THIRD SUCCESSIVE PODIUM DESPITE CHALLENGES
Melbourne’s Sandown Park hosted the fourth round of the CAMS Jayco Australian Formula 4 Championship last weekend, with Melbourne based 19-year-old Thomas Randle going into the weekend on what was effectively his ‘home’ circuit. Based just 20-minutes from the venue, Randle came into the weekend fresh from winning his first Formula 4 championship round and was confident of a strong showing on a circuit he knows well.
The historic Sandown Park layout has many different surfaces and is also one of the bumpiest on the calendar, which challenged all of the Formula 4 teams from the outset.
Combined with long straights the 3.1k circuit is a real challenge as drivers look to gain every possible advantage making up time in the slower sections of the track. Practice saw Thomas looking to gain time by attacking the ever-present kerbs, but with disastrous consequences.
His DREAM Motorsport machine finding the wall at Turn 3 in final practice when a rear suspension component failed. After a frenzied rebuild the car was out on track for the afternoon qualifying session with Thomas bouncing back well to hit the top of the timing screen early. Unfortunately his car suffered a fuel pressure issue just when he didn’t need it and right when drivers started to improve their times late in the session. Thomas could do nothing to respond, finishing the all-important session in an unrepresentative ninth place.
RACE 1 (Grid set by first qualifying session times) Start: 9th Finish: 2nd
Undeterred, Thomas was ready for the fight and charged passed four cars on the opening lap, before slicing his way through the sharp end of the field during the remaining laps, going on to record an excellent second place finish after 13 racing laps. If not for spending three laps behind the Safety Car, Thomas may well have challenged for the lead.
RACE 2 (Grid the reverse top six from R1 result) Start: 5th Finish: 2nd
Race 2 was held on Saturday afternoon in warm and blustery conditions and Thomas again made up early positions, moving into third place after lap one. Thereafter enjoying a spirited battle for second place with Jordan Love, which Thomas ultimately won on lap four. With his sights set on race and championship leader Jordan Lloyd, Thomas put his head down in an attempt to reduce the margin to the lead, but the cars were as good as equally matched and second place was the best he could muster when the chequered flag was displayed after just 11 laps.
RACE 3 (Grid set by second fastest qualifying lap) Start: 9th Finish: 4th
Again faced with the challenge of having to climb through the pack from a low starting position, a slower than desired start made life difficult on the opening lap. After battling for five laps to find a way through the mid pack squabble, Thomas actually passed two cars in the one lap to move into fourth position on lap six. That though was as far as he would climb, with warmer temperatures on the day and a car that was less than perfect in the handling department, Thomas was destined to spend the remaining 10 laps of the race fruitlessly trying to find a way by Jimmy Vernon’s Mygale – with fourth place the best he could manage.
Thomas maintains his second place in the championship, 70 points behind Jordan Lloyd with three rounds remaining and more than 240 points still on offer.
“Not the weekend we were looking for but the team bounced back well after the Friday crash. We had pretty good pace in the first two races but missed the set-up for the final event, which hurt my speed and made life difficult. There are still plenty of races left and plenty of points, so we will just have to keep pushing hard to maximise every opportunity.”
Round 5 of the seven round CAMS Jayco Australian Formula 4 Championship will be held on the streets of Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast during the weekend of October 23-25.