THE CONTENDERS: Thomas Randle
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.
CLICK HERE to secure tickets for the Sydney finale.
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.
TITLE VICTORY or not, this year’s VHT S5000 Australian Drivers’ Championship will remain a triumph for Thomas Randle on the basis that he was even on the grid in the first place.
The story of the 25-year-old’s cancer battle has been well told this season and the fact that he’s powered his Castrol-backed ALABAR / Form700 Team BRM entry right into title calculations as well only makes the story even better.
Randle sits just 40 points behind teammate Joey Mawson heading into the finale’ and will need to use all of his title-winning experience in Formula Ford, Toyota Racing Series and Super2 in a bid to overhaul his closest rival.
All the while he will need one eye looking in the rear-view mirror as former Gold Star champion Tim Macrow attacks as well.
Illness put behind him, Randle’s season has ebbed from the highest of highs at Symmons Plains to the lowest of lows at Sandown.
In Tasmania Randle was magnificent: pole position and a stunning feature race victory saw him lift the John McCormack trophy and leap into an early championship lead in the process.
He extended that with a pair of seconds in Phillip Island’s to heat races and was in the mix for more of the same in the finale’ – leading before damage caused after contact with Mawson while battling for the lead saw him hanging on in a bid to just make the flag. He finished fourth but retained the championship lead.
Sandown started with disaster in the opening heat as Randle and Kaleb Ngatoa made contact, the former damaging his front suspension and forcing him out.
To make matters worse, the race had been started incorrectly meaning the red flag was shown and the race re-started; though Randle was watching from the sidelines regardless.
Third place in the second heat was a solid comeback, though sixth in the feature race, behind both his key title rivals, was far from ideal. The 51-point swing to Mawson enough to drop Randle from the lead for the first time this season with the 30 points lost from that Sandown non-finish a worse outcome than finishing only sixth in the feature.
The Sydney Motorsport Park decider represents a clean sheet of paper for the entire VHT S5000 Australian Drivers’ Championship field, with Randle keen to put the Sandown dramas well behind him.
The inter-team battle with Mawson, in identical Team BRM machinery, is set to be captivating and the pair have shown to be evenly matched all season long – however their compelling and ultimately costly (for Randle, at least) battle at Phillip Island could be a sign of things to come.
With both drivers free to fight, establishing the pecking order early in the weekend will be key with Randle looking to regain his Symmons Plains qualifying form, having started third at both Phillip Island and Sandown, as a launching pad for his title tilt.
While just being in the hunt is already a victory for Randle, this young man – who’s star continues to rise – will obviously want much more than to merely be a contender.
He’s already national won titles in three different types of racing cars – Formula Ford, TRS and Supercars. Adding a fourth in the S5000 beast would add another remarkable chapter to the Thomas Randle story, one few people would begrudge.
THOMAS RANDLE (CASTROL / ALABAR / FORM700 TEAM BRM)
POINTS: 265 (2nd)
TOP 3: 5
FRONT ROW: 1