Ford-powered racer Mitchell hoping for home-track advantage at Knockhill

  • Sandy Mitchell to make his Scottish car-racing debut in Ford EcoBoost-powered MSA Formula
  • Ricky Collard prepares to defend his championship advantage north of the border

14 AUGUST, 2015 – Fifteen-year-old Sandy Mitchell will fulfil an ambition next weekend (22/23 Aug) when he races at Knockhill, the track where he was inspired to pursue a career in motor sport. Forfar-based Sandy was just three when he watched his dad, Steve, race a Mini at Scotland’s national motorsport centre. Now their roles are reversed and Steve will be watching Sandy line up on the grid for the MSA Formula races at the wheel of his Ford EcoBoost-powered and TRS Arden-prepared single-seater.

Sandy arrives at Knockhill with two race victories under his belt and a solid top-seven position in the overall championship and though the Fife circuit’s nature could not contrast more with that of Thruxton, where Mitchell took his two wins, he’s hopeful of a good result: “I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a very challenging circuit because of all the undulations, and it’s quite narrow, so it will difficult to overtake. We’ve had only one test day there, so I’ve not much experience, but I’ve been going to Knockhill from a young age to watch.

“It was quite special for me in the pre-season test to get out on the track and to drive it for the first time. My dad did a bit of club racing in Minis and I went along to watch him race, and I have been a spectator at the BTCC meetings quite a few times. It feels good to be going back to compete at one.

“Obviously it would be nice to get on the podium but mostly I’ll be trying to score some consistent points over the weekend – that’s the main thing. I have had so many ups and downs this year and weekends where I haven’t scored points, so I just need to try to score as many as I can.”

Mitchell is one of the youngest on the MSA Formula grid, the only single-seater series in Britain in which 15-year-olds are allowed to compete. He is no stranger to competition, however, having taken his first championship title, the North Scotland Kart Club cadet championship, aged nine. He went on to win the British Open Cadet Championship in 2012 and, last year, the British Super 1 Rotax kart title. Sandy is backed by a host of forward-looking Scottish and UK companies including Close Brothers Asset Management, Thorntons Law, Stirfresh, Tunnock’s, HBB GeoSales, Smartcomm and The Stag.

It is Mitchell’s TRS Arden team-mate Ricky Collard who leads the championship to Knockhill. Nineteen-year-old Ricky, son of touring car favourite Rob, has three race wins to his credit but saw his points advantage over Carlin challenger Lando Norris cut to just 10 last weekend at Snetterton. That was largely down to a technical problem in qualifying which saw Ricky start the feature race from the back of the grid; he battled through to ninth but lost points to Norris, who placed second, and to Fortec’s Dan Ticktum, who finished right behind Norris to re-establish himself as championship third-place man.

MSA Formula welcomed a new race winner at Snetterton in the shape of Colton Herta, 15-year-old son of IndyCar race winner Bryan, who claimed victory for Carlin in both the reverse-grid race and the feature race after showing dominance throughout pre-event testing and qualifying. Herta is the eighth different winner of this super-competitive season, joining Norris, Collard, Ticktum, Mitchell, Sennan Fielding (JHR Developments), Matheus Leist (Double R) and Josh Smith (Fortec); all will be seeking a return to the top step of the podium next weekend.

The Knockhill action begins with two timed official test sessions next Friday (21 Aug), followed on Saturday by qualifying and the first of the weekend’s three races. Sunday afternoon’s finale will be screened live on ITV4.

Knockhill timetable
Friday 21 August: 0950, 1430 & 1735 Testing
Saturday 22 August: 0900 Qualifying, 1505 Round 19
Sunday 23 August: 1025 Round 20, 1625 Round 21

Sandy Mitchell claims his maiden MSA Formula race victory with Ford EcoBoost power

  • Despite a slow start from the pole, TRS Arden driver Sandy Mitchell battles through to take a first win at the wheel of a car
  • Matheus Leist overcomes his lack of Thruxton knowledge to claim an impressive second, with Dan Baybutt making the overall podium for the first time

THRUXTON 9 MAY, 2015 – After dominating qualifying, 15-year-old Scottish track star Sandy Mitchell showed similar impressive style this afternoon at Thruxton to claim his maiden win at the wheel of a racing car. Sandy’s Ford EcoBoost-powered and TRS Arden-prepared machine took over at the sharp end of round seven of the MSA Formula Championship at mid-distance, fighting back after an indifferent start to beat Brazil’s Matheus Leist to the line by a second and a half.

It nearly all went wrong for Rookie racer Mitchell on the startline when he misjudged his getaway and threw away pole advantage, slipping to third behind Leist’s Double R car and the JHR Developments machine of Sennan Fielding. “I got too much wheelspin because I got the clutch position a bit wrong,” he said. “But I knew I had the pace and I was pretty sure that I’d be able to come through…”

Mitchell was awarded a breathing space to regroup and plan his attack when the safety car came on track at the end of the opening lap while stranded cars were retrieved from the circuit. At the restart on lap six he pounced on Fielding up Woodham Hill to secure second and then next time around seized the lead from Leist through Church.

Matheus, who had never seen Thruxton let alone driven it before today’s qualifying session, kept well in touch with Mitchell to the end but had no answer to Sandy’s speed. “It was hard because I had never been here before, no testing,” said the Brazilian. “I took P3 in qualifying, which was good, and this second place in the race is like a victory for me, it’s fantastic.”

Mitchell was similarly delighted: “This is my first win in a car, it’s very special, and a bit of a relief as well because I haven’t been getting the results I had hoped for. Hopefully now I can push on and win some more.”

The four-lap safety car interruption was brought about by a first-lap tangle involving several cars, including those of Petru Florescu (Carlin), Tarun Reddy (Double R) and Ameya Vaidyanathan. Separately, Ameya’s JTR team-mate James Pull also went off. The third JTR machine, of Dan Baybutt, survived the fracas. He said: “I got hit on the back corner and hit on the front corner, and it knocked my tracking out. I was lucky to get round and I was struggling a bit with understeer on some corners after that…”

There were plenty more dramas played out behind the leaders before flag fall, with Fielding’s third place coming under increasing pressure from Carlin man Lando Norris, culminating in a penultimate-lap clash between the two which led to Sennan’s retirement, a serious delay for Norris and a promotion to third place and his first overall podium for Baybutt.

After dropping as low as seventh with three laps to go, Hampshire hero Ricky Collard blasted through the mayhem to claim fourth at the line. “I made an average start and got pushed down the order a bit, but had the pace at the end to come through,” said Ricky, whose result helps him narrow his points deficit to championship leader Dan Ticktum to 21.

Ticktum enjoyed a better race than he did qualifying: his mysterious lack of pace in timed practice, which left his Fortec machine 17th on the grid, was diagnosed as a loose fire extinguisher rubbing on the ignition system. Dan’s rejuvenated car battled through to seventh by the end of the race, behind fifth-placed Colton Herta (Carlin) and Rafa Martins (SWB). Enaam Ahmed, who profited massively from the first-lap misfortunes of others to gain eight places, made it three Arden cars in the top eight.

Darius Karbaley hit the top 10 for the first time, racing to ninth for Falcon Motorsport, with Norris recovering from his late clash to finish 10th ahead of the cars of Jack Barlow, Louise Richardson, Jack Butel and Ollie Pidgley. Josh Smith completed the finishing order after losing time with a pit stop.

Racing resumes at Thruxton tomorrow, Sunday, with the reverse-grid race (which will see Ticktum starting from the pole) at 1045 and the MSA Formula finale live on ITV4 at 1515.

Provisional results Round 7, Thruxton, 9 May 2015
13 laps / 30.63 miles
1 Sandy MITCHELL / GBR / TRS Arden 20m 54.035s / 87.92mph
2 Matheus LEIST / BRA / Double R +1.533s
3 Daniel BAYBUTT / GBR / JTR +7.873s
4 Ricky COLLARD / GBR / TRS Arden +8.015s
5 Colton HERTA / USA / Carlin +10.602s
6 Rafael MARTINS / BRA / SWB +10.960s
7 Daniel TICKTUM / GBR / Fortec +11.822s
8 Enaam AHMED / GBR / TRS Arden +12.133s
9 Darius KARBALEY / GBR / Falcon +13.489s
10 Lando NORRIS / GBR / Carlin +14.047s etc

Fastest lap Mitchell 1m 14.172s / 114.35mph Est Rec

Rookie class 1 Mitchell, 2 Baybutt, 3 Martins, 4 Ticktum, 5 Ahmed, 6 Darius KARBALEY / GBR / Falcon, 7 Josh SMITH / GBR / Fortec/

Full results

Provisional championship standings
1 Ticktum 120 points; 2 Collard 99; 3 Leist 83; 4 James Pull 77; 5 Norris 75; 6 Jack Barlow 46 etc
Rookie class 1 Ticktum 171; 2 Baybutt 116; 3 Ahmed 73, 4 Mitchell 71; 5 Smith 65; 6 Petru Florescu 59 etc

Mitchell makes full use of Ford EcoBoost power at Thruxton

  • TRS Arden driver Sandy Mitchell fastest by eight-tenths in qualifying
  • Two poles for Mitchell with Carlin’s Lando Norris second fastest
  • Problems for series leader Dan Ticktum, who qualifies 17th

THRUXTON 9 MAY, 2015 – Fifteen-year-old Sandy Mitchell hammered the MSA Formula opposition at Thruxton this morning, dominating qualifying at the wheel of his TRS Arden-prepared and Ford EcoBoost-powered car. The Forfar man was the only driver to break the 74-second mark around the 2.3-mile Hampshire circuit, and his best lap – 1m 13.264s – was an impressive eight-tenths of a second quicker than that of his closest rival.

Sandy’s second-fastest lap was not much slower at 1m 13.464s, which means he will start from top spot in both this afternoon’s seventh round of the championship and tomorrow afternoon’s live-televised round nine.

Mitchell’s previous qualifying best, at Donington Park last month, was fifth, and the Scotsman was delighted to have earned his maiden car-racing pole slots: “I think the key to this track is to be smooth, especially out at the back of the circuit in the fast corners. It was quite difficult not having tested here this week and to have to go straight into qualifying, but I was able to focus and get some good laps in, and the car was great. It’s good finally to translate the pace that I have had this season into a positive qualifying result. Hopefully I can do it again in the races.”

It was Carlin’s Lando Norris who ran Mitchell closest, with Double R’s Matheus Leist snatching third position overall in the closing moments of the session. Sennan Fielding’s freshly reliveried JHR Developments car was fourth fastest, with Hampshire hero Ricky Collard – Mitchell’s Arden team-mate – fifth. “It’s a massive improvement for me,” said Ricky, whose previous qualifying top spot was eighth, “but I don’t know what my team-mate has got; he’s done a fantastic job and congratulations to him.”

JTR’s Dan Baybutt was sixth overall, fighting a lack of rear-end grip which he put down chiefly to the very windy conditions, with Petru Florescu a personal-best seventh: “That’s the first qualifying session I have had which was problem-free,” said the Romanian. The qualifying top 10 was completed by Tarun Reddy (Double R), Rafael Martins (SWB) and James Pull (JTR), who suffered a slight off the Complex towards the end of the session.

Jack Barlow was 11th for MBM. “I couldn’t get a tow,” said Jack, “and that cost me some time, but the car felt great and I’m confident for the race.”

Championship leader and Donington double winner Dan Ticktum endured a performance-related mechanical issue: “We are not sure what the problem was but these things happen in motorsport and I’m sure that we can find it and improve in the races,” said Dan, who was 17th overall of the 20 qualifiers.

Round seven of the championship follows at 1500.

Provisional qualifying top 10 Thruxton 9 May 2015
1 Sandy MITCHELL / GBR / TRS Arden 1m 13.264s
2 Lando NORRIS / GBR / Carlin 1m 14.079s
3 Matheus LEIST / BRA / Double R 1m 14.080s
4 Sennan FIELDING / GBR / JHR 1m 14.082s
5 Ricky COLLARD / GBR / TRS Arden 1m 14.100s
6 Daniel BAYBUTT / GBR / JTR 1m 14.234s
7 Petru FLORESCU / ROU / Carlin 1m 14.374s
8 Tarun REDDY / IND / Double R 1m 14.389s
9 Rafael MARTINS / BRA / SWB 1m 14.451s
10 James PULL / GBR / JTR 1m 14.464s etc

Round 9 grid order (based on second-fastest times)
Mitchell – Norris – Collard – Fielding – Leist – Baybutt – Florescu – Pull – Barlow – Martins etc

Full times