Graduates set the pace in the USA
Graduates from the 2023 Castrol Toyota FR Oceania championship graduates have been blazing the motorsport trail beyond New Zealand proving that the Kiwi series in January and February is arguably the best place to be if you are an aspiring single seater driver.
A good selection of the 2023 championship front runners have already been action in the United States and both Ryan Shehan and 2023 runner up Callum Hedge – running with Kiwi Motorsport in FR Americas – have got their Formula Regional Americas Championship campaigns off to flying starts.
At the season opener at Nola Motorsports Park in Louisiana, Shehan took back-to-back race wins before Hedge bagged his first win in the United States in the third and final race of the weekend. It left the two sitting first and second in the points table.
Jacob Abel and Louis Foster – both leading lights in the 2023 Castrol Toyota FR Oceania championship battle – have also been in action since the season concluded, completing the first round of Indy Nxt weekend at St. Petersburg.
Both had a major role in the race and its drama, with Foster starting from pole position and Abel looking like he would take the win before two caution periods limited running in the opening eight laps – the first brought out for a collision between Reece Gold and Enaam Ahmed, and the second caused by Jagger Jones running into the barriers.
The incidents put Abel back onto the tail of Christian Rasmussen, who had moved up to second behind Foster in the limited green flag running that had taken place. Rasmussen and Abel were battling side-by-side on the restart when Abel swept past both Rasmussen and Foster at Turn 1 to take the race lead.
Jacob spent the next laps growing his lead to almost three seconds over Foster but the CTFROC race winner slowly hauled his rival in and was under a second behind when the next caution period began. At the restart Foster put it all on the line trying to find a way past but ran wide at the first corner, losing two places. Things got worse for him soon afterwards when he clipped the wall and damaged his left rear.
Jamie Chadwick brought out the next caution flag after hitting the tyre barrier and Rasmussen pressured Abel enough at the restart to force Jacob into going wide at the first turn. This allowed Nolan Siegel through to the lead, though it was eventually Danial Frost who came through to win with Abel a solid third.
“It’s great to see our graduates performing well early in their 2023 seasons,” explained Nicolas Caillol
Manager of Motorsport for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing New Zealand.
“It’s always been a key objective of our championship to develop drivers and help them take the next step unpin performance and results. With 3,200 kms of mileage in a condensed five-week back-to-back championship, drivers have the opportunity to really broaden and sharpen their skills.
“With nine qualifying sessions, 15 starts and 15 races, the drivers competing in the Castrol Toyota FR Oceania Championship arrive at their first rounds in their 2023 championships with a clear advantage over other competitors who have only been testing. This, of course, means that they can score well in the early part of their seasons which could be crucial to them being crowned champion at the end of their campaign.”
The early release of championship dates follows the completion of the championship’s hugely successful first full international season post-Covid and its debut as an official FIA Formula Regional Championship.
For 2024, the series will break with its approach of recent years by starting in New Zealand’s North Island at the Taupo International Motorsport Park over the weekend of January 19-21. It will share a spectacular weekend of motorsport action at the venue with one of the North Island’s biggest historic motorsport events, the Historic GP meeting.
From there it will move to Manfeild – Circuit Chris Amon the following weekend (January 26-28) for the second round before visiting Hampton Downs for round three using the long international circuit layout from February 2-4.
The series then heads south to Christchurch for the penultimate weekend on February 9-11. The championship concludes over the weekend of February 16-18 with the 68th New Zealand Grand Prix to be held for the first time at the technical, highly challenging and spectacularly picturesque 4.1km Highlands Motorsport Park located in Cromwell in New Zealand’s South Island.