Fresh from recording a podium at the same venue the previous weekend in his Formula
4 open wheel machine, Thomas Randle jumped straight into his 760hp SAAB Sports
Sedan the following weekend at Queensland Raceway and came away with his
Australian title hopes well and truly alive.
Despite suffering recurring overheating issues throughout, together with a spongy brake
pedal, the 19-year-old acquitted himself well in what was the most competitive Sports
Sedan field of the year.
Dramas throughout Friday's two practice sessions saw Randle limited to just seven laps,
none of which were representative from a speed perspective, but he bounced back well
in Saturday's qualifying to snare third place on the grid right behind his two main rivals;
V8 Supercar driver Jack Perkins and multiple Sports Sedan champion Tony Ricciardello.
Race 1 ended early when Thomas elected to park his SAAB machine after overheating
issues worsened while running behind the front runners early in the race. The team
worked tirelessly on Saturday evening to address the issues as best they could, which
were largely exacerbated by the warm Queensland ambient temperatures.
The second 12-lap race was better but still the reigning Formula Ford champ had to
contend with an excessively hot engine, fumes in the cockpit and a less than confidence
inspiring brake pedal. A plucky fourth place finish was just reward at race end as Perkins
and Ricciardello repeated their one-two form from the opening stanza, with Perkins
establishing a new Sports Sedan lap record.
The final race saw Randle starting from fourth on the grid and he quickly relieved Steven
Tamasi of third place before launching a spirited attack on Ricciardello, eventually
clawing his way past on lap four with an opportunistic pass at the 90-degree left hander
at turn four. Thereafter he set out to chase down Perkins and while the pair traded
fastest lap times the lead would be maintained, before a quick off at the same corner he
had passed Ricciardello earlier ended the charge, but not before setting a fastest lap just
0.2s slower than Perkins best of the race. Ricciardello suffered technical issues mid-race
and fell to 15th at the chequered flag, which nullified Thomas' race one failure, leaving
just eight points separating the top three in the championship with young Randle filling
third spot with two rounds left to run.
"We were on the back foot most of the weekend after missing valuable running in
practice but the team worked really hard to address the overheating issues we were
experiencing. The water temp was getting excessively high so I parked it in the first race
and to be able to salvage a fourth and a second spot on Sunday was important to my title
hopes. With Tony (Ricciardello) having dramas in the final race we are now well and
truly in the title hunt, but there's some work to be done before the next event. Fortunately
we have plenty of time to address the overheating and brake dramas and the final two
circuits we will race at should really suit our package ... this year's Sports Sedan
championship title chase is still well and truly alive."
Round 4 of the Kerrick Australian Sports Sedan Championship will be contested at
Wakefield Park in Goulburn, NSW during the weekend of October 16-18.