THE CONTENDERS: Joey Mawson
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.
FOR someone who hadn’t even planned to contest the full season, Joey Mawson has made a pretty impressive job of becoming a title contender in this year’s VHT S5000 Australian Drivers’ Championship.
In fact, ‘pretty impressive’ doesn’t even quite cover it: Mawson has stunned this year and after a few quiet years his career has burst into life once more, people reminded that this guy once knocked off Mick Schumacher for the title in German Formula 4 not all that long ago.
The quietly spoken Sydneysider burst onto the scene in Tasmania earlier this year despite only doing the deal to get behind the wheel just before the round itself.
He emerged from two weeks of quarantine to qualify second, win the first ever points-paying S5000 race contested and contend for a spot on the podium in the Symmons Plains feature before his late clash with James Golding saw him relegated to fourth.
Still, it was an eye-opening debut and there was more to come a few weeks later at Phillip Island.
Qualifying went poorly, with no time recorded, but finishes of 5th and 3rd in the pair of heat races – both of them from the back of the grid – showed what he was capable of.
That was enforced in the feature as he chased, aggressively passed and then pulled away from points leader Thomas Randle to win somewhat emphatically.
More recently at Sandown he banged his car on pole, wrestled his way from 8th to 2nd in the second qualifier and took advantage of tough days for fellow title contenders Randle and Macrow to win comfortably and complete a more than 50-point championship swing.
Suddenly, the guy who entered the season with plans to contest only the opening round was the outright favourite for the title.
Mawson’s ability to race his way through the field from disadvantaged positions this year has been key to his title hopes; his drive from 10th to 3rd in Phillip Island’s second heat race was enormous, while his charge from 8th to 2nd at Sandown even more important given it set up his place on the grid for the feature race there – one he would win comfortably.
He’s the only driver to finish every race in the top five, the only driver to win a pair of feature races (remember, they’re worth 60 points opposed to the 30 for the sprints) and, just for kicks, also re-set a 40-year-old outright lap record at Symmons Plains, too.
The storyline gets better when you work out that there’s synchronicity within Team BRM for Mawson, too.
On the headset all year, Mawson’s engineer Simon Hodge was the last driver to win the Australian Drivers’ Championship and the Gold Star before the award was parked following the 2014 Formula 3 season – one that Hodge won aboard a Team BRM machine.
Mawson’s remarkable season to date exemplifies just how good the competition has been and how good you have to be to win consistently in one of the 560-horsepower beasts that make up the S5000 grid.
Beating Schumacher junior, now in Formula 1 with Haas, was undoubtedly a big achievement for a younger Joey Mawson back in 2016.
This year, however, has reminded the world of just how good the 25-year-old really is and, should he win the Gold Star there is little doubt he would be a worthy addition to the list of names to have won the award with a record of success both here and abroad.
JOEY MAWSON (ALABAR / FORM700 TEAM BRM)
POINTS: 305 (1st)
TOP 3: 5
FRONT ROW: 2