Max Vidau has clinched the 2017 Australian Formula Ford Series in a tense final round at Phillip Island, with the title not decided until the very last race of the season.
Vidau looked set to cruise to victory after entering the weekend 45 points ahead of his nearest rival, Cameron Shields, and increasing his lead to 46 when he picked up a point for qualifying on pole position.
Third place in Race 1 behind Shields and Jayden Ojeda saw Vidau’s margin reduced to a still-commanding 40 points, but tensions increased when Vidau was caught up in an incident in Race 2, sustaining damage to his Sonic Motor Racing Mygale and limping to the finish line in a non-scoring 19th position while Shields claimed another race win to close the margin to 20 points.
To win the title, Shields needed a first-place finish in Race 3 along with another nil points haul for Vidau; he achieved the first objective, but Vidau executed a classy drive from the rear of the field to third place, scoring the points he needed to wrap up the championship. The final margin between Vidau and Shields was just 14 points.
Vidau becomes the first South Australian to win a national Formula Ford title since Nick Percat in 2009, and also wins entry into December’s prestigious Mazda Road to Indy $200k Scholarship Shootout in America.
“Coming into the weekend, I was fairly relaxed but I was starting to feel the pressure before the last race,” Vidau said.
“There was a fair bit of damage to my car after Race 2, and it’s a real credit to the Sonic crew that they were able to put it back together in time for the last race.
“It’s been an amazing season with plenty of highlights and happy memories, and I’m looking forward to the experience of participating in the Mazda Road to Indy Shootout.”
While Shields narrowly missed out on the title, he comfortably wrapped up his third consecutive round win. The BF Racing pilot was undisputedly the form driver of the second half of the season, winning eight of the last nine races.
“Considering we were down in seventh in the points after the first three rounds, I’m stoked to finish second at season’s end and be in contention all the way to the last race,” Shields said.
“Coming into this weekend, I knew I needed a lot to go my way to win the title. We did everything to give ourselves the best possible chance and I couldn’t believe I was still in with a shot before Race 3, but Max did a great job – congratulations to him, he’s a deserving champion.”
Jayden Ojeda finished second for the round aboard his Borland Racing Developments Spectrum 015 with results of second, ninth and fourth in the three races, and secured third spot in the series standings.
“Overall it was a positive season – the highlight was winning a couple of races on debut for the Spectrum 015 at the start of the year, and having some good battles throughout the season. We had a few tough rounds mid-season but good to finish the year on the podium again,” Ojeda said.
Hunter McElrea, who had been third in the standings entering the event, suffered a broken driveshaft in qualifying and was then penalised for contact with Nathan Herne while charging through the field in Race 1, and then penalised again in Race 2 for overtaking under yellow flag conditions. Another storming drive to second in Race 3 was not enough to displace Ojeda for third in the series.
Elsewhere in the field, a pair of fourths and a seventh were enough for Sunshine Coast driver Harrison Jones to finish third for the weekend – his first overall national Formula Ford podium.
Courtney Prince and Nathan Herne scored their career-best Formula Ford results – second and third in Race 2 – while Ben Reichstein’s farewell Formula Ford round also ended on a high note with a top five race finish in Race 2.
Zac Soutar clinched the Privateer’s Cup and CHI Cylinder Head Innovations Hard Charger Award, and Mygale won the Manufacturer’s Cup.
Australian Formula Ford Series – Top 10 Points (final)
1. Max Vidau – 245
2. Cameron Shields – 231
3. Jayden Ojeda – 195
4. Hunter McElrea – 189
5. Liam McLellan – 137
6. Nathan Herne – 132.5
7. Cooper Murray – 130
8. Harrison Jones – 128
9. Zac Soutar – 78.5
10. Adrian Lazzaro – 77