THE CONTENDERS: James Golding
THE VHT S5000 Australian Drivers’ Championship will go down to the wire at Sydney Motorsport Park on May 1-2, with Australia’s Champion Driver to be awarded the Gold Star for the 59th time.
While three drivers – Joey Mawson, Tim Macrow and Thomas Randle – are the three most realistic options to lift the title, the unpredictable nature of this year’s four-round series means there are actually six drivers still in contention.
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As we count down to the final round, here’s a rundown of the six drivers vying to become ‘Australia’s Champion Driver’ and claim the Gold Star award next weekend, instantly joining a list of Australian motor racing legends in the process.
The first contender is Team Valvoline GRM star, James Golding.
The Victorian sits sixth in the championship with 208 points – 97 off the lead – but with 130 points up for grabs he remains a mathematical shot at winning the championship.
Golding’s season has been one of serious highs and serious lows and it’s the lack of consistency that has hurt his championship challenge.
Supreme in qualifying, Golding scored pole at Phillip Island, second at Sandown and third at Symmons Plains to have the best qualifying record of anyone in the championship; but he’s struggled to convert those results into race victories.
At Symmons Plains the stunning Valvoline car was consistently quick, finishing third and fifth in the pair of qualifying races to set himself up for a strong run in the first points-paying feature race in S5000 history.
He was battling for a spot on the podium with Joey Mawson before the pair controversially collided at the famous Symmons Plains hairpin; Golding ending up buried in the gravel trap and out of the race.
Golding’s Phillip Island weekend was much better; after qualifying on pole he could only manage fourth in the first sprint race after a slow start saw him drop down the order.
He backed that up with sixth in the second heat but stormed through in the finale, completing a last-lap pass on Tim Macrow to finish second and start a climb up the championship order.
His form continued into the early stages of the sodden weekend at Sandown, qualifying second before converting that into his first race victory of the season in the first heat race on Sunday morning.
A non-finish in the second sprint was costly, however, but a solid fourth position in the Sandown finale’, having charged from eighth on the grid, ensured the Valvoline car remained mathematically in the hunt going into the Sydney Motorsport Park season finale’.
Two DNFs – especially the crash in the double-points Symmons Plains’ finale – have been costly for Golding but his qualifying pace especially remains an asset.
If he can convert his one lap speed into race results, expect ‘Bieber’ to be a wildcard in and among the title fight in Sydney.
JAMES GOLDING (Team Valvoline GRM)
POINTS: 208 (6th)
TOP 3: 3
FRONT ROW: 2