MONKEY OFF HIS BACK
“Every race I’m doing I want to win because it’s one less opportunity I’ve got.”
There’s a pragmatism to Australian Thomas Randle which belies his 20 years of age. Upping sticks and moving to Europe alone would be daunting for most, let alone to come and drive for Douglas Motorsport in BRDC Formula 3, in a car he hadn’t been in before. “I signed the contract before I came over!” he says. “The moment I hopped in it I loved it so I really don’t regret getting in this championship. To be racing in British F3 as an Australian is not something many people can say.”
His father Dean was a winner back home, taking the 2006 Kerrick Sports Sedan Championship. “It was like a home-built class of tin-top sedans where you can stick in a 6-litre V8 Chevrolet engine and just build around a spaceframe and go racing,” Thomas recalls. “I got into go-karts when I was seven through my dad – he brought me home a kart and I did some laps around a roundabout near my house and loved it.”
That passion continued up to the age of 16, when Thomas graduated into Australian Formula Fords. Competing for his father’s new DREAM Motorsport team he won that title in 2014 and finished as runner-up in the inaugural Australian Formula 4 championship a year later.
This led to a couple of opportunities: tests in an Erebus Motorsport Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 (“but it fell through”) and with T-Sport in an FIA Formula 3 machine at Valencia. “My heart was in trying to get in FIA F3 but the budget for that is through the roof. For me I would have had to sell my parents’ house to do it!
“I was worried, because you start go karts from the age of seven, you get to 19-20, racing has been your whole life and you think ‘this might not happen.’”
While some might shy away from the challenge, Thomas pressed on with his dreams. “We were in talks with Wayne (Douglas) – he sounded really keen, and at that point we thought it was our best option.
“I haven’t seen my parents for four months and it’s been different because my dad’s been to all but two of my races in my career. It’s been good to get away and do my own thing, think for myself, and living with Marcus (Koch his race engineer) has been good – it’s been a second home for me.”
Despite taking a chance signing a deal in a car he hadn’t driven, it has proved so far to be an inspired choice. Lying second in the standings with one victory so far, rival Ricky Collard is just 19 points ahead, with the prospect of the postponed race at Silverstone still to be decided.
That maiden win at Rockingham was impressive for the opening lap he put in; passing four cars and building a lead which he maintained to the finish. “It’s great to get the monkey off my back. I wanted to get a win in this series no matter what, so I can go home and say ‘I won a race’, but now I want to win more!”
Looking beyond the 2016 season, what lies in store for the Melbourne native?
“My dream, since I’ve been young, is to be a Formula 1 World Champion – as is every drivers! Most people get to a point where they realise it is only a dream. At the moment I don’t believe I’ve gotten to that stage, but these days the budget becomes extremely important. Sometimes it can outweigh your talent, but I keep doing my best. If we can end this year strong, or on top, it would be a great boost for my career and I’m looking at different opportunities.”
Those include a one-off race at the Macau Grand Prix in November. “I’m talking to a few teams and trying to get some financial backing behind me to do that because that’s another track that’s been on my bucket list for years.”
And beyond that the future is uncertain. GT racing has become a viable option for young drivers in the past few years, with 2015 BRDC Formula 4 graduates Jack Bartholomew, Jordan Albert and Ciaran Haggerty all competing in GT4 in British GT, but it isn’t appealing to Randle. “It seems to me that the way that they try and equalise it that it is not pure racing. I think it should be lights out, go hard as you can and whoever gets there first is the winner, whereas with all the penalties plus BoP… for me that’s not real racing.”
However there is a less obvious series he would love to be part of: DTM. “I’m a big fan, I stayed up back home watching all the races!”
Heading to the iconic Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium for rounds 16, 17 & 18, Thomas is full of optimism. “I tested at Spa in this car in March and it was amazing. We ended quickest so it’s a positive knowing we have the pace. Hopefully we can keep it at the front.”
A strong weekend would do his championship aspirations the world of good, but regardless you feel this young man will make the most of whatever opportunities come his way with a smile on his face.