The 2017 Australian Formula Ford Champion will be crowned at Phillip Island this weekend, with four drivers in mathematical contention for the title.
Holding a 45-point advantage in the standings is South Australian Max Vidau. The Sonic Motor Racing driver has been a model of consistency this season – he has scored four race wins, five fastest laps, two round wins and a pole position, and has finished every race inside the top five.
Vidau can clinch the title with a top-two finish in any of this weekend’s three races and could thus seal the deal in Race 1 on Saturday afternoon. Alternatively, if his closest rival was to score the maximum 61 points from the weekend, a trio of 10th-place finishes would be enough for Vidau to be crowned the champion.
“The points situation is a good one for us to be in, but we still need to ensure we finish all the races this weekend,” Vidau said.
“It would mean a massive amount for me to win the title, especially looking at all the prominent names in Australian motorsport who have won the Formula Ford championship over the years.
“Winning the first two rounds was a highlight and I’ve had some great battles over the course of the season.”
Vidau’s closest challenger is 16-year-old Toowoomba driver Cameron Shields. A combination of mechanical problems and involvement in incidents left the BF Racing pilot a lowly seventh in the standings at the season’s half-way mark, but since then he has been the form driver in the field, winning five of the last six races to secure back-to-back round victories.
Shields puts his meteoric resurgence down to a combination of ingredients.
“We had a few mechanical issues with my previous car, and at Queensland Raceway I swapped into a different Formula Ford – the one Will Brown raced last year,” Shields said.
“The new car was a definite improvement but I have also developed a lot as a driver – Brett Francis is very good at helping drivers hone their skills, as we saw previously with Will and Jordan Lloyd.
“I’ve been making less mistakes and I’m full of confidence heading to Phillip Island, but I know it will be tough to beat Max in the championship with the points the way they are.”
Third in the standings is Hunter McElrea, who became the first New Zealand driver to claim pole positions and race wins in Australian Formula Ford since Mitch Evans in 2009. Qualifying has been a particular strong suit for McElrea – he’s the only driver to take a pole position double, and has qualified on the front row at every round.
“I like the grip of new tyres in qualifying, it suits my driving style,” the Sonic driver said.
“It’s been an up-and-down year. Wakefield Park was a lot of fun charging through the field in Races 2 and 3, but I shouldn’t have been back there in the first place and that was down to my mistake in Race 1.
“The rivalry between Max and I has been fierce on the track, but we’ve also wanted to help each other off the track to ensure the best results for Michael and Maria Ritter and the Sonic crew. He’s definitely the most competitive team mate I’ve ever had.”
The last of the mathematical title contenders is Jayden Ojeda, who started the season in style with a pair of race wins at Sandown’s season opener aboard Borland Racing Developments’ latest Spectrum 015 chassis.
“The highlight for me this year was definitely Sandown, and our pace through the season has generally been pretty strong; it’s just a shame there were a few mistakes and technical glitches in the middle of the year,” Ojeda said.
“We’ve tested at Phillip Island recently and went well there, so hopefully we can finish off the year in style with some more race victories.”
Vidau, Shields, Ojeda and McElrea will all be fighting for a spot in the Mazda Road to Indy $200k Scholarship Shootout in America at the end of the year.
This weekend’s Formula Ford competition also encompasses the final round of the Victorian Formula Ford Championship; in the Duratec Class, just 12 points separate Borland Racing Developments driver Liam McLellan and Mygale Australia’s Cooper Murray. The Kent Class title has already been wrapped up by Brendan Jones for the second year running but there will still be interest in the class, with reigning national Champion Leanne Tander returning for a guest appearance.
Australian Formula Ford Series – Phillip Island Round Winners
1993 – Stephen White
1994 – Gavin Monaghan
1995 – Mark Webber
1996 – David Besnard
1997 – Todd Kelly
1998 – Steve Owen
1999 – Alex Davison
2000 (1) – Leanne Ferrier
2000 (2) – Luke Youlden
2001 – Will Power
2002 – Jamie Whincup
2003 – Tony Pugliese
2006 – Ashley Walsh
2007 – Glen Wood
2008 – Paul Laskazeski
2009 – Nick Percat
2011 – Cameron Waters
2012 – Jack Le Brocq
2013 – Anton De Pasquale
2014 – Jordan Lloyd
2015 – Christian Morina
2016 – Will Brown