• Ricky Collard leads Lando Norris to Yorkshire with a slender seven-point advantage
  • Jack Barlow hoping that his first visit to Croft will provide his long-awaited maiden podium finish
  • New team for Jack Butel
21 JUNE, 2015 – The Ford EcoBoost-powered MSA Formula Championship heads north next weekend (27/28 June) to the Croft circuit, near Darlington, for a trio of races which will bring the series to its mid-point. Whoever leaves North Yorkshire with the championship lead will enjoy a significant psychological advantage as the young single-seater heroes and their teams head into a much deserved six-week summer break.

Currently it is experience leading the way: 18-year-old Formula Ford graduate Ricky Collard heads the points table for the TRS Arden team thanks to two race victories and a further four second-place finishes from the opening 12 rounds. But Ricky is only seven points clear of the season’s outstanding 15-year-old talent, Carlin’s Lando Norris, who has racked up four wins already.

Croft’s a circuit with happy memories for Lando – it was there last season that he scored his first race win in a car, when he triumphed in the Ginetta Junior series. Collard fared less well at Croft in Formula Ford: he was swept up in another’s accident in the first race of the weekend and ended his weekend with a best race finish of eighth.

One driver who knows only too well what it’s like to be knocked out of a race is Jack Barlow, who was set fair for his and the MBM team’s maiden podium finish last time out, at Oulton Park, before fate intervened in the shape of an avoidable collision which left him watching, blameless, from the sidelines – far from the 20th birthday present the Hastings-based driver was hoping for.

“We were leading up to our first podium,” said Jack. “We’d had a couple of fourths and a couple of fifths, but hadn’t quite made it to third. We were in perfect shape with Herta and Martins coming together on the first lap. We had new left tyres also, and the only other two with new lefts were the drivers in front of me [Norris and Collard], and if I’d gone with them I would have been on for a good result. It’s frustrating, but what can you do?”

Barlow is hopeful that his luck will change at Croft, although it is not a circuit on which he has raced before: “I’ve never been to Croft, so I’m keeping an open mind about it. I can pick up circuits quite quickly, so will be going straight into it on the Friday and using that as a learning day.

“There are some areas where we are missing out on the set-up side of things because we are still learning about the car. We haven’t really had much time to test. But we are getting closer and closer and hopefully will be on the podium before long.”

He’s looking forward to the summer break, and the opportunity to source much-needed further funding to help him complete his season. “We are OK financially for Croft but then we have six weeks where we need to find more budget. That’s the nice thing about having the summer break – it gives us a chance to settle down and talk to a few people.”

After a dismal time at Thruxton in May, Donington double winner Dan Ticktum had hoped to get his season back on track at Oulton earlier this month; a third and a fourth didn’t exactly achieve what he had hoped but the Fortec driver maintains championship third, 26 points off Collard’s tally.

There have been three other race winners so far this unpredictable season – Double R’s Matheus Leist, who won the Donington reverse-grid race; JHR Developments driver Sennan Fielding, who rocketed to victory from third on the grid in the second Oulton race; and TRS Arden man Sandy Mitchell, who did the double at Thruxton.

Fielding will be hoping to carry a little local support into the Croft races, having spent his Saturday in Newcastle city centre showing interested passers-by the intricacies of his Ford EcoBoost-powered machine as part of a BTCC promotional event for the circuit.

Fielding and any of the above mentioned could be on for further victories at Croft, and to that list you can add many further names, including those of the other podium visitors so far in 2015: JTR duo James Pull and Dan Baybutt, Carlin’s Colton Herta and SWB Motorsport man Rafael Martins.

In the Rookie class it’s very much Ticktum who leads the way thanks to eight class wins from 12 starts, with Baybutt, Mitchell, Martins and Carlin’s Romanian racer Petru Florescu battling it out for second spot.

After her impressive MSA Formula debut at Oulton Park, 20-year-old Jessica Hawkins is returning with the Falcon Motorsport team, alongside Darius Karbaley. Richardson Racing will field its regular two cars for Louise Richardson and Ollie Pidgley, with Indian talent Tarun Reddy lining up alongside Leist at Double R.

The championship’s second Indian racer, Ameya Vaidyanathan, will be in action for JTR, with Josh Smith piloting the Racing Steps Foundation-backed Fortec car and Enaam Ahmed, fresh from racing in the SMP F4 Championship in Russia, on the TRS Arden team strength.

Jerseyman Jack Butel will be switching to a new – as yet unconfirmed – team for Croft, having parted company with SWB Motorsport. Says Jack: “This decision has not been easy but I believe it is the best thing for both parties. I have had a great 18 months with the team and they have taught me a lot and have had some great times with everyone in the team. I wish all of SWB the best in the future as I continue my racing career.”

The Croft weekend gets underway on Friday with two test sessions ahead of an action-filled Saturday comprising official qualifying and two races. Sunday afternoon’s finale is to be screened live on ITV4 between rounds of the British Touring Car Championship.

MSA Formula – Certified by FIA, Powered by Ford EcoBoost
Provisional championship standings after Round 12

1 Ricky COLLARD GBR 175 points
2 Lando NORRIS GBR 168
3 Daniel TICKTUM GBR 149
4 Matheus LEIST BRA 134
5 Sandy MITCHELL GBR 89
6 Sennan FIELDING GBR 87
7 James PULL GBR 83
8 Colton HERTA USA 73
9 Jack BARLOW GBR 66
10 Rafael MARTINS BRA 59 etc

Rookie class
1 Daniel TICKTUM 238
2 Daniel BAYBUTT 165
3 Sandy MITCHELL 151
4 Rafael MARTINS 140
5 Petru FLORESCU 131 etc