Mawson edges clear as S5000 title race heads to second half
REIGNING S5000 Australian Drivers’ Champion Joey Mawson has edged away in the lead of the 2022 championship as his quest for back-to-back Gold Stars gains momentum.
The Form 700 / ALABAR Team BRM driver holds an 18 point lead over double champion Tim Macrow following the first three rounds of the championship.
Mawson is the only driver to have won races at all three events so far, kicking off his season in style with victory in the first race of the year at Symmons Plains.
While the remainder of the opening round proved a challenge for the Sydney driver, he rebounded strongly at Phillip Island one month later to claim the feature race at the high-speed Victorian venue.
He then backed that up with pole and two wins at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, including victory in the main event.
Mawson’s impressive consistency this season has been key to building his championship lead as attention now turns to the remaining rounds on the calendar.
A second consecutive title would put the former international racer in elite company with few drivers having ever defended their title in the long history of Australia’s top open-wheel award.
Just eight drivers have won back-to-back Gold Stars – the last being Kiwi Simon Wills when he claimed his pair of titles in 1999 and 2000 in Formula Holden.
Second in the championship is a driver already a two-time Gold Star winner in Tim Macrow.
The hugely experienced Victorian has used all of his prodigious experience to his advantage this year and has strung together a remarkably consistent campaign across the first three events and nine races to date.
To this point, Macrow and his UCS Group / Hollinger TMR entry is yet to finish lower than sixth in any race – compared to Mawson’s strike rate which includes one non-finish and a 10th place in the Grand Prix’s reverse-grid race.
Converting the mixed-grid affairs into results has been Macrow’s strength, while his one-lap pace remains an area for improvement: he has qualified either fifth or sixth across the three rounds so far.
Still, victories at Symmons Plains and in the reverse-grid race at Phillip Island have coupled with his consistency to see Macrow well within attacking distance of championship leader Mawson.
Consistency has also been key for one of the breakout stars of the 2022 season, Versa Motorsport’s Cooper Webster.
Relishing the new team built around him this year, the young Victorian teenager is yet to win a race but has recorded five podium finishes so far this year – only Mawson has more.
Feature race podiums in Tassie and at Phillip Island were big, while his Grand Prix event included a third-placed effort in race two.
As a result, Webster is just 21 points behind Macrow in the battle for the Gold Star this year and if he can click for that first win at the next event, is another contender for the 2022 title.
Two points further back is James Golding, who has had a fast but challenging year in his Valvoline GRM entry.
Blindingly fast – two pole positions and third in qualifying at the Grand Prix are proof of that – Golding lost ground to the leaders at a Grand Prix event that didn’t include a single top three finish.
Dropping from third on the grid to eighth in race one was costly, then the shortened reverse-grid affair did him no favours at all on Saturday evening.
A fighting fifth in Sunday’s Grand Prix feature salvaged a solid haul of points however saw him drop behind Webster in the standings.
Still, Golding heads to rounds where he should be strong.
GRM’s package at Sydney Motorsport Park has been formidable in S5000s last pair of visits to the 3.9km venue, while his knowledge of Hidden Valley’s challenges aboard a Supercar should assist his preparations for the return of the Gold Star to the top end.
Completing the top five is Kiwi Kaleb Ngatoa, who after a slow start is beginning to close the margin to the leaders and become a challenger week in, week out.
Fourth in race two at the Grand Prix represented his best result of the season while 10th in the feature race wasn’t indicative of his pace.
Though more than 100 points from the series lead, the double-points weighting towards S5000s feature races means one bad result for a rival, and a big win for the likable Kiwi, could see the margin close quickly.