The CAMS PAYCE Australian Formula 4 Championship’s first race at Pukekohe in New Zealand has today produced the closest finish in its four-year history.
AGI Sport duo Ryan Suhle and Jayden Ojeda were separated by only 0.0891 seconds after 12 laps of scintillating racing.
Though fighting for championship honour, the teammates were ecstatic with today’s opening race finish. Starting from the Castrol Pole Position, Suhle led from start to finish.
“That was fantastic. I think we both knew that there needed to be a mistake made,” Suhle said.
“I knew I had to have a go into the first chicane to pull a gap on the back straight. I went in a little too hard, locked a front right and Jayden nearly got underneath me. He was all over me up the back straight, it was an awesome final finish.
“The car surged on the way up the hill on the last corner, it cut out for a couple of seconds so I was pretty freaked out. So he got a little more up beside me, but that was a fantastic race.”
Championship leader Ojeda will have to wait until Sunday’s remaining two races to seal the title.
“I would have liked to wrap up the championship today but to have that battle with Ryan on the last lap was pretty good as well,” Ojeda said.
“I was counting on him making a slight little error, he had been running the whole race pretty clean.
“I think we did three quarters of that lap side by side, so pretty cool to finish the race off so clean as well. Pretty happy with that.”
Team BRM’s Aaron Love gathered a solid haul of points in third place, and five seconds down the road, as he sets his sights on climbing to the runner-up spot in the championship.
“Trying to chase the second spot in the championship, I think it stretched out a little in that race but we’ll have another crack in race two and three,” Love said.
“It’s definitely one of the bumpiest tracks I’ve been too. Almost more than the Gold Coast last year. Turns two and three are really bumpy, it can hurt sometimes if you go a little too hard but you get used to it.”
Thomas Smith was the biggest mover on the track, starting from ninth the young Victorian climbed an impressive five spots for a career best fourth place.
“I didn’t really expect to pick up that many spots but I got a bit lucky with a few offs from other drivers. I made the most of it, and now start on the front row tomorrow which should be a great experience,” Smith said.
Lochie Hughes finished ahead of his nearest Burson Auto Parts Rookie of the Year contender Zayd Tones in fifth and sixth places respectively. Hughes now has an unassailable lead in the rookie class with two races remaining.
Despite an off road excursion in the opening laps, Ardie Jonic recovered to seventh place ahead of Antonio Astuti.
Jackson Walls was disappointed to finish ninth after sensationally qualifying third. A stall at the start line dropped the Patrizicorse driver to the rear of the field after managing to restart his car.
Josh Smith made contact with the wall, with minor damage to his rear wing but was able to carry on racing to claim a solitary point in tenth place.
Tomorrow will see two more races decide this year’s titles, with Lochie Hughes and Thomas Smith to start from the front row in the reverse grid race.
Race Two will commence at 9am, with the final 12 lap race to take place at 11:45am NZDT. Click here to read the wrap from today’s Castrol Pole Position qualifying session.
Provisional Race One Results – Pukekohe, New Zealand
1. Ryan Suhle
2. Jayden Ojeda +0.0891
3. Aaron Love +5.2011
4. Thomas Smith +15.0226
5. Lochie Hughes +16.9889
6. Zayd Tones +18.0604
7. Ardie Jonic +22.2549
8. Antonio Astuti +24.4129
9. Jackson Walls +27.5055
10. Josh Smith +44.620
Provisional Championship Standings
1. Jayden Ojeda: 362
2. Ryan Suhle: 318
3. Aaron Love: 283
4. Cameron Shields: 242
5. Lochie Hughes: 199
6. Zayd Tones: 131
7. Jackson Walls: 123
8. Thomas Smith: 83
9. Josh Smith: 79
10. Antonio Astuti: 66
11. Ardie Jonic: 28