Chequered weather at Invercargill’s Teretonga Park resulted in race wins by Kiwi Callum Hedge and Austrian Charlie Wurz in the Castrol Toyota Formula Regional Oceania Championship category.
The second round of the 2023 Super Sprint MotorSport New Zealand Championship season, the world’s most southern FIA race circuit brings a new dynamic to the series – it’s often-changeable weather.
Following summer season weather for Saturday’s race action, Sunday’s forecast was for periods of rain. Not knowing how much or for how long left drivers and team engineers having to make strategic decisions on car setup and tyre choice.
The early afternoon race of 25 laps started under drying conditions – teams taking the gamble to start on a full wet tyre. Hedge won by a sizable 5.599sec margin over Ryan Sheehan while pole sitter Ryder Quinn finished third.
As conditions improved for the afternoon 30-lap race, Wurz won as he started, keeping Hedge behind him for his second win for the season.
“It has been really good. We have improved a lot – getting two wins and a pole position – we couldn’t be happier to be honest,” said Wurz.
The 17-year-old Austrian extends his lead for the overall title with Kiwi Callum Hedge now second and US driver Jacob Abel in third.
With two races on the schedule for the Toyota 86 category it was Dion Pitt who took the win in the morning 18-lap race. During a brief safety car period to retrieve a stranded Tim Leach there was a concertina collision involving three cars near the back of the field, resulting in the retirement of Thomas Mallard and Harry Townshend. The final 20-lap race was an exciting conclusion – run under clearing skies. Brock Gilchrist took the win from Pitt – and further extended his lead in the overall standings.
Using the changing weather to make a strategic call and use a semi-slick race tyre delivered an advantage to rally driver Hayden Paddon in the Southern Sprint racing.
Paddon turned on a masterful drive to take the morning race win by a margin of 3.81 seconds over Scott O’Donnell. As the clouds gathered and light rain began to fall, many of the higher horsepower cars struggled to maintain momentum under acceleration while Paddon steered to the chequered flag.
A handicap grid start for the afternoon finale again delivered a third race winner – this time it was Scott O’Donnell in the 996 Porsche who led the field home. Jordan Michaels finished second with Alex Crosbie third. Paddon took the overall weekend win based on cumulative results. Fellow rally driver Emma Gilmour finished all three races in the O’Donnell owned Mini Cooper – enjoying the opportunity for competitive seat time ahead of a season of international competition.
The series now makes the journey north for the third round in five consecutive weekends – to Feilding’s Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon. Along with the headlining Toyota series will be the 86 category and three local saloon car classes.