A Step Ahead
At the end of last season, the London lad left the world of karting on a high five; winning five high energy and ultra-competitive championships. His first season of single-seater racing started on the same winning theme. EA ended the recently concluded MSA Formula Championship powered-by Ford EcoBoost certified by the FIA with victory on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit, and clinching the Rookie of the Year award.
The FIA, in recent years, has launched several initiatives to stream line the racing ladder for aspiring young drivers. The F3 Euro series took a major hit after the launch of GP3 in 2010 as most young and talented drivers felt the need to race on grand prix weekends in front of F1 team principals.
Jean Todt, President of Paris-based FIA, is an ex-rally co-driver and former head of Ferrari’s glory days with the Red Baron, and to re-energize the F3 concept he brought in ex-Grand Prix driver, Gerhard Berger. The F3 Euro series, which itself was born from the merger of French and German F3 championships, was re-badged under the European Formula 3 Championship. The good work put into this very important series last year produced two very talented rookie drivers. Frenchman Esteban Ocon, who won the championship and Red Bull’s newest golden boy, Max Verstappen.
At the entry level, the FIA has launched Formula 4 in different markets. The concept will be introduced in the United States in 2016. This series is designed as the first stepping stone from karting to single-seater competition. The minimum age was set at 15, a year younger than requirement for most championships in Europe.
The British iteration of this concept is called MSA Formula powered by Ford Eco-boost. Cars for the series are supplied by the French firm Mygale.
Practice makes perfect
Enaam, who did not even turn 15 till February of this year, and realizing he will be competing against drivers with motor racing experience embarked on a mission to prepare himself for the season. The testing program took him, apart from English tracks, to tracks in Scotland and Wales.
Over the years many karting champions have not even made the transition to single-seater scene; most who do face a steep learning curve but, as they say, cream rises to the top – sooner or later.
Young drivers face many challenges; new machine to master, new tracks and new drivers. For Enaam the biggest adjustment “was having the MSA Formula car slide around.”
Learning very quickly there is no short cut to experience, Enaam in the second half “gained confidence to do it.”
The inaugural season of MSA Formula Championship got under way on the first weekend of April at the beautiful Kent circuit, Brands Hatch. The season opener used the Indy circuit and Enaam qualified an impressive 8th on the grid for his first ever motor race, and improved to 5th on the grid for the second race of the weekend. On each occasion ahead of his two Arden teammates, Sandy Mitchell and the vastly more experienced 18-year-old Ricky Collard.
Enaam finished 9th in his first race and retired on lap 16 of 23 in the second race. He was 7th in the third and final race of the weekend. Two weeks later Round two was held at Donington Park circuit in the English midlands and Enaam recorded another top 10 finish.
“I like the Arden team. My engineer Stephen Colbert was tough on me but made me a better driver.”
The Thruxton circuit in Hampshire was the only round during the month of May. In the opening race off the weekend he improved from 14th on the grid to finish 8th. In the second race he was 7th and was classified 10th in the third and final race of the weekend. This was the first racing weekend where Enaam was in the top 10 in all three races.
Next stop on the 2015 calendar was at Oulton Park in Cheshire. A top ten finish eluded Enaam for the first time in his young single-seater career but he continued to build on an important aspect of any young driver’s career; bringing the car home in one piece in all three races of the weekend.
Croft played host to the final round before one month of vacation for the young aspiring drivers and their crew. Race number 13 of the season saw Enaam finish 9th and was placed one spot higher in race 14 of the season. He was 11th in the third and final race of the weekend
Second half. Triple Play
The championship trail led to Lotus and Brundle country, Norfolk. Enaam started the second half of the season at Snetterton with his best finish of the season so far with his sixth place finish from 10th on the grid. He was seventh in the remaining two races of the weekend at the Dr. Jonathan Palmer-owned track.
For round seven teams traveled north of the border to the Scottish circuit at Knockhill. In a sign of things that Ennam’s performance in the second half of the season, and indeed his career, was on an upward tick was highlighted by the opening race of the weekend. He qualified fifth, only 0.380s from pole position, and made his first podium appearance of the series – only 0.662 separated him from the car in front. Fifth in race two saw him gain more useful points as he sets his sights on being the top rookie in his maiden season of motorsports. He was fourth in the third and final race of the weekend.
The series was back in England for round 8, this time at the road circuit layout at the Rockingham oval. Enaam was fourth in the opening race, just behind Colton Herta, son of Bryan of Indy car fame and who will be involved in the American introduction of Formula 4 next season. Enaam was sixth in the second race, and looking strong to end the season on a high note in the remaining two races at two very classic English tracks; Silverstone, the birth place of Formula 1 World Championship and the grand finale at Brands Hatch utilizing the full grand prix circuit, scene of the long-awaited first F1 win for “Our Nige.” And the epic drive by Pedro Rodriguez for Porsche in monsoon conditions many moons before Mansell.
At the Silverstone (National) circuit, Enaam was 11th in the opening race of the weekend and set the fastest lap among the rookies. He was again 11th in race two.
In Sunday’s third and final race Enaam bagged his second podium finish of the season with his third place finish, and also set the fastest lap among the rookie crop.
The first season came to the Brands for grand finale on the weekend of October 10/11 with both the championship and rookie titles to be decided. The two drivers gunning for their respective title started the weekend on fast track; Lando Norris, who last year competed in Ginetta tin-tops, winning the opening race and Enaam was the highest placed rookie, fourth overall and yet again set the fastest lap among the first year’s racers.
The second race witnessed Enaam’s first motorsports victory on home soil, the podium was an all-rookie affair with Enaam’s Arden teammate Sandy Mitchell second and Rafael Martins third.
Enaam claimed another podium finish from his third place finish in the final race of the season, set the ‘rookie’ fastest lap again, and more importantly won the Rookie of the Year award.
This is how the official press release from MSA described the final showdown:
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.
The stage is now set for the next step in the exciting and winning career of Enaam Ahmed, as he ponders “things in the pipeline.”
P.S. PRESS RELEASE FROM EDGE SPORTING MANAGEMENT
After his outstanding performance this year, Enaam Ahmed was recently awarded with the Joe Tandy Memorial Award, beating his fellow competitors to be the ‘Most Impressive Newcomer of the 2015 Season’.
It was awarded to him because of the improvement the London based driver had made over the course of the season. Ahmed mostly competed in MSA Formula where he collected a number of rookie class wins, including four in a row at the end of the year, to take the rookie championship.
His performances showed real improvement throughout, as he even won an overall race in the final weekend of the year.
However; his results weren’t just shown in the UK, as Ahmed raced in the SMP F4 championship for a number of rounds as a guest driver, with it culminating in him winning all three of the races, at the final round in Estonia earlier this month.
“I’m very honoured to be given such an award.” stated Ahmed.
“I didnt know Joe, but of course I know his team, JTR, and they are such an awesome team. I must say a huge thank you to everyone that selected me and it really does mean a lot. I hope I do Joe, JTR, and the championship proud over the next few years with whatever we choose to race in”.
The award was put together in honour of the late Joe Tandy with the help of his race team JTR. Joe’s ethos was to develop and nurture new emerging talent. His younger brother, Nick Tandy, won the Le Mans 24 hours this year.
Having finished as top rookie, Ahmed has the option to return to the MSA Formula series as a likely contender, or move up, with the 15 year old having recently competed in a Formula Renault 2.0 test.