Reigning Toyota Racing Series champion, Thomas Randle made an impressive debut during the fifth round of the 2017 Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup Championship at the Hungaroring Formula 1 Grand Prix circuit last weekend.
Despite never having seen the undulating 4.38-kilometre venue - located near Budapest - the former Australian Formula Ford champion quickly acclimatised to driving the 210-horsepower Formula Renault machine, finishing practice on Thursday in a commendable fifth position in the 30-car field.
After two hot days of practice, Saturday's first qualifying session was hit by rain, but Randle starred, claiming the second fastest time in his group of 15 drivers, although he would line up in fourth grid spot for the first race on the back of the second group of cars and drivers enjoying a drier qualifying run. Randle's qualifying effort saw him placed highest of the five Australians in the field, which included fellow internationals Alex Peroni, Thomas Maxwell, Zane Goddard and Luis Leeds.
The final two races (of three for the weekend) would see Randle starting out of positions 13 (after having his fastest Q2 time disallowed due to a dubious call on exceeding the track limits) and position eight.
Frustratingly for the young Aussie international, his first race was over before the completion of the opening lap, after a turn one incident left the Skye Sands sponsored car with broken steering, which came after Frenchman Gabriel Aubry failed to see Randle on the inside of the first corner. Ironically, Aubry's car was undamaged and he would ultimately go on to win the Hungaroring round.
The final two races saw Randle battling sternly in and around the top-10, unable to find a way past the squabbling group of cars on the heavily aero-sensitive, medium-speed Hungaroring circuit. After a big weekend with limited preparation a 10th place finish in the final race saw Randle rewarded with his first championship point and placed in 14th place overall for the weekend.
"I wasn't expecting to be so competitive so soon and it was very satisfying to be able to quickly adapt to a new car, team and track, and to qualify right near the front having never previously driven the car in the wet was a real highlight of my weekend. I still think the call to disallow my second qualifying time was marginal but I wasn't the only one to cop the same penalty, while the opening race incident with Gabriel was a real shame. I was shocked when he came across to take the normal racing line while I was up alongside him, although I guess that's all part of learning the mindset of those I will be competing against.
"The final two races were tough as the track is as good as impossible to pass on but I learnt a heap while challenging and defending in a pretty lively battle pack."
Randle's next Formula Renault Eurocup outing will take place at the championship's sixth round, which will be held at Germany's Nurburgring circuit in conjunction with the FIA World Endurance Championship event during the weekend of July 14-16.