CAFE CHAT: Thomas Randle on British F3
Thomas Randle has wasted little time in settling into European life as he tackles the hotly contested BRDC British F3 Championship.
The 20-year-old from Melbourne has embarked on a potentially career defining move from Australia to England this year in search of progressing up the single seater ladder.
Having impressed in karts, Randle established himself as a rising star by winning the Australian Formula Ford Series in 2014.
The Victorian moved to wings and slicks last year finishing as runner-up in the CAMS Jayco Australian Formula 4 Championship which prompted the move to Europe this season.
A deal to join British squad Douglas Motorsport in the new BRDC British F3 Championship has already seen the young Aussie stamp his potential.
A breakthrough win at Rockingham earlier this month has seen him emerge as a title contender as he occupies fourth in the standings.
Speedcafe.com’s Tom Howard caught up with Randle following his Rockingham triumph to discuss how he is adapting to life in Europe’s highly competitive junior single seater scene and his future plans.
SPEEDCAFE: How have you been settling in following your move to the UK?
RANDLE: Obviously coming over here has been whole new experience in itself. I have come over here on my own so its been bit of a challenge but I’m living with my engineer Marcus (Koch) in Norfolk. He is good guy so he has been helping me settle in.
The more you think about it (the move abroad) the more daunting it is. There have been some Aussies who have gone overseas and struggled. I’ve just got to make the most of it and enjoy it.
SPEEDCAFE: Was BRDC F3 always the next step in your career following last year’s Australian Formula 4 Championship campaign?
RANDLE: After the year in F4 I always wanted to make the move to Europe. It has always been a dream of mine to be able to race there.
I went over and did a test in an FIA Formula 3 car at Valencia last year with T-Sport.
I was trying to get a gig in that but the price to do European F3 properly is through the roof. If you cannot do it properly then there is no point in doing it.
I spoke to Wayne Douglas (from Douglas Motorsport) and he was really keen to put me in a BRDC car.
At the time it looked like the best option and I actually signed the contract before I’d driven the car and I haven’t looked back.
It is a great car and it is good that the championship has the British F3 name now.
SPEEDCAFE: The BRDC F3 car is situated between an FIA F4 and FIA F3 car, is it a nice mix to allow you to develop your career for the next stage seemingly?
RANDLE: At Snetterton we were lapping only a second off a previous generation British F3 car which shows it is a pretty quick car. It has got a lot of power from a 230bhp Cosworth engine and plenty of downforce.
I think it is a great step and if I can get a budget together for European F3 next year then driving the BRDC F3 car will certainly help me.
SPEEDCAFE: How have you found competing against a tough BRDC F3 field which features Lando Norris, who starred in the New Zealand Toyota Racing Series and also British F4 runner-up Ricky Collard?
RANDLE: A lot of the drivers in the field raced in MSA Formula (British F4) last year so they know all these tracks. Lando Norris is also racing and dominating the Formula Renault Eurocup and my team-mate Enaam Ahmed is a world karting champion.
It is pretty cool to be racing against guys that have a lot of history so early in their careers. To be able to mix with them on the track and win against them is really special.
We are right in there in the championship. We just need to keep chipping away at it.
SPEEDCAFE: There is a group of Australian drivers competing in the UK single seater scene with Luis Leeds, Harry Hayek, Zane Goddard and Thomas Maxwell all in action this year. Has this helped you settle in?
RANDLE: It’s great. Almost all those drivers came from Australian F4 last year. Jordan Lloyd is doing a good job in America too. Luis, Zane, Harry and Thomas have all been really quick too. It is good having these guys here.
Luis was my team-mate last year and we talk everyday.
SPEEDCAFE: How important was it to get that first win under your belt at Rockingham?
RANDLE: It was an awesome experience. It made me think of all the years of hard work from go karts to Formula Ford, Formula 4 and Sports Sedans. I feel that all the hard work has paid off.
The last Aussie to win a British F3 race was Scott Pye and now he is in V8 Supercars so it is a great feeling. I hope I can repeat it and back it up with a few more wins this year.
It is great to get the monkey off my back. I didn’t want to go back to Australia not having won race.
Also I now know that if I can do it once, then I can do it again.
SPEEDCAFE: You seem to have taken to racing in the UK quite well, do you think you can push for the title?
RANDLE: The goal was always to try and win the title. I didn’t come here to finish second but at the same time you have to be realistic.
We are right up there in the championship. It is really everything to play for and I think the last two rounds have been really good for me.
If I can keep this good form running then we have got a good chance.
SPEEDCAFE: Having progressed through Formula Ford and Formula 4, is BRDC F3 an ideal place to prepare yourself for the next step in your career?
RANDLE: I think so. I believe the UK is the number one place to race in a junior category. There are 24 drivers in the field and it is very competitive.
Even at the end of the year if we can’t string a budget together for something I can say that I’ve raced in British F3 which is something not a lot of people can say.
SPEEDCAFE: Obviously funding is important but where do you see yourself in the future?
RANDLE: If we didn’t need to worry about money I would be looking at the FIA European F3 Championship. There is a lot testing and a lot of miles driven over a race weekend in that series.
In GP3 there is only two or three test days and only one practice on a race weekend.
If you can do well in European F3 then it looks really good on the CV.
SPEEDCAFE: Pursuing the single seater ladder is a tough task at the best of times, are you prepared to push this as far as it can go?
RANDLE: I want to push this as far as I can over here. Formula 1 is my goal but another category I have been looking at is DTM. I think that is another great series with extreme competition.
It is another path that I will look into but again money is the challenge.
If it gets to a point where I can’t string something together over here then I will have to look to go back to Australia, but open wheelers is number one goal at the moment.