The 2017 CAMS Jayco Australian Formula 4 Championship formally concluded on the Gold Coast with its gala dinner, recognising the work and achievements of those on and off the track.
After seven rounds across both sides of Australia, AGI Sport’s Nick Rowe broke Team BRM’s streak of championships for his and the Sydney squad’s first Formula 4 title.
The popular West Australian clinched the title in Saturday’s opening Gold Coast race, with enough of a points gap between his nearest title rival Cameron Shields.
“In all honesty, everything I’ve ever done in the past ten years, I just can’t thank my Mum and Dad enough for everything they’ve done in my Formula 4 career,” Rowe said.
“I’ve come second about four or five times in Australian Championships, and to finally win one… it’s one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had in my life. I was pretty emotional.”
Rowe’s emotions were tested again when he was met with a standing ovation after it was announced that he was also invited to an evaluation test day with Supercars squad Brad Jones Racing as reward for his Formula 4 Championship.
“To drive one of them is going to be awesome, I can’t wait,” an emotional Rowe said.
After leading the first half of the championship, New Zealander Liam Lawson was eventually runner-up to Rowe. The duo enjoyed a hard fought battle across the season.
“I think for most the drivers, the expectation and the goal is to win the championship. With the experience that I had coming from New Zealand Formula Ford, it was a huge step into Australian Formula 4,” Lawson said.
“The first round we prepared really well but unfortunately with the tight turn around, we only had one test day before it but… we qualified really well P2 in both rounds so that really set us up for a good weekend.”
For Lawson, sharing the same tracks and billing as his New Zealand idols in Supercars such as Scott McLaughlin, Fabian Coulthard, Shane van Gisbergen and recently Richie Stanaway was a huge thrill for the Team BRM driver.
“I mean coming from New Zealand, where the exposure is not that big with the events that we have, so coming to these events with F4 with all the exposure at the Supercars rounds has been really awesome.”
Team BRM’s Cameron Shields ensured there remained a Toowoomba presence on the podium with third in this year’s overall classification.
The McDonald’s Australia and CAMS Foundation Rising Star supported driver was Rowe’s only likely challenger for the title heading into the final round on the Gold Coast. Consistent appearances on the podium and race wins helped Shields vault up the standings after a difficult opening round at Sandown.
“There’s certainly a lot of talent in this field. It’s been very difficult all year. Unfortunately we’ve had a few issues at the start of the season that really set us back, but from there on in we pushed forward and closed the championship right up at Queensland Raceway,” Shields said.
“Team BRM have done an exceptional job this year and I can’t thank them enough. It’s been an amazing year and everyone who’s supported me as well.
“I think the highlight was certainly Barbagallo. To get a round win there was incredible, especially to get one over Nick Rowe on his home track was really good – but unfortunately he did that to me at Queensland, but that’s okay!
Zagame Autosport’s Ryan Suhle claimed Burson Auto Parts Rookie of the Year honours, finishing fourth in the overall classifications.
The young Queenslander made an immediate impact in the championship by claiming pole position almost on debut at the Sandown double-header.
“To burst onto the scene like that, I was really stoked with. I’ve got to thank the team for that, because at the end of the day we prepared well and we were there ready to do it,” Suhle said.
“Just the whole team has been great, and especially Cam with all of his knowledge. He’s just brought along professionalism and that stepped up with the corporate side of the racing for me.”
2016 Burson Rookie of the Year Simon Fallon was on-hand to hand over this year’s award to Suhle, with inaugural Burson Rookie and Super2 racer Will Brown attending as the evening’s guest of honour.
CAMS President Andrew Papadopoulos formally thanked the teams, drivers, their families and category sponsors.
“While we celebrate the past successes of the Championship, I can’t help but think about just how bright the future looks for Formula 4 in Australia,” Papadopoulos said.
“The CAMS Board has reaffirmed its commitment to the category, with plenty of interest in the Championship in 2018 and beyond.
“For those drivers who are moving on from the Championship – thank you for your service and support. It’s been a pleasure seeing you drive around the many circuits we visit across Australia.”
“On behalf of the CAMS board, executive and all our staff, I’d like to thank our loyal sponsors – Jayco, Hankook, Castrol, Burson Auto Parts, Famous Insurance, Australian Unity, Morris Finance and Pages – and of course, the drivers and their families and all the teams.
Preparations for the 2018 Championship are well underway, with teams set to commence testing shortly for prospective drivers. Applications have also opened for 2018 CAMS Foundation Rising Star candidates, closing Friday November 3.
Photos by Nathan Wong/Speedshots Photography.