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YOUNG GUN: The rise of Randle

Simon Chapman

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Tuesday 21st April, 2020 - 5:00pm

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From a Formula 1 hopeful to being diagnosed with cancer, Thomas Randle has sought success in spite of adversity.

Randle’s motor racing career has been a rollercoaster ride and it doesn’t look like he’s ready to get off just yet.

The journey began at seven years old. His father, Dean Randle, was a sports sedan racer and on a whim bought young Randle a kart.

He began racing and progressed through the, ranks winning two national junior titles in 2012 at 16 years old.

He soon stepped up to Formula Ford and in only his second year won the title in 2014, beating Jordan Lloyd and James Golding.

The following year he moved into Formula 4 but this time was beaten to the championship by Lloyd.

Randle racing Formula 4 at the Gold Coast 600 in 2015

Formula 1 was the dream and so Randle pursued the junior formulae ladder.

“The goal was always Formula 1, there’s just something about open-wheeler cars,” said Randle.

“I went and watched Formula 1 for the first time in 2006 at the Australian Grand Prix. I just fell in love with it. It was just incredible. My mind was set on that

“I didn’t realise that getting to Formula 1 was possible until I started having some success.”

He moved to the United Kingdom and contested the British Formula 3 Championship in 2016 where he won two races, finished on the podium seven times, and had one pole position in a season where he finished fourth.

Having raced in the Toyota Racing Series once before in 2015, Randle returned two years later in ’17 for a full campaign during the New Zealand summer.

The five-week series was the place to be for the young European drivers during the winter off-season.

Randle became the first Australian to win the New Zealand Motor Cup since Warwick Brown in 1975

Many of them were signed to development programs and Formula 1 teams including Ferrari and Red Bull.

Randle beat them all, taking the Victory Motor Racing team to its first and only Toyota Racing Series title.

It was proof in his mind that he could be a Formula 1 prospect and justification that he should continue up the ladder.

“That’s probably one of my career highlights was winning that championship,” he said of the Toyota Racing Series title.

“There were a handful of Formula 1 juniors in it. Marcus Armstrong, Jehan Davuvala, Richard Verschoor, and Pedro Piquet.

“There were some impressive names. We won it in the last race as well. That was fantastic. To be able to say I won that championship is still a big deal to me.”

Randle’s favourite race car, the Dallara T12 powered by a 3.4-litre V8 making 530 bhp

All four aforementioned drivers went on to race in Formula 3. Many of them will soon move onto Formula 2.

Randle, meanwhile, got bogged down. He hoped for a similar fate, but lost momentum, only contesting a handful of Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup rounds later that year.

“To be able to challenge and beat those guys in New Zealand at the time we thought (Formula 1) might be possible,” he recalled

“The year before I won the championship Lando Norris won it and he’s in Formula 1 and the year before that Lance Stroll won it and he’s in Formula 1.

“We thought ‘obviously these guys have done something right, why can’t we do the same?’

“But it’s the same old story. To be able to showcase your skills you need to have budgets to run in those championships.

“Even if you’ve got the budget to do Formula 3 or Formula 2, there’s no guarantee that you’ll move up to the next level.”

Randle put on a sponsorship evening to generate interest in his plans, but as he recalled, “We threw everything at that night and it wasn’t successful.

“It was at that point I realised we wouldn’t be continuing in Europe.”

The Formula 1 dream was over and, as a result, he decided to move back home to Australia to look for opportunities in Supercars.

He’d already had a taste of Supercars in 2015. A test with Nissan Motorsport (now Kelly Racing) in a Nissan Altima came after he finished second in the Australian Formula 4 Championship.

Randle behind the wheel of his Tickford Racing Ford at Winton in 2018

At that time single-seaters were still the focus, but Randle had enjoyed the test and wanted another opportunity.

Not long after returning to Australia, a chance came to test with Paul Morris at Queensland Raceway in a Ford Falcon FG X.

“I ended up doing a half test day with Paul Morris,” he said.

“Anton De Pasquale was there that day too. He did some laps first, did a baseline, then I went out and was a tenth of a second off which I was pretty happy with considering he’d just signed with Erebus for the following year.

“Not long after that, my manager at the time said to me ‘What would you do if I told you Tim Edwards wants you to drive for him?’

“My eyes just lit up. It was fantastic. We signed with them for the Super2 Series in 2018 and it’s just been Supercars ever since.”

He showed promise in his debut season, finishing 11th and recording two podium finishes as well as a single pole position.

The following year he improved significantly, winning two races and claiming five podiums to finish third behind eventual champion Bryce Fullwood and Kurt Kostecki.

However, it was his wildcard entry at The Bend and a Pirtek Enduro Cup campaign alongside Lee Holdsworth that cemented his belief that he could be a full-time driver in 2019.

Third place in the Sandown 500 was the highlight in a strong campaign that saw him finish ninth at the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 as well as two sixth-place finishes at the Gold Coast 600.

Randle impressed at the OTR SuperSprint on debut

Randle thought he’d done enough to secure a Supercars drive but that was scuppered when Jack Le Brocq moved in.

“We were pushing really hard for that third seat at Tickford,” he recalled.

“We knew that Jack was in the running.

“I really wanted to make sure that I had a successful enduro cup campaign. I thought that would help me with those plans for 2020.

“After seeing what Richie Stanaway did when he was a co-driver, that was a pretty good campaign with Cameron Waters.

“The following year he was promoted to the main championship. I was doing everything I could to do that.

“It’s just one of those things. I also needed a fair bit of financial support to come with it, but that’s the nature of the beast.”

A call to contest a third season of Super2 was made easier for Randle who was incentivised by a $400,000 winners scholarship.

However, before the 2020 season got underway Randle was posed with his greatest challenge to date after being diagnosed with testicular cancer.

He subsequently had surgery and was cleared to race in the first Super2 round where he claimed a win in the last of three races.

Randle crashed at the Bathurst 1000 and returned a day later to win the Super2 Series race

“After what happened in January this year, there was a lot of motivation,” he said of racing in 2020.

“I just wanted to be on that grid in Adelaide. I didn’t want to miss any rounds.

“I was pretty disappointed that I couldn’t make the step up to Supercars this year.

“I just wanted to go out and prove that someone should have hired me or that people can see that I can drive.

“I believe I’m worthy of a seat and I think in Adelaide I got off to a good start considering the circumstances.”

Randle was set to have chemotherapy just two days after the season-opening Adelaide 500, however, those plans were halted.

“I went from being told from my surgeon and oncologist and my GP that I had to have chemotherapy to now looking like I might not need it and just doing monthly blood tests and scans,” said Randle.

“It’s had a complete turnaround. I was booked in to start chemo the Tuesday after Adelaide. I had the time I needed to be in the hospital and was told to pack a bag.”

Over two months on, Randle is readying himself to start a new business venture while also staying fit and studying part-time towards an engineering degree.

Lee Holdsworth and Thomas Randle celebrate their third-place at Sandown

“I’ve got the scar to prove it and things are a little bit different down below,” he said.

“But I’m still healthy and I’m happy, which is the main thing. I’m probably in the best spot I could be.”

After years of toiling in junior formulae and realising his Formula 1 dream wouldn’t work out, Randle takes a philosophical look at his past success and future endeavours.

“It’s amazing when you look back on it,” said Randle.

“At the time things looked depressing or daunting. I’ve been in points of my career where I’ve never felt so low, as have many drivers.

“You can have one race the next day and feel complete elation, or the complete opposite. That’s the crazy thing about this sport. There’s no replay button.

“It’s so different from tennis or football. If a football player misses a shot within the first two minutes of the opening quarter it’s forgotten about.

“Whereas in motorsport you have a lockup and go off while you’re in the lead you’ll go back to last or crash out.

“There are no second chances in racing. You often don’t appreciate the wins when you get them.”

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