It says something about the popularity and success of motorsport in a nation when they can get someone to the elite level of their discipline. For Australia, Mark Webber was the country’s Formula One hero for the best part of a decade.
With Daniel Ricciardo taking over the mantle in 2014 as the poster boy for Australian racing, all eyes are on just who can be our next big thing.
Who are the handful of young racers who have either got their foot in the door or are kicking it down, doing their bit to show the talent that Australia has to offer?
Thomas hails from Melbourne, born just under a month after the inaugural Albert Park Formula One Grand Prix in 1996. A national sprint kart and Rotax Junior champion, Randle moved up to the Australian Formula Ford series in 2013. Against a strong field of drivers, he finished seventh despite missing the opening round, only not finishing in the top ten on three occasions. 2014 saw him win four races en route to taking the title.
A move up to the new Formula 4 Championship in 2015 yielded second in the standings, with clean sweeps of the Surfers Paradise and Homebush rounds being the major highlights.
Further progressing to the British Formula 3 Championship for 2016, wins at Rockingham and a masterclass at Spa-Francorchamps saw him take fourth in the points.
He also had a handful of Formula V8 3.5 Series outings towards the end of the season.
This year started well in New Zealand’s fabled Toyota Racing Series. Three wins and a last-lap pass on the outside in the final race of the season saw him take the championship crown. Balanced in his dedication and an outwardly relaxed approach, he is a potential star in the making. Watch this space.
Jordan is one of those drivers who has done well right from the get-go. From the same town as 2014 IndyCar Series champion Will Power, the Toowoomba-raised racer made his Queensland Formula Ford debut in 2010, becoming the youngest driver to win a CAMS Formula Ford race, also taking rookie of the year and the state Race Drivers Association championship.
The following year saw him race in the Victorian championship, taking third overall. The Australian championship beckoned in 2013 where he was the rookie of the year, ending sixth overall in the standings. Lloyd remained in the series for the 2014 season, winning six races but losing the championship by four points to Randle.
He would get his own back in 2015 when they competed against each other in the Formula 4 Championship, winning 12 races and taking the title with a round to spare.
The United States was the next move in 2016 where he competed in the USF2000 championship. A win in the opening round of the championship at St Petersburg was his season highlight, eventually ending the year in fourth. He is back in Australia this year and with credentials like he’s packing, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him racing in Europe in the near future.
Joey is heralded as one of Australia’s best hopes behind the wheel ever since he jumped in to a kart. Born in 1996, he made his karting debut at age 7 and has not looked back. Over a 10 season period between 2003 to 2012, the Sydney local won 19 state championships and three national titles, as well as placing second in the 2011 Junior Max Rotax World Championships.
Come 2014 and Formula 4 was the first chance for him to drive an open wheeler, though unlike most others, he wasn’t racing in Australia. In his debut race in the French Formula 4 series, he nabbed pole and a race win at the Le Mans Bugatti circuit. Two more wins followed in the year, taking him to fourth overall for the season.
Moving to the ADAC championship in 2015, five wins took him to third overall. A repeat of the series in 2016 saw him take 10 wins en route to the title.
Competing in the BRDC Formula 3 Autumn Trophy, no wins but three podiums took him to second overall. Between 2016 and 2017, he competed in the MRF Formula 2000 series, winning three races and only just losing out on the 2016-17 title after a season-long battle with Harrison Newey and Mick Schumacher. Already making his impression against the big names, one day he might be the one who we will have trouble forgetting.
Will is another Formula 4 graduate who is tasting further success, this time on home soil. Yet another Toowoomba torpedo, Will was born in 1998 and only began karting at the relatively late age of 13. He was successful through consistency if nothing else, being on the podium in 80% of his total races.
Debuting in open wheelers in 2015, Brown drove in both the Formula Ford series and well as the new Formula 4 category. He had more success in the slicks and wings cars, winning the inaugural race of the season and ending the year in third place. 2016 was a major breakthrough year, winning six Formula 4 races to win the championship, as well as winning the Toyota 86 Racing Series (including a clean sweep of Bathurst).
He also came second in the year’s Formula Ford Championship, winning nine out of 15 races. This year, he races for Eggleston Motorsport in the Dunlop Super2 category – the feeder to the Australian Supercars Championship – and is now wanting to make an impression on the tin-top world.
Chelsea is breaking down the barriers one race at a time. Another racer born in 1996, the young Victorian started out on motorbikes before moving to four wheeled machines through karting. Wins in Junior Nationals and Junior Max categories further cemented the belief that she belongs on the race track.
Formula Ford beckoned in late 2012, and she mainly focused on the Victorian championship and selected rounds of the Australian championship.
A move up to Formula 3’s National series in 2014 became the year where she made her mark. Four wins in her category propelled her to fourth overall in the standings.
Tin-tops were selected as the next move, stepping up to the Dunlop Super2 series in 2015. She only raced in the opening round at Adelaide, however, incredibly struggling to get sponsors despite her impressive credentials.
The following year was much better, racing in every round apart from Townsville and scoring a top 10 finish. It would be a great shame to see someone as dedicated as Chelsea not get a drive this year or in the future, already proving she can perform with outdated hardware.
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Images via Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Motorsport.com, MW Motorsport, Toyota Racing Series