Sonic Motor Racing Services driver Hunter McElrea achieved his maiden Formula Ford round victory with a clean sweep of race wins at the opening round of the 2018 Australian Formula Ford Championship. Our season opener was held at Winton Motor Raceway in support of the newly formed Australian Motor Racing Series.
The 18-year-old New Zealander scored pole position and won all three races to claim overall round honours ahead of Sonic team mate Hamish Ribarits and Spectrum driver Liam McLellan.
The first qualifying session of the year saw an extremely tight margin at the top of the timesheets, with McElrea getting the better of McLellan by just 0.031 seconds to secure pole position. Behind them the Sonic Mygales of Hamish Ribarits, Angelo Mouzouris and Courtney Prince rounded out the top five.
In race one, McElrea and McLellan fought tooth and nail in a thrilling eight-lap encounter followed by Ribarits and Mouzouris, as BF Racing driver Cameron Shields climbed two positions to finish in the top five.
McLellan dropped back to fourth in race two as McElrea took his second consecutive race win ahead of Ribarits and Shields. In the process, Ribarits lowered the Formula Ford race lap record at Winton previously held by reigning champion Max Vidau, now reset to a 1:25.3543. Fastlane Racing driver Bart Horsten was moving forwards, coming from twelfth to sit inside the top ten, as did privateer Spectrum racer Ben D’Alia
In race three, McElrea held a comfortable margin over Ribarits to take his third straight race victory and round honours. Following a ten-second post-race penalty in race two, BF Racing’s Nathan Herne staged an impressive drive through the field from twelfth to third. The Queenslander entertained the spectators with an enthralling scrap with McLellan and Courtney Prince. Prince also staged an impressive fightback from fourteenth to be within striking distance of the podium on the final lap.
Reflecting on his maiden round victory, McElrea praised the efforts of his Sonic team on a fantastic result while still acknowledging the long term goal that awaits.
“This weekend couldn’t have gone any better with pole position and three race wins,” said McElrea.
“It’s great to have repaid the team at Sonic for their hard work this weekend. It’s important not to get too excited and to keep on working hard with the team and to continue these results."
The Sonic driver then cleared any doubts on his ultimate goal for the 2018 season: "last year was my first full national campaign and I learnt a lot, but this year we are here to win it.”
The young Kiwi has started his championship campaign brilliantly and is now leading the Australian Formula Ford Championship. Who will take it to the Sonic driver in Round 2?
The next round of the 2018 Australian Formula Ford Championship will be held at Queensland Raceway on April 20-22. This will also be the opening round of the three-round Australian Formula Ford 1600 Championship, for Kent engined cars.