ALONG with the trophy, the accolades and a place in history, the winner of this year’s Australian Formula Ford Championship will receive a prized test with Repco Supercars Championship team Dick Johnson Racing.
The recent announcement continues the long association Supercars squads have had with the junior open wheel category, with many of the championship’s stars having raced and won in Formula Ford on their way up the motorsport ladder.
When this year’s Formula Ford champ gets their chance to turn laps at Queensland Raceway in early 2022, they will be following in the footsteps of the first Formula Ford Champion to receive a test drive with DJR as part of their title prize three decades earlier: Cameron McConville.
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In 1992, DJR partnered with Shell and Auto Action magazine to offer a test drive to the most successful young driver in that year’s Formula Ford title.
The Shell/Auto Action Young Guns Award was open to any driver under the age of 25 that had not raced in the series prior to 1991, with the winner earning $1000 cash, a new Arai GP2 helmet from Van Diemen Australia, a new race suit from RPM Racewear – and a test drive at Lakeside in Dick Johnson’s #17 Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth.
The eligible drivers included Craig Lowndes, Steven Richards, Stephen White and future DJR driver Steven Ellery, but it was 18-year-old McConville who earned the award with a round to spare on his way to winning that year’s Formula Ford title.
“I was really underdone,” McConville told V8 Sleuth in 2019.
“I’d come out of a 1600cc Formula Ford, and then I was in a Shell Sierra at Lakeside on slicks – and it started to drizzle.
“I remember doing three laps and coming in because I was petrified!”
The persistent rain prompted the team to reschedule McConville’s test for a later date, coincidentally as DJR was deciding car #18’s driver line-up for Sandown and Bathurst.
Among the other drivers on the day were Sports Sedan champion Greg Crick, newly-crowned production car champ Terry Lewis, touring car hopeful Michael Preston, and then-Formula Holden frontrunner Mark Larkham.
Crick was eventually chosen to partner returning DJR enduro pilot Terry Shiel, while McConville impressed the team enough to be named as the entry’s third driver for Bathurst.
That year’s infamous late-race downpour ended his hopes of hopping in for the final stint, but the opportunity eventually led to McConville joining the team’s endurance race driving roster for 1993.