16-year-old Lachlan Mineeff has established himself as a true contender to the 2019 Australian Formula Ford Championship this weekend after a game-changing round at Sandown Raceway.
Pole position was wrestled between Zac Soutar and Cody Donald, the pair proving that it is possible to feature at the front of the field despite running as privateers. Soutar was the only driver to dip under the 15s with a rapid lap, clocked at 1:14.942, to take the Freem Racewear Pole Position award. The second row was filled with championship leader Angelo Mouzouris and CHE Racing pilot Lachlan Mineeff. Qualifying was not without drama, when on the very last lap of the session, Tom Sargent had a substantial moment at the exit of turn 6 which resulted in a heavy impact against the inside tyre wall. Sargent was taken to the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne for further check-ups and eventually spent the night there as a precaution, returning to the circuit on Sunday to the delight of the whole field. While his Mygale was repaired in time for race 2, the young talent didn't receive medical clearance to re-join the racing action on Sunday, crippling his Championship hopes.
Race one was a real thriller. The leading trio of Cody Donald, Zac Soutar and Angelo Mouzouris swapped the lead multiple times in the first seven laps. Before Soutar was beset with a mechanical failure just after crossing the start-finish line on lap 8. This set off a chain of events that sent the following cars scattering. An unlucky Mouzouris clipped the rear of Soutar's car, then the fence, leaving his damaged Mygale stranded on the front straight. As a result, the 10-lap race was shortened to an eight lapper and Cody Donald crossed the line in first position in front of Lachlan Mineeff and Victorian Formula Ford Championship leader Ben D'Alia. A post-race penalty was applied to Donald for a fuel irregularity breach which saw him disqualified, handing the race win to Lachlan Mineeff and elevating Ben Bargwanna to his first podium against the National regulars.
Race two was hailed as one of the best Formula Ford races of the season. The race was highlighted by the storming drives from Soutar and Donald, whom both started at the back of the grid after their race one woes. With three-wide racing for the lead down the back straight and some spectacular moves, the leading train was allowing Donald and Soutar to join the party. Soutar was in the lead by lap 6, while Donald's chances of a win vanished after an awkward tangle with Jay Hanson and Peter Fitzgerald into turn 1. As a result, Donald's Spectrum was stranded at turn 2, while Hanson and Fitzgerald drove their damaged cars to the chequered flag. Zac Soutar took advantage of the fighting behind him to seal the race win, in front of Synergy Motorsport's Cody Burcher. Jay Hanson crossed the line in third position in his Sonic Mygale, but received a 30-second penalty for the incident with Donald, handing Lachlan Mineeff another valuable podium.
The final race of the weekend saw a great recovery from Hanson and Donald, who had both started at the back of the grid due to their race two misfortunes. Donald demonstrated his ability to drive to the front and was once again challenging the leaders until an incident with Cody Burcher at turn 12 ended both of their weekends. Up until that point, Burcher had been leading the race and was looking good for the best result of his career. Soutar once again put himself in the right place at the right time to break the drafting pack behind and take another win, over two seconds clear of a hard-charging group lead by Jay Hanson. Angelo Mouzouris clawed his way back from his race one DNF to round out the podium for race three. The Sonic duo of Hanson and Mouzouris had a nail-biting battle with Lachlan Mineeff and Ben Bargwanna. Second and fifth were separated by just 7 tenths of a second when the chequered flag dropped on lap 12.
Thanks to a stream of finishes and consistency, Lachlan Mineeff secured the round win, giving him back-to-back round wins in the 2019 Australian Formula Ford Championship. State Series regulars Ben Bargwanna and Ben D'Alia are not eligible for National Championship points, but if they were, they would have placed second and third respectively. As a result, Zac Soutar and Spencer Ackermann joined Mineeff on the podium for round five of the 2019 Australian Formula Ford Championship.
Two non-podium finishers for the round are going home with a smile tonight, despite a not-so-perfect weekend. Angelo Mouzouris' steady recovery after his race one incident paid off, leaving Sandown at the top of the championship standings, while Zac Soutar delivered two dominant race victories and now sits second in the point score, just 24 points shy of the lead.
Spectrum privateer Conor Nicholson won the CHI Award for the weekend, locking in a fifth-place finish for the round, his best career result in the National Championship.
The penultimate round of the 2019 Australian Formula Ford Championship will take our drivers to Wakefield Park Raceway, where they will be joining the NSW Formula Ford Championship on September 6-8.
Championship standings - top 10
1st - Angelo Mouzouris - 203pts
2nd - Zac Soutar - 179pts
3rd - Lachlan Mineeff - 171pts
4th - Callum Hedge - 165pts
5th - Tom Sargent - 164pts
6th - Jay Hanson - 149pts
7th - Cody Burcher - 134pts
8th - Courtney Prince - 123pts
9th - Liam McLellan - 86pts
10th - Cody Donald - 84pts