Trent Grubel has been crowned the inaugural Australian Formula Open champion following an intense title fight with year-long rival, Ryan How.
The exciting open wheel category concluded its successful opening campaign at the world-famous Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit last weekend, taking part of the Island Magic event hosted by the Phillip Island Auto Racing Club (PIARC).
Grubel held a 20-point lead ahead of the sixth and final round of the season, with How needing to clean-sweep the round to have any chance of nipping the title.
After claiming pole position in qualifying, the New South Welshman was unable to convert his advantage into a race win, finishing in second place behind his title rival.
The pressure was then further applied when How made it back-to-back wins in race two, where Grubel finished outside of the top two for only the second time this year.
How then ensured he could leave Phillip Island knowing he gave it everything after completing a clean sweep of the weekend’s races but would still ultimately fall short by just three points as Grubel’s fourth place finish was enough to take the honours.
The 29-year-old did most of his work in the early stages of the season, taking the first five wins of the year at Winton Raceway and Sydney Motorsport Park.
Meanwhile, How would go on to take victory in nine of the next 12 races, but consistent second place finishes ensured Grubel would not only stay in the fight, but keep his lead at the front intact.
His P3 and P4 on the island meant he finished the season with only three finishes outside the outright top two, an impressive feat for the deserving champion.
While the battle for outright honours proved exciting throughout the year, there were a couple of other class winners crowned after the completion of the final round.
Despite not making the trip down south, Matthew Roesler had totaled enough points to take AF02 honours ahead of Christopher Slusarski.
Slusarski needed a big haul of points to take the title away from Roesler and was on track after a class win in race one. However, he would go on to drop his first points of the season in race two, finishing second behind Paul Di Biase before retiring in race three.
It was a similar situation in the AF04 class, with class leaders Brodie Norris and Kristian Janev also not present for the round.
But in the end, eight class wins for Norris was more than enough to ensure he takes the series win ahead of his teammate Janev, while Ryan McMillan enjoyed a clean sweep of class wins in only his second round of the season.
Australian Formula Open will return to the Shannons SpeedSeries calendar three times in 2024, kicking off with the Sandown Raceway round on 9-11 February.