HE has dreams of racing in the pinnacle of world motor sport, Formula 1, and while that could easily be said of most 16-year-old boys, there aren’t many who have already been crowned Australian karting champions, or taken out the prestigious Asia Cup Super 6 open wheeler title.
On the back of his motor racing successes, which includes the 2014 junior clubman national karting title, NSW Central Coast teenager Drew Ridge found himself behind the wheel of a brand new race car in a brand new race series in Townsville recently, one of 12 drivers (from three race teams) to be part of the opening round of the first ever Australian Formula 4 Championship.
In an interview with Exhaust Notes Australia, Ridge said he knew he was in the mix for a potential seat in the new series following his five year kart racing career, and on the back of a podium at last year’s Asia Cup, and victory in the same international event this year.
“We thought we’d do the first [Australian Formula 4] event, and see how we went and how competitive we were,” he said.
Three races made up that first event, and Ridge came second (although he was awarded first for about two hours – after team mate Jordan Lloyd was stripped of victory and then re-instated) in the third of these races, and will now look to continue the next few rounds of the series, with a view to completing the entire championship.
Currently fifth after one round, Ridge’s racing is predominantly self-funded (his family has a long history in rallying and are providing significant financial and moral support), with the additional backing of a small group of sponsors (mostly NSW Central Coast companies, and the CAMS Foundation). It costs $170,000 to compete in the 2015 Australian Formula 4 championship.
The cars are powered by a 1.6L Ford Eco-Boost engine, in a full wings and slicks package running on super-soft tyres that allows the cars to be driven hard, and provide the excitement of open wheel racing, with minimal down force, which means plenty of passing as drivers come to grips with the unpredictable driving nature of these machines.
It’s that excitement, and that driving style that suits Ridge, who has aspirations to eventually race Formula 3 in Europe (one of the pinnacle categories on the way to Formula 1), ahead of a potential career in Formula 1, or the World Endurance Championship – the same race series Mark Webber currently drives for Porsche in.
Amusingly, the 16-year-old doesn’t have his NSW Provisional licence yet, an irony not lost on the talented young driver. “You race around the streets of Townsville at 200km/h, and you can’t come home and drive around by yourself,” he said.
Round 2 of the championship will be held at the Coates Hire Ipswich SuperSprint at Queensland Raceway this coming weekend, as part of the support for V8 Supercar championship series. Ridge will carry backing from existing sponsors The KDR Group, Catalyst Corporate Accounting, ACS Security Management, Brian Hilton Sydney Motor Group, and local radio station Star 104.5, as well as the CAMS Foundation and Trackside Motorsport.
Australian Formula 4 is a development single seat open wheel racing category for young drivers who are serious about a pathway to the top of motor sport. It is based on the new FIA international regulations for Formula 4 with a focus on keeping costs down and guaranteeing the highest possible safety standards. It’s built on four cornerstones: technical regulations, organisational standards, sporting regulations and marketing and communications.
Editor’s Note: It would be remiss of us not to include a paragraph on the controversy that has embroiled the launch of the Australian Formula 4 series. The category is operated and promoted by the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport, Australia’s governing body of motor racing.
At the same time as the series was being launched, the same governing body was undertaking a review of its sanctioning of the majority of motor sport categories which operate in Australia. A review that has seen it take away Australian Championship status from Formula Ford and Formula 3 – two categories previously bench marked as the local stepping stones to Europe, and potentially to Formula 1.