New Zealander Callum Hedge got his title challenge for the 2023 Castrol Toyota Formula Regional Oceania Championship back on track with a dominant performance in qualifying to secure pole position for the first race of the weekend at Teretonga Park.
In cold, calm but dry conditions – which was another change after the previous two days’ hot sun then wind and rain – Hedge strung together an unbeatable series of laps towards the end of the 15 minute session.
His last effort was his best after he optimised the cool down lap strategy better than the rest of the field. When he pushed in the dying moments, he was able to visibly lean on his car through the fast middle right-left-right combination and his 53.513 second lap proved unbeatable.
It was the fastest ever qualifying lap by the Toyota FT-60 and beat – by two one hundredths of a second – the time set by Australian Jackson Walls when the series last visited the Invercargill circuit in 2020 before the pandemic.
“It’s easier to do longer runs here where the lap is short, so you can definitely get into a rhythm and focus on not one lap but a few more,” said Hedge afterwards. “The car was strong and we’re set up well for the weekend. I’m looking forward to the races and of course it’s a big advantage here starting from pole position.”
Joining him on the front row after yet another impressive session will be Austrian Charlie Wurz, who tracked Hedge throughout the session and ran the a similar series of laps but couldn’t quite better the targets laid down by his M2 Competition team mate.
United States rising star Jacob Abel took an impressive third for Kiwi Motorsport, backing up his solid performance in Friday testing. Abel has former Indycar racer Spencer Pigot in his camp from this weekend in New Zealand and looked to have made a significant step up as a result. A second row start was not a major surprise after his testing form.
Brit Josh Mason made it an all Kiwi motorsport second row with an impressive fourth overall and was another driver who popped up in the top times late in the session. His best lap was just a thousandth of a second shy of his team mate.
The third row will be an all-Kiwi line up with Highlands race winner James Penrose lining up a solid fifth and Liam Sceats who took sixth. The pair had sat in the top four for much of the session.
Highlands feature race winner David Morales wasn’t quite on the pace he had been on at the first round and to make a late charge to secure a row four starting spot, edging the ever-improving Giles Motorsport’s Ryan Shehan for eighth in the dying moments. That lap also pushed Ryder Quinn down a row and he will line up ninth ahead of Chloe Chambers for Giles Motorsport.
The first race of the weekend will take place this afternoon. There will be a further qualifying session – for the Spirit of a Nation Cup – on Sunday morning as well as race two and the afternoon’s big feature race.
Round Two – Qualifying 1 results:
Main image: Toyota Gazoo Racing NZ