For Ardie Jonic, his debut in the CAMS PAYCE Australian Formula 4 Championship at Phillip Island was one he had long imagined from his hospital bed earlier in the year after being hit by a bike in February.
The speedway racer was looking to make the switch to circuit racing in 2018 with AGI Sport, who coincidentally also nurtured fellow speedway racer and 2017 Australian Formula 4 Champion Nick Rowe, but any plans for racing were immediately put on hold.
“I was walking around with my friends, just how you do… and a bike hit me,” Jonic said.
“I broke my tibia and fibula. For about two and a half months I was out of action for.”
The prospect of missing out on the opening round at Symmons Plains was naturally a disappointment.
“Yeah it was definitely pretty sad knowing that I’m missing out on the first round of racing because that’s experience I need,” Jonic said.
Whilst recovering, one of his motivations while enduring treatment and recovery was visualising a future race start aboard a Formula 4.
“I definitely did, I was most excited about the starts because that’s when all the drivers are most close and the most fierce racing kind of goes down,” Jonic said.
“That first lap is intense. There’s no doubt about that.
“When you’re sitting there on the start-line, waiting for the lights to turn on and then drop – it’s the most amazing feeling because… it’s just fully focused.
“You have to be 110 percent focused, and into that first corner watching where everybody else is, also trying to keep yourself focused on driving.”
That visualisation later became a reality at Phillip Island, where Jonic finally made his first – albeit delayed – steps to Australian Formula 4.
“This is my first race and I’m really happy with it,” Jonic said.
“I think I’ve done pretty well considering it’s my first race, and I’m overall happy with how the weekend’s started off.”
AGI Sport Team Principal Adam Gotch was full of praise for Jonic’s first race weekend with the team.
“Ardie has had an incredibly steep learning curve crossing over from dirt to bitumen. It never flustered him, he just listened to what our engineers had to say and steadily got faster with each lap,” Gotch said.
“We were blown away with his progression at Phillip Island to be honest.
“It’s one of the toughest circuits for a rookie to get to grips with. To be fighting with some of the other rookie drivers in all three races was incredibly impressive for a driver making his debut in the championship and at that circuit.”
Australian Formula 4, and for that matter the thrilling Phillip Island circuit, was a culture shock for the quietly spoken teenager. With an army of engineers at AGI Sport, the preparation is slightly different to a speedway experience that Jonic is used to.
“With speedway the setup is definitely a lot less challenging, because AGI puts a lot of effort into the setup of this,” Jonic said.
“You can really tell by just standing in the garage.
“Speedway, you just take your car off the trailer, get it scrutineered and race with it. That’s about it.”
With Jonic recovered and race fit once again, his next step is to further his race craft in Formula 4. Phillip Island was an encouraging start, with four points to his name in what was his first circuit race weekend.
“I’m hoping to be with the pack, and maybe a little bit competitive by the end of the year – or really competitive hopefully,” Jonic said.
“I’m fully focused on racing. I can’t wait to really push myself into this and learn as much as I can. I can’t wait.”
The CAMS PAYCE Australian Formula 4 Championship will next visit the Shannons Nationals at Winton on 1–2 September.