As far as breakthrough campaigns go, Callum Hedge has set the benchmark high, with the talented Kiwi 20-year-old winning trophies on two different continents and setting himself on a pathway to success.
In addition to finishing as runner-up in the Castrol Toyota Formula Regional Oceania Championship in February, Hedge claimed the Porsche Carrera Cup Australia title despite missing a round to focus on his Formula Regional Americas Championship, which he also won.
A calendar clash between the Carrera Cup’s Bathurst event and the penultimate round of the Formula Regional Americas Championship left the then-teenager with a difficult decision regarding where his allegiances lay.
A prize purse of US$600,000 in the United States was too good an opportunity to pass up, and he backed up his choice on the track, taking two wins at Virginia International Raceway to take a 51-point lead into the final round.
He converted that lead into a championship victory in the opening race at the Circuit of the Americas before further stamping his authority on the field in the finale.
Hedge won five of the six rounds of the Formula Regional Americas Championship, claiming 13 of the 18 races and setting the fastest lap in 10. The points gap to closest rival Ryan Shehan sat at 105 points behind at the end of the season.
Just three weeks later, he would repeat the dose in the Carrera Cup, winning his second international series of the year by prevailing over Jackson Walls in the season’s final race.
Hedge’s Carrera Cup run began with a pair of podiums in Melbourne, while Walls topped the round, along with Max Vidau, to take the lead into Round 2 at Hidden Valley Raceway.
Two more podiums in that round and two in Townsville put the Aucklander at the top end of the table.
Domination at The Bend followed, with the Kiwi winning all three races to take the championship lead at the season’s mid-point. That lead grew at Sandown, with a podium and another victory extending the gap over Walls to 116 points, the Australian’s haul hurt by a Race 2 DNF.
Enter the Bathurst round, with Walls looking to make the most of the opportunity in Hedge’s absence.
A star-studded field for the event meant he was unable to challenge the podium, with star call-ups for the event Harry King, Harri Jones and Chris van der Drift sweeping the podium in all three races, in that order, seeing Hedge retain the lead.
Victory in the opener in Surfers Paradise swung the pendulum further in his favour, but results of 10th and 6th in races 2 and 3 put his rival atop the table by 21 points entering the final round at Adelaide.
Hedge qualified on the pole for the opener and came home in second behind Dale Wood, winning the 2023 Enduro Cup. Walls finished one spot behind, in third.
The front two finished in the same order in race 2, while Walls came home fourth, the gap now sitting at just two points and setting up a ‘winner-take-all’ finale on the unforgiving street circuit.
There was immediate chaos in the finale, with both contenders running over the opening chicane and Walls spinning out in a multi-car collision. Hedge sustained damage from the kerb hop, but with his rival eliminated, he only needed to finish to claim the crown.
Nursing his prized ‘Larry’, he cruised home for seventh to win the title by 30 points.
His 2023 Carrera Cup season featured 14 podiums, including 5 victories. Having led the championship after Sandown, he was also nominated for the Porsche Junior Shootout in Europe, going up against the world’s best to compete for a space on the grid in the 2024 Porsche Supercup.
Results from the Shootout are yet to be announced.
A new chapter begins in Indy NXT in 2024 for the talented Kiwi, and with the form shown in 2023, there’s no telling what the season could bring.
The ‘Best of 2023’ series will revisit ten of Velocity News’s most viewed pieces from an incredible year of Kiwis competing abroad.
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