Colin Noble Jnr delivered on the pace and promise he has shown throughout the season when he claimed his maiden Protyre Formula Renault victory during the championship’s final weekend at Silverstone (27 September).
The Scot raced to a nail-biting round 14 win from pole position – also his first of the season – after resisting race-long pressure from eventual runner-up, Piers Hickin.
Playing to the large BTCC crowd, the pair entertained with an enthralling battle in which they traded fastest laps throughout the 18-lap thriller. Noble’s MGR team-mate, Matteo Ferrer was also in fine form and completed the podium, ahead of Champion-elect, Pietro Fittipaldi.
Their scrap for the last step on the podium was equally spirited, with Pietro tipping Matteo into a spin just four laps from home. This prompted a terrific fightback from the Italian, who dropped to 5th but rapidly caught and passed America’s TJ Fischer for 4th. Post-race the Clerk of the Course handed Fittipaldi a 10-second penalty for ‘gaining an unfair advantage’ as a result of the on-track incident.
Commenting on the drama, MGR owner, Mark Godwin said: “Colin drove superbly. At times he was under quite a bit of pressure from Hickin. He managed the gap well - albeit the run to the finish line was pretty tense! The battle between Matteo and Pietro was fantastic; it was a shame that contact was made although it was unintentional. Luckily Matteo was able to carry on and fight his way back into position. The Clerk of the Course’s decision to give Pietro a 10-second penalty reversed the order - back in Matteo’s favour - and we accept that.”
Albeit that Pietro had put the 2014 title beyond doubt with his wins at Croft - the previous weekend (20/21 September) - the question of who would be vice-Champion had yet to be resolved and Ferrer was one of the protagonists vying for this honour. He announced his attentions by pipping his closest rival, Hickin, to P2 in the qualifying shoot-out. Noble was in close company, going off the second row (4th), whilst Fittipaldi produced a superlative lap to net pole position for round 15.
However, after the race had got underway a rare mistake by the Brazilian allowed Hickin to hit the front as the field started the second tour. Colin and Matteo followed the new race leader - demoting their team-mate to 4th. From there Hickin and Noble would run nose-to-tail for the remainder of the race, with the deadlock only broken by the chequered flag.
The South American quickly recovered his composure to harry Ferrer’s gearbox but with Fischer rapidly closing in on the squabbling MGR pair. The newly-formed trio wowed the fans as they raced three-abreast. Fischer snatched 3rd on lap three but Ferrer, like a dog with a bone, refused to give up the fight. On lap ten, his efforts were rewarded and he moved back into the podium placings. Fittipaldi was also able to take advantage of Fischer running wide and slipped back into 4th at Brooklands.
Now with the bit firmly between his teeth, Pietro redoubled his efforts to pass his fellow MGR driver and two laps later, Matteo left a gap and the Brazilian committed himself to a passing attempt. They touched, resulting in damage to the Italian driver’s front wing, compromising his car’s handling and straight line speed. Fittipaldi was unscathed and hot-footed it after Noble and Hickin, whilst Ferrer was unable to hold off Fischer and was pushed back to 5th.
Pietro closed the 3-second gap to the Hickin/Noble battle on the last lap but, despite drawing alongside Colin on the run to the line, had to settle for 3rd – his 12th podium of the season. However, he was able to take further satisfaction from having set the fastest lap of the race; underlining what might have been had the race been a fraction longer. Noble was also able to bask in the glory of his most successful weekend of the campaign, by adding 2nd to his earlier win. Ferrer’s 5th earned him 3rd overall in the championship; a fabulous result considering his lack of experience.
Reflecting on the weekend and the championship as a whole, MGR Team Manager Steve Lynch said: “It’s been another great weekend. I’m delighted that Colin has taken a win. He has shown great pace all season and he deserved his victory. With better luck during the season he may have had a few more. Overall, it’s been a fantastic year for the team; to have taken 12 wins from 15 races, with Pietro accounting for 10 of them, is something that we could never have imagined at the outset. Pietro, Matteo, Colin and Tarun have all been terrific and a real pleasure to work with. Credit must also go to all our engineers and mechanics, who worked so hard to achieve these results. We’ll continue our preparations over the winter, in readiness for our expansion into the Formula Renault 2.0 ALPS and NEC series in 2015.”