From Formula Vee to V8 Supercars.
V8 Supercars continues to be the premier Australian race category with millions of followers across the country supported by regular broadcast on Foxtel, Kayo and Seven Sports. Given its long held place as Australia’s number one motorsport category, it comes as no surprise that many boys and girls dream of one day becoming a V8 Supercar driver, and often this journey starts out behind the wheel of a Formula Vee due to the category’s affordability, club atmosphere and ability to develop rookie drivers race craft.
Of the twenty-two drivers competing in the 2020 V8 Supercar grid, five progressed through Formula Vee in Australia or New Zealand. Included among the Formula Vee ranks are Bathurst 1000 winner and 2016 V8 Supercar Champion, Shane Van Gisbergen, Tickford Racing’s Cam Waters and teammate Jack Le Brocq, Kelly racing’s Andre Heimgartner and although not racing in 2020 (but close enough), former Garry Rogers Motorsport steerer Richie Stanaway.
On top of the current group of Formula Vee graduates, V8 Supercars, and before that the Australian Touring Car Series, has seen the likes of Colin Bond, John Bowe, John Blanchard, Larry Perkins, Cameron McConville and Jason Bargwanna.
Let’s take a look at the 2020 five, starting with Shane Van Gisbergen….
Shane Van Gisbergen
Van Gisbergen had his first drive of a Formula First (Vee) in 2004 as part of the 2004-05 season of the New Zealand Formula First Championship after winning the highly successful Speedsport Scholarship, a program that helps young driving talent get a start in the Formula First category and motorsport more broadly.
Throughout the 2004-05 Formula First season Van Gisbergen finished one out of every two races on the podium, placing him in contention for the Championship. Finishing 3rd overall after 24 races, Van Gisbergen demonstrated what he was capable of. To top things off Van Gisbergen was also named rookie of the year.
Fast forward to today, SVG has now competed in several endurance categories in addition to his Supercars career, including Australian GT and the Blancpain Endurance Series as well as completing multiple Bathurst 1000’s and 12 hours, however, it may come as some surprise that Van Gisbergen’s early enduro experience was actually in a Formula Vee as part of the annual one hour Formula First Endurance Race.
After the 2004-05 Formula First series, Van Gisbergen moved into other categories including Formula Ford and eventually V8 Supercars but he continued to return to compete in the one hour Formula First Enduro races for several years. Van Gisbergen competed in the New Zealand Formula First Enduro in 2007, 2008 and 2011 at a time when he was driving V8 Supercars for Stone Brothers Racing.
Jack Le Brocq
One of Australia’s most recent graduates of Formula Vee that has taken his position on the V8 Supercar grid is Jack Le Brocq. Le Brocq’s maiden Formula Vee season was in 2008 when he contested the Victorian State Formula Vee Championship driving a 1600cc Jacer F2K4, although JLB had been driving a Formula Vee for two years prior in sprint events until he was old enough for a circuit license. Throughout the 2008 season Le Brocq accumulated 159 points across seven races including one race win to finish ninth overall.
Jack Le Brocq again lined up in the Victorian Formula Vee Championship in 2009 and also contested the Formula Vee Australian Series. 2009 proved to me a much more successful year with Le Brocq finishing second overall in the Victorian Championship after accumulating ten podiums including four wins, one pole position and four fastest laps over a total of 13 races. In the highly competitive Australian Series Le Brocq finished a respectable seventh against some tough competition.
After leaving school Jack started working for Minda Motorsport run by Bruin Beasley and as an incentive was offered the opportunity to do a test session in a Formula Ford, but only after his first Formula Vee race win, this was a critical time for Le Brocq and the point at which his career in motorsport began to gain momentum.
Le Brocq went on to complete the CAMS rising star program and competed in various other categories before securing his seat with TEKNO in the Supercar Championship. In 2021 Jack Le Brocq lines up with Tickford Racing in the Truck Assist Ford Mustang along side another Formula Vee driver, Cam Waters.
Undoubtedly one of Australia’s stars, Cam Waters, has had a meteoric career that has seen him move from Karting to V8 Supercars all before his 23rd Birthday! Born in Mildura, Cam Waters started racing Karts in 2001 at the age of 7 and after wining several state and national championships Waters transitioned into Formula Vee at the age of 15.
Waters contested the 2009 Victorian State Formula Vee Championship behind the wheel of a Jacer F2K5 adorned with the red black and white colours of his sponsor ENZED – a sponsor he continues to work with to this day. After ten races, Waters finished seventh in the Championship before progressing Formula Ford followed by V8 Supercars where he first drove for Kelly Racing.
In 2020 Cam Waters finished the Supercars series in second place behind the wheel of the Tickford Racing Ford Mustang. During this most recent summer Waters also tried his hand in Sprint Car All Stars where he finished 10th in the B-Main failing to make it into the top 6 for the A-Main event.
Yet another driver hailing from New Zealand, Andre Heimgartner was one of the youngest ever drivers to join the V8 Supercars grid at just 19 years of age and he continues today at the mature age of 25 in the #7 NED Ford Mustang with Kelly Racing.
Rewind fourteen years and you would've found Heimgartner knocking around Kart tracks in New Zealand as he was preparing to make a move to his first open wheeler and real race car, the Formula First (Vee). Heimgartner started circuit racing at the age of 12 with his first outing being the 2007-08 New Zealand formula First Championship. Around this time Andre also competed in the 2008 Formula First one hour endure race, lining up against Shane Van Gisbergen and Richie Stanaway, and the Manfield Winter Series.
Throughout his time in Vee’s, Heimgartner didn’t blow any records away, in fact he finished 20th in the Championship and 14th in the Winter Series. But it wasn’t long until Heimgartner was turning heads after switching to Formula Ford where he became the youngest ever New Zealand Formula Ford Champion.
Since this time Andre Heimgartner has competed in various categories including Porsche Carrera Cup, GT Endurance and TCR. Heimgartner still has many years of racing ahead of him and he will no doubt continue to deliver after learning race craft all those years ago in a Formula Vee.
Originally starting out on the dirt tracks of motorcross and speedway, Richie Stanaway made the switch to Formula Vee in 2007 after winning the New Zealand Speedsport Scholarship with Sabre Motorsport competing in the New Zealand Formula First (Vee) Championship.
Like many before him, and several of his colleagues in the V8 Supercar series, Stanaway
completed a single Manfield Winter Series, One Hour Endurance and New Zealand Championship. Stanaway proved his ability early having won the one hour enduro against the likes of Van Gisbergen and Heimgartner and finished third overall in the 2007-08 New Zealand Formula First Championship after bagging 18 podiums from 24 races.
It wasn’t long before Stanaway moved into Formula Ford and jumped the ditch to compete in Australia. Richie Stanaway then went on to compete in other categories including Formula 3, Formula Renault, LMP1, GT and DTM, both competing and as a test driver with much of his driving done in Europe. 2016 saw Stenaway secure his first drive in a V8 Supercar with Super Black Racing, a move that would see Stannaway compete in the category for the next three years. In a somewhat surprising move Richie Stanaway walked away from racing somewhat disillusioned in 2019 following the tumultuous withdrawal of Garry Rogers Motorsport from the Supercars category and a string of poor porformance.
While he has retired from Supercars, we thought it was fair to highlight the accomplishments of this former Formula Vee driver proving again the value of Formula Vee in the development pathway of professional drivers.