Roman Bilinski took a thrilling win from 14th on the grid in Formula Regional Oceania’s first race at Hampton Downs last weekend, but victory could have gone to Liam Sceats.
On lap one Sceats ran in third, while Bilinski rose to sixth. Sceats was in second on lap three, but Bilinski was already right behind. Two laps later Bilinski led, but the gap he built disappeared as rain arrived.
Sceats was alongside him when the safety car was called due to the rainfall, and the subsequent red flags meant Bilinski won.
“It was not easy at all!” was Bilinski’s description of charging up the order. “What a race. I can’t believe it. The strategy was perfect, going out on the slicks. I got enough temperature in the tyres [and also some confidence].”
“Liam was so, so fast, and he didn’t make it easy on the last couple of laps. He was really putting the pressure on, and I think the red flag and safety car actually saved me because he was a lot faster than me in the race.”
Victory was an “amazing” feeling for Bilinski, and an apology to his M2 Competition team after a qualifying spin left him starting 14th: “We had a really difficult quali from my side, and this is my apology to the team and I hope they accept it.”
The points leader wants to learn from that mistake and team-mate Sceats’ race pace, and thinks his current form “will give me some confidence going back to [FRegional] Europe”.
He added: “I made a bet with Liam at the start of the race that [the best tyre] will be slicks, so now he owes me a couple of drinks.”
Although the race neutralisation cost him a potential win, Sceats was “still pleased with P2”.
“That lap [the rain] got a lot worse. When I saw the safety car lights we were side-by-side, and fair play to him, he charged through the field. It was a great race,” he said. “Thinking about turn one, turn two, if I did it differently I would’ve been able to get past.”
He added: “It was a very enjoyable race. Probably my favourite in the last three seasons I’ve done [racing FRegional cars]. Hats off to Roman, he did an awesome job. To come through the field that quickly at the start of the race. Mid-race to end, I definitely thought I had more of a pace advantage and it kind of showed as we chipped away. Then it started raining. And I guess I just had more confidence. The right call to stop the race because one more lap and it would’ve been dangerous.”
Sceats is Bilinski’s title rival, and noted the latter is “very experienced” on the Pirelli tyres so found it “satisfying to be that close” to victory.
“But I know within me we can be much better than that and be quicker and beat him. So hopefully the rest of this championship, it turns like that.”