Wildcard Randle's advantage in main game return

  • Repco Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 7 Days ago
  • By James Pavey

Thomas Randle will return to the main game for this weekend’s OTR SuperSprint for his first solo Supercars start in nearly two years.

The 2020 Dunlop Super2 Series winner will be one of two wildcards to hit Tailem Bend this weekend alongside Walkinshaw Andretti United’s Kurt Kostecki.

This weekend’s event won’t be a first for Randle, who made his main game debut aboard a Scandia-backed Tickford Racing Mustang in August 2019.

Since then, he has scored a Sandown 500 podium, a Super2 title, and recently completed a strong run to second in the 2021 S5000 season.

WATCH: RANDLE’S MAIN GAME RACE DEBUT

However, the seeds were sewn for Randle’s burgeoning reputation at The Bend 18 months ago, with the 25-year-old impressing with strong one-lap and race pace, right from his first day on track.

“I was pretty blown away to get into the top 10 in Practice 2,” he said.

“Back then, if you were in the top 10 in practice, you’d go straight into Q2.

“I was pretty happy with the two 17th places; I was turned around at the start, so I was happy to recover.

Randle on track at The Bend in 2019

“I think I was 14th overall for the round, but the Tailem event was also later in the year, whereas now, it’s earlier, so hopefully that gives me an advantage knowing that everyone hasn’t done eight or nine rounds.

“My expectations aren’t too dissimilar to what they were back in 2019. I just want to do the best job I can for the team and make sure I’m performing to the best of my ability, and make sure I’m extracting the most out of the car.

“I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself or where I finish. It will be what it will be on the day, and we’ll take it as it comes.

“I’m looking forward to the many sets of new tyres we’ll get!”

Randle leads James Courtney at Tailem Bend

Randle will campaign a Castrol-backed Mustang at this weekend’s event, as well as the Merlin Darwin Triple Crown and Bunnings Trade Perth SuperNight.

Where he took the reins of an older-model chassis for his 2019 wildcard, Randle this weekend steps into a car with strong pedigree; one his contributed to alongside Lee Holdsworth at Sandown in 2019.

“The wildcard start I did two years ago, that was in an FG X chassis that was converted to a Mustang,” he explained.

“My Super2 car was stripped of all its running gear and put in the main game car for that weekend.

WATCH: 2019 SANDOWN 500 HIGHLIGHTS

“Now, the car I’m driving is a proven Mustang racing car, it ran in the championship the last two seasons.

“The last time I raced it, I was on the podium at Sandown. But I’ve now got more mileage and knowledge in Supercars. I also won the Super2 title last year and I also did Bathurst last year.

“I feel like I should be a more experienced driver anyway, and I feel fortunate that I’ve raced at Tailem Bend a few times now.

“We should hit the ground running there, and it’s a good way to start the three wildcard events I’ll run.”

Randle took to Winton a fortnight ago to test the car, with Cameron Waters present to lend a hand and provide crucial feedback.

"I feel like I should be a more experienced driver"

Waters is better-placed than any active main game driver to provide the secrets to cracking The Bend; last September, Waters won the most recent championship race at the The Bend.

To date, it remains Ford’s most recent win.

“I took away a lot of positives from the Winton test,” Randle said.

“I felt really confident in the car, and it was great to have Cam there; he had a few runs in there and provided some validity in regards to what I was feeling.

WATCH: RANDLE TESTS AT WINTON

“The grip levels can change quite a lot at Winton, so to have him there on the day and hop in the car too, I felt really comfortable.”

Randle’s three wildcard starts could also resemble an audition for a 2022 seat, with next year’s grid to possibly expand to 26 entries.

However, for Randle, this weekend’s event marks another opportunity to prove his worth, not only to himself, but to Tickford, which has already locked him in for a co-drive for October’s Bathurst 1000.

“Every time you get in a car, people are watching,” he said.

“I’m not worried about that. Like I said, as long as I do the best job I can, there’ll be no pressure.

Randle scored a 2019 Sandown podium in the car he'll campaign this weekend

“There’s always people, and the team will be watching with a keen interest, but I’m one of the team’s four entries for these events.

“You’re always auditioning when you hop in a race car, to be honest.

“They’ll see all the data, they’ll see how I’m travelling. If I’m performing to the best of my ability, that’s the best I can ask for.”

Randle will make his main game return at this weekend’s OTR SuperSprint. Tickets are on sale now.

The event will be broadcast live on Foxtel and will be streamed on Kayo with highlights on 7 and 7 Plus.

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