“It’s just like being drafted from the VFL up to the AFL for a match, so it’s a real dream come true,” Randle said.
“I’m very excited to be making my main game Supercars Championship debut, and I’ve just got to thank everyone from Tickford Racing who’s helped put this together over the past couple months.
“It’s been a dream of mine since I was a kid to race in Supercars, and it’s going to be super awesome to finally drive a Mustang Supercar on my own for a round at Tailem Bend in less than a fortnight.”
Randle, who snagged his maiden Super2 race win at Ipswich last month, will hit the track at Winton on Tuesday alongside the four other Tickford drivers in an in-season test day. Also at the Victorian circuit will be Kelly Racing, Walkinshaw Andretti United and Team CoolDrive.
Tickford boss Tim Edwards suggested Randle can raise a few eyebrows next week against the championship’s best, with the young gun expected to be confirmed as Holdsworth’s co-driver for the 2019 enduros in the coming weeks.
“We’ve been working hard for a while on getting Tom a crack in the main game, so we’re happy to finally roll it out for Tailem Bend.” Edwards said.
“We’re very grateful to Scandia and excited to see them step up their involvement to make this happen.
“Tom’s been a great addition to the team and obviously is really coming along as a driver, so we’re looking forward to getting him in a Mustang to race against the main game boys.
“We’re throwing him in the deep end, so we’re keeping our expectations in check, but we’re eager to see how he goes.”
Shane van Gisbergen, who will be partnered in the enduros by three-time Bathurst winner Garth Tander, carried over the pace at Queensland Raceway a day later and narrowly missed victory to season pacesetter Scott McLaughlin.
Lowndes said the change to the linear spring has hampered the factory Holden squad’s development this season, and acknowledged how well the new-for-2019 Ford Mustang has performed. However, he suggested the Holden squad is beginning to peak at the right time.
“They’re getting better. There’s no doubt about that,” Lowndes said of Triple Eight.
“It’s taken them a long time to get their heads around the change to the linear spring.
“People ask me why that is, well we spent eight years with the car designing around the duel spring, uprights, roll bars, roll centres, everything.
“Everything and anything we used to make the dual spring work, it’s taken everything back to scratch.
“It’s taken time for everything to unravel, but I think they’ve done a great job. The next meetings at Tailem Bend and New Zealand will be a telling factor to whether those improvements will continue.
“Knowing the team, and the way they operate, they’re definitely not going to stand still. They’re evolving and changing the car at every meeting.
“The last test day we did was very important for them as a team to unlock a few things, to try some unusual things that they’ve been wanting to try but wouldn’t dare try at a race weekend.”
As for the driver himself, Lowndes will jump in for the final co-driver session at the OTR SuperSprint next week.
Apart from the other co-driver sessions at Symmons Plains and Winton, the veteran’s only race time in 2019 came in February’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour with Whincup and van Gisbergen in a Triple Eight Mercedes.
The Red Bull Holdens were brilliant at The Bend Motorsport Park 12 months ago, and Lowndes believes the co-driver session will provide him with a great chance to help the team remain on an upward trend.
“The team itself is confident they’ve found some things, but whether that translates into car speed at all tracks, that’s another matter,” he said.
“Every track’s different, and Tailem Bend will be a good challenge, they were strong there last year but the cars have evolved.
“Hopefully the co-driving session will be dry so I can give them some input and direction on where they need to be.
“It’s only going to be a matter of time if the consistency and speed is going to keep coming.”
Chaz Mostert is a name well entrenched in silly season rumours, and the Tickford Racing driver has become used to the attention regarding his future.
The exhaustive nature of the silly season keeps media and fans snapping at drivers’ heels, wanting to know who’s going where and who’s doing what.
Previously coy on his future, Mostert has become acquainted with the process over the last few months — he is off-contract at season’s end and has been linked to a number of teams, including Shell V-Power Racing and Walkinshaw Andretti United.
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The 27-year-old brought up 50 career podiums at the last round at Ipswich, but has recorded just the solitary victory from nine podium appearances in 2019, coming at Albert Park.
Mostert is one of the most popular drivers on the grid, and has only raced Fords in Supercars. With a combined 167,000 followers across his Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, Mostert has great support.
Many fans back brands, while others back drivers. Very few fans wouldn’t have Mostert down as a favourite, and the driver himself acknowledged the significance of his future in racing.
Ipswich: How it happened
“As a driver, no doubt all the fans want to know what you’re doing. They want to know what you were doing yesterday,” he said.
“Sometimes these things have long processes, if it’s working out if you’re staying or going.
“It’ll be a decision that I’ll have to work out in time. There are a lot of factors I have to go through.
“At the moment, I just have to keep doing what I’m doing here in the Supercheap Auto Mustang.
“If we keeping making gains, it’ll all be sweet. We’ll see what happens.”
Mostert is just 20 points behind third-placed Shane van Gisbergen in the drivers’ championship, but lies a whopping 540 points down on runaway leader McLaughlin.
However, with the season of endurance approaching, Mostert will again rely on co-driver James Moffat to aid his title push. The pair linked up for solid finishes at Sandown (10th), Bathurst (4th) and the Gold Coast (1st) 12 months ago. With Bathurst kicking off the 2019 Enduro Cup, the pressure’s on to execute at the first opportunity and cut the deficit to the leaders.
While the championship may appear out of reach, Mostert is hoping to capitalise on his team’s solid form in the year’s longest races.
“It’s been a pretty good year. A lot of trophies taken back to Tickford HQ, but not many with the big ‘number one’ on them,” he said.
“It’s been a great year, but it hasn’t been a fantastic year.
“We’ve been chipping away, we’ve been trying to make some progress, but there’s another Mustang team out there doing a really fantastic job at the moment.
“We’re getting to the real big money races at the end of the year now, big points up for grabs at the enduros, obviously if you can put your name on the Bathurst trophy, it can outweigh not making the championship what you want it to.”
For many, it was a call Red Bull had to make at some point. Max Verstappen was crushing Gasly, with the Dutchman carrying the team through the opening half of the season.
For others, it provides a bleak future for Gasly who, in the cutthroat nature of F1, now faces an even greater test to remain in the sport at all.
What changed in just eight days for Red Bull?
Monday’s news carries shock value considering Red Bull boss Christian Horner said — just over a week ago in Hungary — it was the team’s “intention” to leave Gasly in the car until the end of 2019. He also said Gasly needs to “get it together”.
However, one of the great luxuries for Red Bull is that they have two teams — and four contracted drivers — on the grid. A mid-season driver change is always a surprise, but when it comes to Red Bull, the shock is somewhat dimmed. They have freedom to do as they please.
It was Verstappen that was vaulted into the senior team as a teenager in 2016 at the expense of Daniil Kvyat, whose string of early-season high-profile incidents became too glaring an issue. It affected Kvyat greatly, who at the back end of the 2017 season, was replaced in races by Gasly and Brendon Hartley at Toro Rosso.
Gasly and Hartley then formed the Toro Rosso line-up in 2018, before the former was promoted following Daniel Ricciardo’s exit, and the latter was axed. In came Albon and Kvyat, who returned from a one-year hiatus.
Just how badly was Gasly travelling?
Gasly impressed at Toro Rosso in 2018. He finished fourth in Bahrain — just his second race of the season — and scored 29 points overall. Hartley, meanwhile, managed just four points.
Gasly was a driver seemingly worthy of the Red Bull seat, and certainly would have arrived to season 2019 expecting to compete not just with Verstappen, but Mercedes and Ferrari.
However, after 12 races, Gasly is just five points ahead of Carlos Sainz, who has wildly impressed for McLaren.
Is Verstappen really in a class of his own? Perhaps — he has scored 181 points, and has taken two wins and three other podiums, to sit just seven points behind Valtteri Bottas in the dominant Mercedes.
Ricciardo remaining confident
However, the numbers for Gasly this season make for ghastly reading. He has managed a third of Verstappen’s points haul, and a season-best finish of fourth at Silverstone came as Verstappen was wiped out by Sebastian Vettel.
Verstappen has scored 81 points from his last four races. Gasly has scored 63 points all season. Go figure.
Kvyat rebuilt himself to win back an F1 seat, and has been strong this season, with his Germany podium a clear highlight. Gasly can use the Russian as inspiration as he returns to Toro Rosso, but he’ll need to quickly acquaint himself with his former surroundings should he keep his F1 dream alive.
Red Bull would have been reluctant to promote Kvyat considering the open wounds from 2016, and Gasly’s form was far too poor to obviously keep him in the drive.
Name a current junior Red Bull driver outside of F1 that could be vaulted in alongside Verstappen. It simply wouldn’t happen, at least overnight, and the senior team can’t rest on its laurels as they pursue Ferrari.
So, there is Albon, a 23-year-old British-born Thai with 12 races under his belt. He has also faced adversity, being dropped from Red Bull’s driver programme in 2012. However, he battled back to express his potential, and won his F1 drive after engaging in a ding-dong Formula 2 championship battle with fellow F1 rookies George Russell and Lando Norris.
Albon’s 2019 has been equally as impressive, with drives in China and Germany — where he fought through from the rear in tough conditions — typifying his fighting spirit. Perhaps minds were made up at Red Bull in Germany once Gasly crashed into Albon in the race, just two days after Gasly binned it in practice.
Is it a risk worth taking?
Red Bull are just 44 points behind Ferrari in the fight for second in the constructors’ championship. Considering the monetary benefits — among others — of constructors’ rankings, every point counts.
Being usurped by a driver from a team outside the ‘Big Three’ also isn’t not an option for Red Bull. However, Sainz’s form is so good, that it was inevitable he would eat Gasly alive. In hindsight, Red Bull would have loved a 2019-version Sainz alongside Verstappen, but that can’t happen either.
However, something had to give — and for Red Bull, it was Gasly. A genuine risk lies with Albon being unable to make the most of his opportunity, as well as Gasly completely falling from grace and losing his Toro Rosso drive at season’s end.
Both drivers will be rusty – for Red Bull, Albon will also need time in the simulator, considering the first time he’ll drive the RB15 will be at the daunting Spa-Francorchamps circuit.