Norris dispels the doubts to lead the way in Ford-powered Brands test

  • Lando lands testing top spot ahead of his Carlin team-mate Colton Herta
  • High-speed crash for Ricky Collard hinders Arden man’s challenge

BRANDS HATCH 9 OCTOBER, 2015 – MSA Formula Championship leader Lando Norris erased any worries over his race fitness today with a test session-topping performance at Brands Hatch ahead of the weekend’s deciding rounds. The 15-year-old Ford EcoBoost-powered racer ended the day 0.146s ahead of his Carlin team-mate Colton Herta and professed himself more than ready for his date with championship destiny.

Norris suffered a high-speed crash at Hockenheim last weekend in the German F4 series and, after feeling his way back into things in this morning’s session, he shot to the top of the timesheets this afternoon. Said Lando: “I spent the first session getting back into it after the crash, and getting used to my car again, and I was pleased to end the session P2. This afternoon I really pushed as hard as I could. The car felt really good and I’m in good shape for the weekend.”

Today it was the turn of his chief title rival Ricky Collard to suffer a blow, the TRS Arden driver crashing out after just 10 laps of the first session and extensively damaging his car. “You couldn’t script a more dramatic end to the championship,” said Collard. “Lando crashes last weekend and me today… I don’t really know what happened; it just got away from me…”

Ricky went off at the super-fast Hawthorns bend, a smashed gearbox and severe suspension damage the result. The team worked wonders to get Ricky back on track for session two. “They did an amazing job and I’m so grateful to them,” said Ricky. “The car didn’t feel perfect by any means but we know what needs to be done to fix it so I will not be going into qualifying with an untried car.” Despite the car’s problems, Ricky set 12th-best time in the second session, just 1.7 seconds off Norris’s pace.

Thirteen championship points separate Lando and Ricky going into the Brands Hatch triple-header and, with five points on offer to the quickest driver in qualifying, tomorrow morning’s pre-race practice session will assume greater importance than ever.

Herta, P2 today and still with a mathematical chance of the title should Norris and Collard falter, has his eyes on the prize: “I’m just a bit off Lando’s pace, but I’m sure we can make that up and be on the front row after qualifying,” said the Californian.

There was a strong showing in testing today from Collard’s TRS Arden team-mates Enaam Ahmed and Sandy Mitchell, both of whom are bidding for Rookie class honours. Ahmed wound up third fastest and Mitchell fifth. They sandwiched Double R driver Matheus Leist, the Brazilian teen the only man quicker than Norris in session one.

The final championship title contender, JHR Developments driver Sennan Fielding, completed the testing top six, ahead of Fortec’s top runner James Pull, Daniel Baybutt for JTR and SWB Motorsport star Rafa Martins. Toby Sowery completed the top 10 for MBM Motorsport.

The MSA Formula stars are back on track at 9am Saturday for qualifying, and face two races on Saturday afternoon ahead of Sunday’s live-televised final round.

Leading testing times Brands Hatch GP 9 October 2015 (am/pm)
1 Lando NORRIS / GBR / Carlin 1:27.235 / 1:26.230
2 Colton HERTA / USA / Carlin 1:27.823 / 1:26.376
3 Enaam AHMED / GBR / TRS Arden 1:28.058 / 1:26.709
4 Matheus LEIST / BRA / Double R 1:27.199 / 1:26.744
5 Sandy MITCHELL / GBR / TRS Arden 1:29.040 / 1:26.879
6 Sennan FIELDING / GBR / JHR 1:27.780 / 1:27.095
7 James PULL / GBR / Fortec 1:29.425 / 1:27.114
8 Daniel BAYBUTT / GBR / JTR 1:29.036 / 1:27.173
9 Rafael MARTINS / BRA / SWB 1:29.113 / 1:27.244
10 Toby SOWERY / GBR / MBM 1:28.682 / 1:27.341 etc

Full times