Wurz turns tables on Hedge as bad luck strikes the Kiwi
A great drive by Charlie Wurz and a huge dose of bad luck for Callum Hedge put the Austrian back at the top of the championship points table after the second race at the New Zealand Grand Prix meeting at Hampton Downs.
This year’s New Zealand premier single seater championship is proving to be packed with twists and turns and the reverse grid second race ahead of the afternoon’s 67th NZ GP only added to the excitement.
Even before the start there was plenty of drama. As Saturday winner Kaleb Ngatoa headed to the pit lane to start at the back and guarantee safe passage to the GP, championship leader Callum Hedge’s car came to a halt on the run up to the grid.
The start was delayed but there simply wasn’t time to get the visibly gutted Hedge out in time for the start. The mechanics at M2 Competition poured over the car, eventually diagnosing a sick ECU, quickly changing it and sending Hedge out for what turned out to be an extended test run.
That was a major stroke of good fortune for Wurz, but he was determined to deliver a maximum points haul in the race and had to fight all the way from a charging Jacob Abel, who was never more than a few metres behind him for the entire 20 laps. Running tyres damaged in his wild Saturday race, the Austrian not only keep Abel at bay, but also a charging pack behind him who all had more outright pace.
A relieved Wurz was delighted to take maximum points and retake the lead in the chase for the title.
“I think I destroyed the tyres yesterday and I was really struggling for pace,” he said. “I had to change my braking points sometimes 40 metres earlier. We will have to look at the pace but it’s more likely from the tyres I think.
“’I’m looking forward to the Grand Prix later today. Hopefully we’ll get a strong start and fight for the podium positions.”
At the start Wurz led away from a feisty Abel with Brendon Leitch and Chris Van de Drift in hot pursuit. Further back Liam Sceats took to the grass but survived as the field dived into the first turn.
Just as it looked like things would settle down, Billy Frazer came to a standstill after contact with Bree Morris which brought out a full course yellow even before the first lap had been completed.
The race restarted after five laps and settled down into a lesson in defence from Wurz and a lesson in attack from both van Hoepen and Louis Foster, who started at the back after problems on Saturday.
As the laps counted down, the cars queued up behind Charlie with Abel the most impatient. van Hoepen fought back from seventh on the grid, passing Adam Fitzgerald, Chris van Der Drift and Brendon Leitch on his way to the final podium place.
Behind the top three Leitch came home a solid fourth and veteran Chris van Der Drift bagged another top five result after making significant changes to his car overnight. Fitzgerald and Sceats were next up while Foster’s charge took him to eighth and showed he’ll be a force in the big one late on Sunday.
Josh Mason and David Morales completed the top ten. The teams now have relatively little time to turn around the cars and turned drivers ahead of the 28 laps that will decide the winner of the 67th New Zealand Grand Prix.