Debutant Matt Hillyer leads Sonic Formula Ford charge at Sandown
An impressive performance from debutant Matt Hillyer highlighted Sonic Motor Racing Services’ first race weekend of the season at the opening round of the Australian Formula Ford Championship at Sandown this weekend.
Conducted in alignment with the opening round of the Victorian State Circuit Racing Series at Sandown, the first Australian Formula Ford event of the year featured a 37-strong field, with four representing Sonic Motor Racing Services.
It’s a two strong national team for Sonic in 2022, with Valentino Astuti and Winston Smith spearheading the attack. Hillyer will contest the Victorian State Formula Ford Championship alongside Harrison Blanchard and Jake Santalucia, who will debut at Winton’s second round.
It was a great start to the weekend for Hillyer as he qualified fourth to lead the Sonic attack from Astuti in ninth, Smith in 14th and Blanchard in 21st.
Race 1 was a non-event after two Safety Car interruptions in seven laps as Hillyer crossed the line third, Astuti climbed to fifth, Smith ninth and Blanchard in 17th.
Sunday’s Race 2 was a closely contended encounter where Hillyer maintained his front-running pace to finish runner up, while Smith charged from 14th to eighth and Blanchard maintained 17th as Astuti retired with a fuel pump issue.
The final race of the weekend was another to feature a tight battle for the lead as Hillyer lost out after a slow exit at Turn 9 on the final lap dropped him from second to fourth. Smith continued his improving weekend to be seventh, Astuti recovered to 13th after starting from the back as a collision with a rival dropped Blanchard to 26th.
Hillyer exits the opening round of the Victorian Formula Ford Championship in a strong position, while Smith and Astuti are well placed in the national title.
The next round of the Australian Formula Ford Series is at Phillip Island as part of the Shannons Motorsport Australia Championships, while Winton hosts the second event of five on the Victorian Formula Ford Championship calendar.
“We had a great weekend with a lot of learning. A few mistakes too, but mainly good things have come out of it,” said Hillyer.
“Thanks to all of the team at Sonic for all they’ve done to help my progress.
“Fourth in the last race meant that it was a good weekend overall, so I’m looking forward to the rest of the Victorian state series.”
“I’ve been to Sandown plenty of times, working on my older brother Antonio’s car, but I’d never actually been around the track myself,” said Astuti.
“I learnt the track in practice on Friday, and qualifying early on Saturday morning, so getting to grips with the track was a task. But I thought I handled it well, qualifying P8.
“In the first race, I finished fifth, which showed some progress, but in the second race, I had a fuel pump problem, so I started 26th and ended up 13th in the last race, so it was a good hard charge. The only disappointment is that I didn’t make it to the top 10.”
“It was a bit of a disappointing weekend, and probably had a lot more pace that I showed,” said Smith.
“I got stuffed over with the red flag, so I qualified 14th. I slowed down too much in that session when the yellow flags were out, and it cost me.
“In Race 1, I drove to ninth, but it was deemed a non-race, and in Race 2, I finished eighth, but I was struggling getting off the corners and I only needed up seventh in the last race.
“The positives are that we got good points in the bank, so we’ll go to Phillip Island knowing that we have the pace. It’s not over yet.”
“It was a good start to the weekend. It was nice to have a car that was so well prepared by the team at Sonic,” said Blanchard.
“It’s a shame I couldn’t deliver the results that I wanted to. It was disappointing when I got turned around in the heat of the battle in the last race.
“The next round for the Vic Series is at Winton, so we’ll pick up the pieces and try and get a better result there.”