Champion team Carlin signs James Pull for 2016 MSA Formula squad

  • Carlin’s first signing of four is experienced MSA Formula racer
  • Team expects Pull to be a championship contender

3 DECEMBER, 2015 – Sixteen-year-old James Pull has been named by reigning MSA Formula champion team Carlin as the first driver for its four-car squad of Ford EcoBoost-powered machines for the coming season of competition in the UK’s leading junior single-seater series.

Singapore-born and Hertfordshire-based Pull has a season’s experience of MSA Formula under his belt already, thanks to podium-scoring appearances for the JTR team at the start of 2015 and late-season outings in a Fortec car. He finished his maiden full season of car racing in 10th place overall in the championship.

“I’m very excited about the season ahead,” says James. “I had some good results last year in my first season and I know we can build on that in 2016 to put together a real championship challenge. I’ve already completed some tests with the team over the last few weeks which have gone really well. We’ll be working hard between now and the first race in 2016 and already I can’t wait for the racing to get underway.”

Carlin team principal Trevor Carlin added: “We’re very pleased that James has joined the team. We could see last year that he had a good turn of speed and lots of potential. We expect to see James as a championship contender in 2016. He has been very quick and very professional in the small amount of testing we’ve done with him already.”

Carlin drivers Lando Norris and Colton Herta between them claimed a total of 12 MSA Formula race wins in 2015, with Norris taking the title FIA Formula 4 Champion of Great Britain and Herta finishing third overall in the championship.

MSA Formula – Certified by FIA, Powered by Ford EcoBoost is Britain’s official version of the FIA’s Formula 4 concept and was introduced this season as a supporting series to the British Touring Car Championship, enjoying live TV coverage and bumper raceday spectator attendance. The 2016 opening rounds are scheduled for Brands Hatch in April.

Life in the fast lane: MSA Formula season review

5 NOVEMBER, 2015 – The inaugural season of the Ford EcoBoost-powered MSA Formula Championship had everything – amazing talent, great racing, a large and appreciative trackside audience, a title fight which went down to the wire and a champion truly deserving of the crown and with a promising single-seater career ahead of him…

Over the course of the season’s 30 races nine different divers stood atop the victory podium – five of them aged under 16 – and there were race wins or top-three finishes for nine different teams running the championship’s FIA-accredited Formula 4 chassis built by French manufacturer Mygale. Drivers from Brazil, the USA and India joined their British counterparts on champagne-spraying duty.

The season kicked off in impressive style at Brands Hatch in early April – a more than appropriate venue for the launch of the modern-era successor to Formula Ford, whose genesis was at Brands in 1967. And those first races set the scene for the season to come, with eventual champion Lando Norris, 15, making history as the first ever MSA Formula race winner and going on to take a second Brands Hatch win for the Carlin team in front of ITV4’s feature race live-broadcast cameras.

Although Lando announced himself as a contender right from the outset, his progress to the crown was not all plain-sailing. After his Brands Hatch double he followed up with a reverse-grid race win at Thruxton, but did not really hit his stride until June’s Oulton Park rounds, where he topped qualifying for the first time and snatched a win and a second place. Thereafter, Norris was pretty much unstoppable in qualifying – he went on to top the timesheets at Croft, Knockhill, Rockingham and Brands GP. The other drivers to qualify quickest during the season were Dan Baybutt, Dan Ticktum, Sandy Mitchell, Colton Herta and Matheus Leist, and each of them managed it only the once. Norris was quickest five times, and he never qualified lower than second.

Qualifying well made the racing all the easier for Norris, of course: he collected a total of eight victories, the last of them – at Brands in October – leaving him needing only a handful of points to secure the dual titles FIA Formula 4 Champion of Great Britain and MSA Formula Champion. Those points were duly gathered up in the second Brands Hatch GP outing, with a race in hand.

It was only at that point that Lando’s chief rival for the title, TRS Arden driver Ricky Collard, was prepared to concede defeat. Ricky, with a season of single-seater experience under his belt thanks to a promising rookie year in Formula Ford in 2014, was a great competitor and led the points table for a good chunk of the season thanks to his never-say-die attitude. He took deserved wins at Brands, Oulton, Croft, Knockhill, Rockingham and Silverstone but was never really able to hook it all up in qualifying, and that was a handicap. Crashes in qualifying at Rockingham and pre-race testing at Brands came at exactly the wrong moment for his title hopes. Nonetheless Ricky is a deserving championship runner-up and finished well clear of his closest rival.

Norris’s Carlin team-mate Herta came to the championship as its youngest competitor – he was only five days past his 15th birthday at the outset – and the Californian, son of IndyCar racer winner Bryan Herta, took a little time to adapt to the car, the circuits and the country. A second-place finish at Croft in June hinted at good things to come and Colton returned from the summer break a new driver; twin wins followed at Snetterton and then single victories at Rockingham and in the final round at Brands Hatch to secure championship third. Oddly, Colton scored both the narrowest and widest wins of the year, both of them in front of Norris: 0.248s at Rockingham and 7.560s at Brands.

Another of the revelations of the season’s second half was 15-year-old Enaam Ahmed, who came into single-seater racing with a great karting pedigree as part of the talented TRS Arden trio. By his own admission he struggled early on, but he worked hard at it and came back at Knockhill in August to claim his first Rookie class victories. The Rookie class championship was pretty much in the pocket of 16-year-old Dan Ticktum until an entirely avoidable crash at Silverstone earned the Fortec driver a track ban; Ahmed stepped up to the plate to take the class three times at the Brands Hatch finale – as well as his maiden outright race victory – and claim the Rookie championship honours.

There were several other MSA Formula heroes, not least those who won races: Double R’s talented Brazilian driver Leist, young Scots star and TRS Arden team member Mitchell, JHR Developments’ experienced hand Sennan Fielding and Racing Steps Foundation driver Josh Smith. Then there those who made the lower steps of the podium, such as James Pull, twice a third-place finisher for JTR; Double R’s other Brazilian, Gustavo Myasava; JTR’s Baybutt; SWB Motorsport man Rafael Martins; Indian racer Tarun Reddy for Double R; Richardson Racing’s Louise Richardson and MBM Motorsport man Toby Sowery.

There are honourable mentions also for championship regulars Petru Florescu (Carlin), Jack Barlow (MBM), Jack Butel (SWB/JHR), Jessica Hawkins and Darius Karbaley (Falcon); Ollie Pidgley and Greg Holloway (Richardson Racing) and Ameya Vaidyanathan (JTR).

In all, it was an inaugural season to remember for MSA Formula, Certified by FIA, Powered by Ford EcoBoost, and one which bodes well for future years and for the career development of Formula 1’s stars of seasons to come.

Championship positions and prize winners
Overall champion Lando Norris
Runner-up Ricky Collard
Third overall Colton Herta
Rookie champion Enaam Ahmed
Teams Cup Carlin
Nations Cup USA

Herta hurtles to a season-capping Ford-powered victory at Brands Hatch

  • Colton Herta builds the biggest victory margin of the season as he leads home champion Norris for a Carlin 1-2
  • Enaam Ahmed claims third place and another Rookie class win

BRANDS HATCH 11 OCTOBER, 2015 – With Lando Norris having secured the inaugural MSA Formula Championship crown at Brands Hatch yesterday, this afternoon’s grand finale of the Ford EcoBoost-powered junior single-seater series provided Lando and his Carlin team-mate Colton Herta with the opportunity to stage a formation finish to a super-successful year for the team.

It was Herta who finished in front – by the season’s largest victory margin, 7.5 seconds – with title-winner Norris a far from disappointed second to make it Carlin’s second 1-2 of the Brands weekend and the fifth of the season.

Norris started from the pole and led his team-mate into Paddock Hill Bend and most of the way to the end of the opening lap, but the champion erred at the final turn, carrying too much speed into Clark Curve to allow Colton to nip past for the lead. By the end of lap two the Californian was a second clear of his pursuer. Though Lando held the gap steady for four laps he was powerless to prevent Herta, on fresher Hankook tyres, from extending his advantage thereafter. Colton then drove home his advantage by setting a series of fastest laps, breaking Lando’s day-old lap record on the seventh tour, to cruise to victory.

Norris was upbeat despite his defeat: “I just pushed a little too hard on cold tyres. It was a hard race and I struggled with my tyres mainly; I used my best tyres yesterday and Colton had newer ones… But to finish second to my team-mate in the final race is not too bad an end to the season.”

Herta, for whom it was a fourth race win of the season, confirming him as championship third-place man behind Norris and Ricky Collard, added: “I knew Lando’s tyres were a bit older than mine so I expected him to struggle a bit. He made a little bit of a mistake and I capitalised on it. I think this is my best win yet and it’s a great way to end the year.”

The battle for third place was the highlight of the race. The newly crowned Rookie Champion, Enaam Ahmed, slotted ahead of his TRS Arden team-mate Collard on the opening lap and clung tenaciously to third all the way to the line despite very worn tyres and heavy pressure from behind, first from JHR Developments driver Sennan Fielding and then from MBM Motorsport man Toby Sowery.

“I was struggling a bit with worn tyres,” said Enaam, “which was an immediate disadvantage. I don’t really know how I stayed in third; my speed was not that great but I just stayed pretty consistent and Sennan didn’t quite have enough to overtake me but he definitely gave me a run for my money. Then on the final lap I had a little nudge from Toby around the back of the circuit, which was quite scary but I managed to hold it. It’s really great to end the season on such a high.” It was Ahmed’s fourth overall podium finish of the season and his sixth Rookie class victory.

Fielding, no doubt irritated by the imposition of a five-place grid penalty following a race two incident, started from eighth on the grid and was on a mission from the outset, moving into fourth past James Pull (Fortec) and Collard on the second lap to latch on to Ahmed’s tail. A brave move from Sowery on the penultimate lap dropped Sennan to fifth at the flag.

Like Fielding, Sowery had a go at dislodging Ahmed from third, the pair making brief contact on the final lap. “I had a run on him but he either didn’t accelerate or hit the brakes coming out of the corner, so the pass didn’t work out,” said Toby.

Pull came home right behind Sowery and Fielding for sixth, equalling his best result from the season’s second half, with Double R’s Matheus Leist an excellent seventh after starting from 14th on the grid, a legacy of his qualifying crash. Another with spent tyres was Collard, who slid back to eighth by the end.

It was a disappointing end to a fine season for championship runner-up Collard, who now has his sights set on a strong showing in the forthcoming McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year final. “To lose the championship to someone like Lando is no disgrace,” said Collard. “He is a world-class driver and he’s going to go a long way. I tried my hardest, and I tried to drag every last hundredth of a second out of the car – maybe sometimes I’ve tried a little too hard and it’s cost me some points – but this year I feel I have matured a lot as a driver and I hope that people can see that.

“My focus now is to do as well as I can in the McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award. I feel very lucky to have been given all the opportunities that I’ve had and I’m really thankful to all my sponsors and also to the TRS Arden team, who have tried so hard for me this year. We’ve won together and we’ve lost together and I can’t emphasise that enough. It’s a shame that we haven’t quite managed to tick the championship-winning box this year but the team and everyone in it have been absolutely incredible, very special, and I’m really grateful.” Collard finished the race just ahead of his team-mate Sandy Mitchell with SWB Motorsport’s Rafael Martins 10th overall and third in the Rookie class, behind Ahmed and Mitchell.

The second half of the finishing order saw JTR’s Dan Baybutt home for 11th ahead of Petru Florescu (Carlin), Tarun Reddy (Double R) and Jack Butel (JHR), with JTR driver Ameya Vaidyanathan completing the top 15. Poor Josh Smith endured a miserable end to his season, his Fortec-prepared Racing Steps Foundation car dumped out of 12th place on lap five after Reddy made an ill-judged exit from Graham Hill Bend which led to contact. Smith limped to the pits and finished 19th, a lap in arrears and Reddy was penalised with two penalty points on his racing licence.

Provisional results Round 30 Brands Hatch 11 October 2015
14 laps / 34.06 miles
1 Colton HERTA / USA / Carlin 20m 30.188s / 99.69mph
2 Lando NORRIS / GBR / Carlin +7.560s
3 Enaam AHMED / GBR / TRS Arden +11.404s
4 Toby SOWERY / GBR / MBM +11.901s
5 Sennan FIELDING / GBR / JHR +12.133s
6 James PULL / GBR / Fortec +12.153s
7 Matheus LEIST / BRA / Double R +12.536s
8 Ricky COLLARD / GBR / TRS Arden +24.663s
9 Sandy MITCHELL / GBR / TRS Arden +25.211s
10 Rafael MARTINS / BRA / SWB +25.928s etc
Fastest lap Herta 1m 26.778s / 100.94mph Rec

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

Full times

Provisional final championship standings
1 Norris 413 points; 2 Collard 371; 3 Herta 355; 4 Fielding 300; 5 Leist 273; 6 Dan Ticktum 242; 7 Mitchell 193; 8 Ahmed 176; 9 Martins 114; 10 Pull 104 etc
Rookie class 1 Ahmed 440; 2 Ticktum 408; 3 Mitchell 401; 4 Baybutt 363; 5 Florescu 350; 6 Martins 325; 7 Smith 290; 8 Karbaley 142; 9 Vaidyanathan 110

Seventh heaven for Ford-powered Lando at Silverstone

  • Norris extends his championship lead with win number seven
  • Lando leads home a Carlin 1-2 ahead of Colton Herta
  • Toby Sowery third for MBM Motorsport’s maiden podium finish

SILVERSTONE 26 SEPTEMBER, 2015 – Lando Norris boosted his MSA Formula Championship title hopes in style this afternoon, the Ford EcoBoost-powered driver claiming his seventh win of the season to extend his points lead. Fifteen-year-old Lando’s Carlin-prepared car led all the way from the first turn despite intense pressure from his team-mate Colton Herta to win by four-tenths of a second.

Norris seized the advantage off the line, getting away more smartly from P2 than did Double R’s Matheus Leist, who was starting from the pole for the first time after showing Norris and the rest the way to tackle a qualifying lap on the 1.6-mile Silverstone National circuit. Worse was soon to come for Leist, who out-braked himself into Maggotts and slipped to fourth behind Herta and MBM Motorsport’s Toby Sowery.

By the end of the second lap and thanks to Leist’s error, Norris led Herta by nine-tenths of a second, but that was as comfortable an advantage as Lando would be allowed for the duration of the race as the American, the youngest in the field, posted fastest lap after fastest lap in his pursuit. By the end of the fifth lap Colton was a car’s length behind and looking to take advantage of any errors which Lando might make.

The long slipstream down Wellington straight offered Herta the chance to close in on his team-mate, and twice he tried to carry that momentum through with a challenge at Luffield. Norris was equal to the moves, however, and fended him off each time.

Said Norris from the podium after the second successive Carlin 1-2: “It was mainly down to the start and managing to get in front, and then I had Colton pressuring me for the whole race. There were a couple of times he had a good go at me; he did a good job. Winning today is good for my championship hopes; it will be hard for me in race two, and then hopefully race three tomorrow [from which Lando will start from pole] can be just like this…”

Added Herta: “It’s hard to pass here; I thought it would be easier. These are such fast corners. I had two or three goes at it but Luffield is really not a great passing place.”

After his first-lap error, Leist quickly composed himself to put pressure on third-placed Sowery but his pace faded as the race wore on, allowing Toby a relatively easy run to the MBM team’s maiden MSA Formula podium finish. “It was a bit of a dull way to get my first podium,” said Toby, “because I was on my own for most of the time. The start was quite hard and Matheus was close to me early on but then he dropped back. I’m really happy for the team to get their first podium.”

Norris’s closest championship rival, TRS Arden man Ricky Collard, started fifth and finished fifth, shadowing Leist to the line and finishing comfortably clear of Fortec driver Dan Ticktum in sixth. Ticktum was later excluded from the results of the Silverstone meeting.

JHR Developments driver Sennan Fielding made steady progress in the early laps after a troubled qualifying to improve to sixth from his 11th-place start slot but could do little about reeling in those in front. JTR’s Dan Baybutt collected seventh, his best finish since Oulton Park in June, ahead of TRS Arden man Sandy Mitchell; with Ticktum’s exclusion, Baybutt was the Rookie class winner, ahead of Mitchell.

James Pull battled through from 15th on the grid for Fortec to take ninth, ahead of Rafael Martins (SWB Motorsport), Enaam Ahmed (TRS Arden), Jack Butel (JHR), Petru Florescu (Carlin) and Louise Richardson (Richardson Racing).

With Double R’s perennially unlucky Tarun Reddy the only non-finisher after a seventh-lap retirement, the finishing order was completed by Falcon returnee Darius Karbaley; Josh Smith, whose Fortec car spun to last on the opening lap after contact from Ahmed; and Richardson Racing man Greg Holloway.

Amended provisional results Round 25 Silverstone 26 September 2015
21 laps / 34.45 miles
1 Lando NORRIS / GBR / Carlin 20m 00.491s / 103.30mph
2 Colton HERTA / USA / Carlin +0.403s
3 Toby SOWERY / GBR / MBM +3.929s
4 Matheus LEIST / BRA / Double R +6.144s
5 Ricky COLLARD / GBR / TRS Arden +6.415s
6 Sennan FIELDING / GBR / JHR +14.878s
7 Daniel BAYBUTT / GBR / JTR +15.440s
8 Sandy MITCHELL / GBR / TRS Arden +15.595s
9 James PULL / GBR / Fortec +16.292s
10 Rafael MARTINS / BRA / SWB +19.002s etc
Fastest lap Herta 56.607s / 104.32mph Est Rec

Rookie class 1 Baybutt; 2 Mitchell; 3 Martins; 4 Enaam AHMED / GBR / TRS Arden; 5 Petru FLORESCU / ROU / Carlin; 6 Darius KARBALEY / GBR / Falcon; 7 Josh SMITH / GBR / Fortec

Grid for Round 26 Mitchell – Baybutt – Fielding – Daniel Ticktum – Collard – Leist – Sowery – Herta – Norris – Pull etc

Full times

 

Team-mates Norris and Herta share the qualifying honours at Rockingham

  • Lando Norris sets the best time and his Carlin team-mate Colton Herta bags the second MSA Formula pole position
  • Championship leader Ricky Collard strikes trouble… and a Rockingham barrier

ROCKINGHAM 5 SEPTEMBER, 2015 – Lando Norris underlined his qualifying prowess this morning by topping the MSA Formula Championship times for the fourth time this season. The 15-year-old Carlin pilot lapped the 1.94-mile Rockingham Motor Speedway two-tenths faster than his closest rival, team-mate Colton Herta, to bag the pole for this afternoon’s 22nd round of the Ford EcoBoost-powered series.

But despite bettering his Friday testing pace, Norris’s domination was not complete – his second-best time was 0.047s behind that of Herta’s, so the young American will start from top spot in tomorrow afternoon’s live-televised finale.

“I was able to find some time in a few places,” said Lando. “Half a tenth here and half a tenth there, and I think the track was a tiny bit faster than yesterday even though it was a bit damp in a couple of places. We made a few tweaks with the set up and I changed a few things in my driving, and it all came together.”

It was a disastrous session for championship leader Ricky Collard. Ten minutes into the session the TRS Arden driver hooked a wheel on the kerb out of Gracelands and slid sideways into the barriers, ending his session and bringing out the red flags to halt qualifying. “I just made a mistake,” said Ricky. “It was 100 per cent my fault and it slid in sideways. I’m sure that the team will be able to fix it. It will make for a couple of interesting races – my overtaking is good…” Ricky will start from the very back of the 20-car grid this afternoon and in the final race, and must pin his hopes on a solid race-one drive and a better start slot for tomorrow’s reverse-grid race.

Third fastest today was Fortec’s Dan Ticktum, with Sennan Fielding fourth for JHR Developments and Matheus Leist fifth in his Double R machine. Enaam Ahmed upheld TRS Arden honours by posting sixth-best time, with his team-mate Sandy Mitchell, who yesterday in testing hit the Rockingham pit straight wall, taking 10th.

Dan Baybutt claimed seventh, his best qualifying result since Thruxton, at what is home circuit for his JTR team, ahead of Carlin’s Petru Florescu and Fortec’s James Pull. The first MSA Formula race meeting of the Rockingham weekend follows at 1425.

Provisional qualifying times Rockingham 5 September 2015
Grid order for Round 22
1 Lando NORRIS / GBR / Carlin 1:18.077
2 Colton HERTA / USA / Carlin 1:18.279
3 Daniel TICKTUM / GBR / Fortec 1:18.509
4 Sennan FIELDING / GBR / JHR 1:18.549
5 Matheus LEIST / BRA / Double R 1:18.606
6 Enaam AHMED / GBR / TRS Arden 1:18.706
7 Daniel BAYBUTT / GBR / JTR 1:18.807
8 Petru FLORESCU / ROU / Carlin 1:18.864
9 James PULL / GBR / Fortec 1:18.896
10 Sandy MITCHELL / GBR / TRS Arden 1:18.901 etc

Round 23 grid order (based on second-fastest times) Herta – Norris – Ticktum – Fielding – Ahmed – Florescu – Mitchell – Leist – Pull – Toby Sowery etc

Full times