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MSV’s ten great moments of 2015

Thursday, December 31 2015

With so much happening in the MSV world in 2015, there were many fantastic moments worth celebrating, including standout events at our circuits, in our many race championships and series and MSV-affiliated drivers.

It's been hard to pick the best, but here's a top ten of our favourites from the year.

Jolyon Palmer graduates to F1 and stars at Lotus Brands Hatch appearance

After dominating his rivals to win the 2014 GP2 title, Jolyon was determined to buck the trend of recent GP2 champions by graduating to Formula 1. With no seats available on the 2015 grid he did the next-best thing and signed for Lotus F1 as Third and Reserve Driver, taking part in 13 First Practice sessions on Grand Prix weekends and also a filming day at Brands Hatch, where fans watched Jolyon, Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado take to the wheel of the E23 Hybrid and the legendary Type 72 as well as taking part in an autograph session. Jolyon's performances impressed the team and at the US Grand Prix it was announced that he would graduate to the race team, lining up alongside Maldonado in the squad, which has recently been taken over by Renault.

Huge crowd attends American SpeedFest III

The third American SpeedFest drew a massive crowd to Brands Hatch, with many of the younger visitors no doubt attracted by a star appearance by Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater from Disney and Pixar's hit movie Cars. They also got to enjoy a huge range of displays and entertainment, all drizzled in Stateside razzamatazz. This included headline action on the track from the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, which was graced by racing royalty when Jeffrey Earnhardt, grandson of Stock Car legend Dale, competed in the races. 

MSVR makes Formula E's Battersea Park finale a resounding success

A nail-biting climax to the inaugural FIA Formula E Championship in London saw Nelson Piquet Jr take the title ahead of Sebastien Buemi and Lucas Di Grassi after two days of frantic action. The event itself was the realisation of many months of hard work, much of which was carried out by MSVR, who also ensured that the track activities ran without a hitch. This included last-minute changes to the course, which used existing roads along Battersea Park that were not originally designed for motor racing.

Two-wheeled legends at Cadwell

Two different kinds of two-wheeled sport were celebrated at Cadwell Park in the summer, starting with the British Cycling Time Trial in June. The list of competitors was headlined by Paralympic legend Dame Sarah Storey and former winner Alex Dowsett. Whilst Storey lost out to Hayley Simmonds in the women's category, Dowsett regained his men's title. He just missed out on completing the course within an hour, something that perhaps could be blamed on a minor indiscretion at the Mountain, for which he expected plenty of teasing from his friends and family in motorsport!

One month later legends of motorcycling visited Lincolnshire, with Giacomo Agostini and Phil Read headlining a host of stars who took part in parades and appearances at the International Classic. The event also included classic racing and displays, and the guest list featured Jim Redman, Sammy Miller, John Reynolds, Jamie Whitman, James Haydon, Steve Plater, Derek Chatterton and John Cooper amongst a galaxy of two-wheeled heroes. For all of those who attended, it was a magical return to a golden era of the sport.

Second-generation BRDC F4 car makes its debut

Whilst the first three years of the BRDC Formula 4 Championship have been a resounding success, revitalising UK single-seater racing in the process, the original car was reaching the end of its lifespan. Rather than just replace the car with a new design, BRDC F4 Championship Director Jonathan Palmer took the opportunity to upgrade the Ralph Firman-designed car's replacement, the Tatuus-Cosworth. With more power and downforce, it has attracted established single-seater teams Carlin, Fortec and Double R, and impressed on its debut in the 2015 Autumn Trophy, won by Ben Barnicoat.

Gordon Shedden wins his second BTCC title at Brands Hatch

The British Touring Car Champion is traditionally crowned at the final event of the year, and for the last four seasons this has taken place at Brands Hatch. What made 2015's finale so special is that ahead of the final race of the season on Sunday 11 October, there was a very good chance of a last-minute upset. Honda's Gordon Shedden had a healthy lead over rival Jason Plato (Team BMR), but clever tactics from Jason prevented the Scotsman from getting a decent grid position for race two. Mired in the midfield, Shedden fell to the bottom of the top 20 following contact. With Jason on pole for race three, Gordon needed to impress. And he did, climbing to fourth place to claim his second tin-top crown.

Josh Brookes storms his way to the MCE BSB title

In the opening half of the 2015 season, Shane Byrne had seen off an early challenge from James Ellison, and was picking up the momentum required for a fifth title. That all changed at Brands Hatch, which started with Shakey taking pole and expecting to win in front of his home fans. But then he was beaten by Milwaukee Yamaha's Josh Brookes in both races. He probably didn't expect it to happen again, but it did. Twelve times in total, and on the final occasion he became the first Australian since Troy Bayliss to win the BSB title.

MSV expands into Europe with the purchase of the Laon-Couvron facility

MSV announced the freehold purchase of a substantial former military airbase in north-east France in November. The complex will be developed into a huge motorsport village, Laon Autodrome, which will include a 5-mile circuit. Facilities will include a number of circuits, an asphalt oval track, drag strip, rally stages, 4x4 courses, an urban road driving centre, vehicle workshops and garages, hospitality facilities, restaurants and guest accommodation. Phase one is planned to open in April 2018, with construction starting in Spring 2017.

PalmerSport's Bradley Philpot competes in the Race Of Champions

The Race of Champions returned to London in 2015, and this coincided with a public 'ROC Factor' vote for a promising driver to join the superstars at the end-of-season multi-discipline event. PalmerSport instructor Bradley topped the poll, and after winning a qualification test he went on to drive a range of vehicles, including the Ariel Atom that he drives at PalmerSport, and a Radical, which is similar to the JP-LM. He used the versatile skills that PalmerSport demands from its instructors to impress the crowd at the former Olympic Stadium, even beating big names such as Sebastian Vettel, Nico Hulkenberg, Mick Doohan and Sir Chris Hoy.

Will Palmer wins the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award

It was a year in which Will stepped out of the shadow of father Jonathan and brother Jolyon, laying claim to the BRDC F4 title with a dominant run of 12 victories, half of the 24 rounds. He would usually beat his rivals into submission with a succession of fast laps to establish an unassailable lead, leaving them to squabble over the scraps. This commanding performance led to a nomination for the prestigious McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver award, which he won following a rigorous assessment process, and in doing so follows in the footsteps of David Coulthard, Dario Franchitti and Jenson Button.

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Images courtesy of James Moy, Az Edwards, JDH Motorsport Photography, Prime Media Images and LAT.