, Lando has boosted his advantage over Ricky to 17 points, with six races remaining in which to decide the championship outcome.

Herta converted his pole position advantage into the race lead with a perfect grid getaway, pursued by Dan Ticktum and Sennan Fielding, up from fourth on the grid past Norris. Alas for Sennan he overcooked his entry into the tight Deene hairpin and hooked a wheel on to the grass, next stop the trackside barriers.

Retrieval of Fielding’s stranded JHR Developments car to a place of safety brought out the safety car for two laps, and Herta handled the restart perfectly to build a lead over Ticktum of 1.1s by the end of lap four. Fortec driver Dan was powerless to prevent Colton’s getaway, not least because his mirrors were full of Norris’s car. Lando spent a couple of laps trying to find a way past and into second, achieving the feat at Deene on lap seven. “I only just made it,” said Lando. “For the two laps before I had tried there on the outside but he defended. So I think he thought I’d try around the outside again, and I tried a dummy move and then I just tucked back into the inside. I thought I was going to go straight on but I just managed to get around the corner.”

By the end of lap seven Herta’s lead stood at 4.4s but it rapidly diminished thereafter as Norris claimed fastest lap of the race in his pursuit. Herta was in tyre trouble and as they entered the 14th and final lap his advantage had been cut to just eight-tenths. Norris closed on to his team-mate’s tail in the final corners but Herta hung on for the win. “One more lap and I could have challenged him,” said Lando.

Yards after the finish line Colton’s car coughed and cut out. “I don’t know what the problem was,” said Colton, “and I’m thankful it came after the flag. But my main problem was tyre wear – I had a lot of that! I’m pleased to have won my third race, but I think my first was the sweetest. I’ll still take this one, though.”

Ticktum’s third was under pressure for the final half of the race from Carlin’s Petru Florescu, but a last-lap effort from the Romanian to pass Dan ended up costing Petru a place to the charging MBM driver Toby Sowery. Ticktum crossed the line third overall – and the leading Rookie class finisher – with Sowery fourth (from 10th on the grid) to equal his best result of the season.

Florescu held on to fifth – and Rookie second – at the line ahead of Double R’s Matheus Leist and Fortec man James Pull, seventh his best finish since Donington. Erstwhile championship leader Collard (TRS Arden) did the best he could from 20th and last on the grid, the legacy of his qualifying accident, to make it up to eighth by the finish, with Louise Richardson (Richardson Racing) and Josh Smith (Fortec) competing the top 10. Poor Tarun Reddy was on for a top-10 finish but made a fiery exit on the final lap.

Dan Baybutt placed 11th for JTR, ahead of Jess Hawkins (Falcon) and Enaam Ahmed who, like his TRS Arden team-mate Sandy Mitchell, was summoned to the pits for a drive-through penalty; both men had been running in the top four before their calls came. Mitchell went on to complete the top 15, just behind JHR’s Jack Butel.

Provisional results Round 24 Rockingham 6 September 2015
14 laps / 27.16 miles
1 Colton HERTA / USA / Carlin 20m 06.468s / 81.04mph
2 Lando NORRIS / GBR / Carlin +0.248s
3 Daniel TICKTUM / GBR / Fortec +12.825s
4 Toby SOWERY / GBR / MBM +13.503s
5 Petru FLORESCU / ROU / Carlin +13.864s
6 Matheus LEIST / BRA / Double R +14.122s
7 James PULL / GBR / Fortec +14.144s
8 Ricky COLLARD / GBR / TRS Arden +15.506s
9 Louise RICHARDSON / GBR / Richardson +16.477s
10 Josh SMITH / GBR / Fortec +19.574s etc
Fastest lap Norris 1m 19.444s / 87.91mph

Rookie class 1 Ticktum; 2 Florescu; 3 Smith; 4 Daniel BAYBUTT / GBR / JTR; 5 Enaam AHMED / GBR / TRS Arden; 6 Sandy MITCHELL / GBR / TRS Arden; 7 Ameya VAIDYANATHAN / IND / JTR; 8 Rafael MARTINS / BRA / SWB

Provisional championship standings
1 Norris 325 points; 2 Collard 308; 3= Sennan Fielding & Ticktum 260; 5 Herta 253; 6 Leist 209; 7 Mitchell 159; 8 Ahmed 116; 9 Pull 96; 10 Florescu 87 etc
Rookie class 1 Ticktum 426; 2 Ahmed 318; 3 Mitchell 317; 4 Florescu 282; 5 Baybutt 260 etc

Full times