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Sceats tops Taupo test ahead of final FR Oceania weekend

New Zealander Liam Sceats clocked the fastest time of the day in testing ahead of the final weekend of the 2023 Castrol Toyota Regional Formula Oceania Championship.

Championship contenders Charlie Wurz and Callum Hedge were second and fourth in the faster third half hour test session at the Taupo International Motorsport Park, leaving the chase to the title finely poised ahead of the weekend.

Windy conditions at the circuit – located close to one of the world’s largest extinct volcanoes – can deposit pumice dust onto the surface and make the track more abrasive and slippery than normal and today’s test day was one of those days.

The first session – topped by Irish rookie Adam Fitzgerald for Giles Motorsport – was peppered by two red flags. Chloe Chambers caused the first, lightly damaging her car’s nose, while a returning Tom McLennan went off and caused the second stoppage in his Kiwi Motorsport-run car.

With most running very old tyres for the session, times were relatively meaningless, but behind him Wurz was second fastest ahead of Ryan Shehan, Sceats and Louis Foster in fifth. Of note was Breanna Morris’s sixth place, which backed up her improved pace shown in Thursday’s unofficial testing at the track.

The second session was more meaningful with all of the drivers on either nearly new or new tyres and it was Louis Foster who managed the slippery conditions best, managing a 1 minute 24.918 lap which was the quickest of two days testing at the time and put him seven tenths ahead of David Morales, Sceats and James Penrose.

Of the championship contenders, Jacob Abel faired best, consistently amongst the top runners in the session and ending up fifth overall. Wurz was down in eighth with Callum Hedge further down the order in 12th.

Times were much closer in the third and final half hour session of the day, which was headed by both Hedge and Fitzgerald before Sceats – a real find in this championship – nailed the top time of the day with a 1 minute 24.729 second lap. He also clocked the second and third fastest laps of the session – all under 1 minute 25 seconds – putting him in great shape for the weekend.

Hedge popped up in second place as the seconds ticked down to the flag, just two tenths shy of Sceats and four ahead of Fitzgerald and Wurz, with Ryder Quinn fifth and New Zealand Grand Prix winner Laurens van Hoepen lurking in sixth.

Action on the final weekend of the championship begins on Saturday morning with qualifying for Race 1 – which will take place on Saturday afternoon. Sunday lunchtime will see Race 2 with a grid formed from a reverse of the top eight finishers from Race 1.

There will be a second qualifying session in the morning for the afternoon’s final race of the 2023 championship. The winner of that will receive the Denny Hulme Trophy, a unique trophy based on the trophy Denny himself received for winning the 1974 Argentine Grand Prix.

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