Thomas Randle - British F3 winnerThomas Randle - 2017 Toyota Racing Series Champion  Could those of us on the bottom side of the planet be producing another world class driver without noticing it? We are very good at that. Not many noticed the rise of Danny Ric until he was in Formula One, indeed the ABC continued to comment on his “debut” season while he was winning with Red Bull in 2014. Even though that was his fourth season as a Grand Prix driver. How many out there noticed Mark Webber until he hurled it into the trees at Le Mans? And then promptly forgot about him until that unlikely fifth on debut at Albert Park in the Minardi? How many of us in Oz have heard of Ken Kavanagh, Tony Gaze or Paul Hawkins who all made it to GP racing in the 50’s and 60’s or are aware that the likes of Vern Schuppan, Tim Schenken, Dave Walker and Larry Perkins were all Grand Prix drivers in the 70’s?


  Probably not many is the unfortunate answer. Very few except the hard core fans even knew that Alan Jones had won a Grand Prix before he swept the board with Williams in 79-80. Unlike some countries, take the Netherlands for example, where most of the population knew who Max Verstappen was when he was no more than a promising Formula 3 driver, Australians seem to ignore their up and coming racing drivers until they are winning at the very top of the sport. Usually they fail to get there, not through lack of talent, but lack of interest and only become known when they slip quietly back home to race V8s. Very sad.


  Now we have another one who is having a good crack at making it on the world stage. Thomas Randle is showing the sort of early promise that might, just might, take him all the way if he gets the right breaks. The 2014 Australian Formula Ford Champion and runner-up in the 2015 Formula 4 championship ventured to Europe last year to try to live the dream. In his debut in the highly competitive British Formula 3 championship he was on the podium seven times, took pole once and scored wins at Rockingham, and more impressively, Spa Francorchamps and ended a very creditable fourth in the championship. At years end he made a couple of appearances in the Formula V8 3.5 series, a similar class to GP2 and the one that Ricciardo used to make his final jump into F1.


  Already this year he has emerged victorious in the New Zealand Toyota Racing Series. This again probably doesn’t mean much to many Australians but to most of the emerging talent around the world, this series is VERY important. There were drivers from twelve different nations contesting the series including Pedro Piquet, Richard Verschoor, Jehan Daruvala, Enaam Ahmed, Ferdinand Habsburg and Brendon Leitch. All of these were junior category winners in Europe in 2016 so for Randle to win the title is no mean feat. He seems to also have a fairly pragmatic head on his young shoulders. The goss is that he is looking at heading to sports cars with an LMP3 programme in the European Le Mans series as a cheaper way of enhancing his reputation than spending what he doesn’t have on a GP3 or European Formula 3 drive which now require many hundreds of thousands of dollars.


  Lets hope that he gets a bit of home support and makes it all the way. It would be sad again to have a talent that just doesn’t quite get there through lack of support. Think of those that could have been racing in Formula One in just the last decade or so. Will Power, Will Davison, Ryan Briscoe and James Courtney all tested for Grand Prix teams and all had the talent to compete at that level. But for………..


Sam Snape