Randle: ‘Being able to go flat out in these cars is phenomenal’
The current leader of the VHT S5000 Australian Drivers’ Championship has confirmed that the category has hit one of its key targets – making the cars properly tough to drive.
Speaking to the On the Grid Podcast last week, Team BRM driver Thomas Randle spoke openly about both the physical challenges required to hustle the 560-horsepower machines at lap record speed, and his own personal challenges following an extensive bout battling Testicular Cancer.
The 24-year-old Victorian recently compared his Symmons Plains experiences with a Formula One-driving friend – with a surprising reaction.
“I’m good mates with Jack Aitken, who did the second Bahrain Grand Prix when he subbed in for George Russell in the Williams, and I said; ‘what’s more difficult to drive on the steering?’ and he said; ‘definitely the S5000!’” Randle enthused.
Aitken was one of several international drivers on the grid for S5000’s original championship kick-off at the ultimately cancelled 2020 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
He driver qualified sixth – four spots behind Randle – on his Albert Park and S5000 debut.
“(Jack said) the S5000s were not as hard on the neck, but he said when he drove, the arms were feeling it.
“That’s what is great about them and I don’t think anyone has a bad thing to say about them in the category. They’re such a challenge to drive. The cars have aero, but not a lot of aero, and from what you could see out of the last corner the drivers are working really hard.
“Being able to go flat out in these cars is phenomenal,” Randle added.
“The S5000 just pulls and pulls and pulls. Even if you short shift, which a lot of us were doing out of turn six and onto the straight to stop that wheelspin, was still providing that challenge.”
The ALABAR / Form700-backed driver takes a narrow 11-point championship lead over double Gold Star champion Tim Macrow into the second round of the championship at Phillip Island.
Though he won the opening round, there were several personal fitness issues that the title leader needed to overcome before getting into the car at Symmons Plains.
Having only recently been cleared to race, Randle finished a final round of Chemotherapy just 24 days before first driving the car in practice for the opening round of the Gold Star Championship – though he said the effort took its toll.
“My max heart rate in practice was like 190 (beats per minute), which is really high!” Randle explained.
“Especially when you’re not under any stress – in practice you’re not in combat and there’s no pressure.
“I went into the weekend with the mindset that I would do the Practice sessions and see how we went. If that was too much, at least I could say that I had given it a crack. But we got through Practice and it wasn’t too bad.”
Randle would go on to qualify on pole position, before setting a (then) lap record of the Symmons Plains circuit on his way to second position in the first heat – and ultimately victory in the weekend-defining feature race.
“I knew the races would be tricky.. I was buggered! I was red like a Tomato and I had my dad handing me cold towels to try and help me cool off,” Randle said.
“It was quite hot on the Monday. Following made things a lot tougher, the gap between us averaged about four-tenths. You’ve got the hot exhaust gasses, you can’t see braking markers and corners as clearly.
“I was blown away that we won (the Feature race). I just wanted to go there and collect some points, I would have regretted it had we not gone there and not got points going into Phillip island – It was the right call for sure!”
Round 2 of the VHT S5000 Australian Drivers’ Championship will be contested as part of the Shannons All Wheels Festival at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, on 19-21 February.
CLICK HERE for tickets to the event.
All the action will be broadcast live and free on the screens of Seven, on 7plus or 7mate, across the weekend.