Norris triumphs in Ford-powered Thruxton thriller

  • Norris times his charge perfectly to secure his third victory of the season on the final lap
  • Rafael Martins leads much of race but slips to third behind Norris and Sandy Mitchell
  • Mechanical dramas cause retirement of championship leader Dan Ticktum

THRUXTON 10 MAY, 2015 – Thruxton’s bumper BTCC crowd were treated to a brilliant show-opening display of tense and exciting racing by the young stars of the Ford EcoBoost-powered MSA Formula Championship at Thruxton this morning. They staged a superb slipstreaming battle throughout the 20-minute epic, with three different leaders, dozens of overtakes and an outcome uncertain until the final lap.

In the end it was 15-year-old Lando Norris who emerged on top, the Carlin racer battling through from 10th on the grid. The Somerset star hit the top three by mid-distance, battled past Brazilian Matheus Leist for second four laps from the end, and then deprived Brazil’s other talent, Rafael Martins, of victory and the £1000 winner’s cheque on the final tour.

The super-fast Hampshire circuit suited the power delivery of the Ford EcoBoost engine perfectly, allowing the field to exploit their FIA-accredited F4 chassis to the max. Martins stole the initiative at the lights, getting a better blast-off than did pole man and championship leader Dan Ticktum, with Carlin’s Colton Herta slotting in behind him to push Ticktum back to third. Dan swiftly recovered to regain third from the American by the end of the opening lap, and then outdragged SWB Motorsport man Martins up Woodham Hill at the end of tour two to move into the lead.

Ticktum held top spot for another lap before he was slowed by fuel surge causing his engine to switch into ‘limp mode’, with Martins regaining the lead, now with Double R’s Leist and JTR man Dan Baybutt filling his mirrors. By the seventh lap Martins had a 0.6s lead, with Baybutt past Leist for second and closing in on the leader. Dan narrowed the leader’s advantage to nothing by the time they reached Woodham Hill, but Martins defended well and, as Baybutt attempted a right-then-left manoeuvre, he clipped the rear of the SWB car and spun into the weeds.

Rafael’s problems were far from over: first he had his countryman Leist clambering all over him and then, after four laps fending off Matheus, he found the mercurial Norris right on his tail. Lando had made steady progress through the pack to hit fourth spot by lap seven, which became third when Baybutt spun; it took him five laps to catch and pass Leist, a move executed through Village on lap 12. Two laps from the end Norris nosed ahead of Martins, a move that Rafa brilliantly responded to two corners later to regain the lead, before succumbing to Lando’s continuing assaults through the Complex on the final lap.

Meanwhile, Saturday victor Sandy Mitchell, who started seventh, was on a charge. He broke his day-old lap record on lap eight and moved ahead of Leist for third three laps from the end. Within sight of the chequered flag he followed Norris’s example and found a way past Martins up Woodham Hill to secure second place, a second adrift of the victor.

Martins held on for third to collect his maiden overall podium finish (and second in the Rookie class behind Mitchell), with Ricky Collard seizing fourth from Leist’s grasp two laps from the end. Just 0.4s covered the second to fourth place finishers. Herta completed the top six, ahead of Enaam Ahmed (Arden), Tarun Reddy (Double R) and Darius Karbaley, a top-10 finisher for the second race in succession for Falcon Motorsport. Sennan Fielding’s JHR Developments machine claimed 10th, with James Pull, a retiree for JTR yesterday, 11th and Louise Richardson completing the top 12 for Richardson Racing.

Winner Lando Norris “It was hard, particularly with the tail winds around the back of the circuit. To come from 10th on the grid to win is pretty amazing – I think it’s my best win yet, better than Brands. I had to time it right…”

Second, Sandy Mitchell “It’s been a good weekend so far, and it’s good to get a solid result when I started quite far back on the grid. I didn’t get the best start and dropped back a bit but the car really came on strong at the end. I’m really happy with second.”

Third, Rafael Martins “I am pleased with third but a little disappointed. The problem for me at the end was that my front wing came loose, I don’t know why. It slowed me a little.”

Provisional results Round 8, Thruxton, 10 May 2015
16 laps / 37.70 miles
1 Lando NORRIS / GBR / Carlin 20m 07.729s / 112.36mph
2 Sandy MITCHELL / GBR / TRS Arden +1.027s
3 Rafael MARTINS / BRA / SWB +1.257s
4 Ricky COLLARD / GBR / TRS Arden +1.300s
5 Matheus LEIST / BRA / Double R +1.428s
6 Colton HERTA / USA / Carlin +2.377s
7 Enaam AHMED / GBR / TRS Arden +5.399s
8 Tarun REDDY / IND / Double R +5.645s
9 Darius KARBALEY / GBR / Falcon +5.823s
10 Sennan FIELDING / GBR / JHR +8.660s etc

Fastest lap Mitchell 1m 13.927s / 114.72mph Rec

Rookie class 1 Mitchell, 2 Martins, 3 Ahmed, 4 Karbaley; 5 Petru FLORESCU / ROU / Carlin, 6 Josh SMITH / GBR / Fortec, 7 Ameya VAIDYANATHAN / IND / JTR, 8 Daniel BAYBUTT / GBR / JTR

Full results

Provisional championship standings
1 Dan Ticktum 120 points; 2 Collard 111; 3 Norris 100; 4 Leist 93; 5 James Pull 78; 6 Mitchell 61 etc
Rookie class 1 Ticktum 171; 2 Baybutt 120; 3 Mitchell 97; 4 Ahmed 88 etc