Rising Star Ryan Suhle has joined the likes of Will Brown and Simon Fallon as the 2017 Burson Auto Parts Rookie of the Year.
It was a breakthrough season for Suhle as he stepped into full-time national circuit racing, making his CAMS Jayco Australian Formula 4 Championship start with fellow debutant team Zagame Autosport.
Two pole positions, one race win, seven race podium finishes were some of Suhle’s highlights. An outright championship result of fourth was sufficient to secure Burson Rookie honours prior to the season finale on the Gold Coast.
“I didn’t expect to at the start of the year to get here and have locked out the Burson Auto Parts Rookie of the Year award,” Suhle said.
“That’s pretty exciting for me because coming into the year I wanted to be competitive, but to be this competitive is really good.”
Suhle’s arrival into circuit racing was almost cut short, with a series of injuries sustained in karting potentially drawing his racing career to a premature close.
“It was funny actually because it was the worst two years of my life with broken ribs, chipped back and stuff. I tried to get back into a kart every couple of months to see if it was alright and we’d do two laps and be in too much pain to keep going.
“I ended up in Formula Ford and it wasn’t painful, so we thought we’d do F4 and it was a bit of a blessing in disguise… but three broken ribs and a chipped back isn’t exactly a blessing. I ended up here though so I’m okay with that.
“Supercars is my ultimate goal. There’s a pathway there with another year in F4, so I’m really excited for next year.”
With the conclusion of the 2017 CAMS Jayco Australian Formula 4 Championship, Suhle is already itching to be aiming to race competitively once more for 2018.
“It’s actually tricky, the long gap is a bit of a killer because you’re always excited to get in the car,” Suhle added.
“As a racing driver, you just always want to be driving. Even the test days don’t suffice that. You always want to be racing with your competitors and getting amongst it.”
The 15-year-old will be focusing on keeping his physical fitness in peak condition in the lead up to next season, but admits the prospect of not competitively racing during the break will be a separate challenge.
“I try to keep the fitness up and stuff like that over the breaks, but there’s not really much racing stuff you can do,” Suhle said.
“Until next season, I honestly do not know what I’m going to do for four months. That’s going to be tricky… I don’t know – sit in my room, do nothing but watch racing, watch the highlights over and over again.”
One of the unique challenges that face many of our Australian Formula 4 drivers is juggling racing commitments alongside schooling. Suhle will step up into his penultimate year of high school in 2018.
“Next year is going to be hard in Year 11. With the laptops and that nowadays, it’s a lot easier when you can sit in the airport where I’ll do my homework,” Suhle said.
“It’s still pretty crazy, especially at the start of the year when we had pretty much every second Thursday and Friday off – whether testing or racing. It’s been tricky but we got through it.”
As one of four CAMS Foundation Rising Stars in 2017 – others being Cameron Shields, Simon Fallon and Zane Morse – Suhle has enjoyed the experience of transforming into a professional driver and bonding with his Formula 4 colleagues.
“The CAMS Foundation camp brought everyone together, it’s like a big pack of brothers at the moment,” Suhle said.
“We muck around and it’s really fun, but when you get on the track it obviously changes. It gets competitive, but off the track it’s all a bit of fun.
“It’s been seriously special this year being a part of the CAMS Foundation Rising Star programme. It’s been a really good opportunity… the extra stuff we got to do, like being at the Grand Prix, has been awesome.
“It’s been incredible to bring that back to racing, and all of the advice and people you meet along the way.”
As Suhle sets to step up from a rookie to an established Formula 4 driver next season, the Queenslander had the following advice for any potential rookies set to take part in the future.
“I would honestly say it’s all about learning,” Suhle said.
“Take the test days really seriously, they’re just such a good opportunity. At the end of the day, it’s all a learning curve and you’ll get there in the end.
“You’ve got to take it slow, build up to it.”