A weekend that promised so much was unfortunately over before Friday for Thomas Randle at the Albert Park Grand Prix.
Randle was one of the favourites for the S5000 series which was moments away from their opening race on the Formula One undercard, when the event was cancelled because of the crippling coronavirus crisis.
The 23 year-old had qualified on the front row beside polesitter James Golding in a scintillating qualifying run on Thursday, all of which led to nought when the unprecedented move was made to axe the GP a day later.
“I’ll say from the outset, it was such a buzz to have my first drive at Albert Park,” Randle said.
“We only had one 20 minute practice session to get up to speed and I was surprised how quickly I learnt the track – I have been racing on it on my playstation and simulator for years and years mind you!”
“But to be in an open wheeler – the second fastest category behind the Formula One field on the weekend – and to be second fastest was pretty special.”
Friday morning Randle had arrived ready for the first of three races, as speculation grew on whether the event would go ahead or not.
“I got there just after 9am and people were lined up everywhere as they weren’t allowing spectators into the circuit, the beginning of what was to go down,” Randle said.
“It was seriously so weird the way it played out, when word came through that the weekend was cancelled – I’ve never experienced anything like it before.”
“Everyone in the VHT Australian S5000 series pitlane were so flat – we had such a gun field with Rubens Barrichello and Giancarlo Fisichella, plus Alex Premat and Jack Aitken – but in the end I think unfortunately the right decision was made to stop racing, the risk is just too great to the public, especially after the positive test from the McLaren mechanic.”
The S5000 field is scheduled to return to the track next weekend for Round 2 at Sydney Motorsport Park – but a giant question mark hangs over that date.
“Everything we’ve been told – as of this point – the plan is still for the weekend to go ahead,” Randle said.
“Obviously it could change with everything that is happening right now, let’s just say I’m not holding my breath”.
“As thanks for the support at the Grand Prix, we’ll carry the same livery on the car at SMP to thank Form 700, Alabar, ACT Fence Hire, DeVibiss and Global Machinery – who were so supportive of us, and unfortunately didn’t get to see the car even start a race.”