Wurz takes control, Hedge impresses: 4 takeaways from FROC Round 2 at Teretonga

The Formula Regional Oceania Championship (FROC) made its second stop of the season at the southernmost FIA–approved racetrack in the world: Teretonga Park in Invercargill. A rain-affected weekend set the stage for one driver to take control of the championship. Here are the four biggest takeaways from Round 2 of FROC.

By Jan Husmann

Wurz takes control

When Feeder Series spoke to Charlie Wurz prior to Round 2, he identified qualifying as his main area for improvement. This weekend, Wurz turned his words into actions, finishing second in Qualifying 1 and first in Qualifying 2.

This was the foundation for Wurz’s near perfect second round of FROC. He beat Callum Hedge at the start of Race 1 for his first victory of the championship and converted pole position in Race 3 into his second win of the weekend. In Race 2, he climbed from eighth on the grid to fourth by the chequered flag.

Wurz’s wins were by no means as dominant as the end results suggest. Hedge was putting pressure on him throughout Race 1 and 3, but the narrow Teretonga track made overtaking difficult. This was hardly a surprise for the Austrian driver, who had opted for a more aggressive qualifying setup.

By once again scoring more points than any of his competitors over the course of the weekend, Wurz has built a 24-point lead in the championship standings ahead of second-placed rival Hedge.

With nine races still to come, the championship is yet to be decided. However, if Wurz continues his run of mistake-free outings, he will be the favourite to take home the Chris Amon Trophy.

Hedge continues to impress

FROC has always been a terrific way for local Kiwi drivers to show off their talents against the best young drivers in the world. This year, the local driver that stands out from the crop is Callum Hedge.

Whilst an unlucky pushrod failure in Round 1 meant only fifth place in the standings, Hedge’s victory from seventh on the grid in a rain-affected Race 2 at Teretonga catapulted him into second place in the championship.

Hedge found more pace and grip than the competition in tricky conditions. He made several overtakes early in the race, before finishing over five seconds ahead of second-placed Ryan Shehan. Hedge’s fastest lap in Race 2 was also over a second faster than what any other driver managed to achieve.

Hedge’s pace in all races this weekend was impressive. The Kiwi driver was in contention for all three race wins, despite the track’s notoriety for its lack overtaking opportunities in dry conditions.

After racing in Formula Ford and one underwhelming round of the Formula Regional European Championship, financial limitations forced Hedge to turn to sports car racing in Australia.

Thanks to support from the Kiwi Driver Fund and winning the financial backing of the Tony Quinn Foundation, Hedge finds himself back in open wheel racing on the grid of FROC – and he is certainly making the most of this opportunity.

Mason and Abel continue to battle

Coming into this year’s championship, Josh Mason and Jacob Abel were two of the most experienced drivers on the grid.

Mason is well accustomed to the Formula 3 level, having spent the last two seasons in Euroformula Open where he won three races. He also took part in 62 British F3 races between 2018 and 2020.

On the other hand, Abel has gained his experience in the United States. He competed in F4 US; Formula Regional Americas; and Indy Pro 2000, the second tier of the Road to Indy. The American driver competed in his first season of Indy Lights in 2022 and is set to continue racing in the championship – now rebranded as Indy NXT – later this year.

Despite their racing résumés, Mason and Abel both struggled over the first two rounds of FROC. After crashing in testing at Highlands, Mason brought out the red flags in practice this weekend. The British driver later crashed with Abel in Race 1, resulting in Mason receiving a drive-through penalty for the contact.

Abel had more consistent pace than Mason, especially in qualifying. Over the course of the championship so far, he has converted this into two podiums claiming his second after an eventful Race 1 at Teretonga.

Mason and Abel often find each other on track during the races. This started with their crash last weekend and continued in Teretonga. In Race 1, Abel held off a quick Mason, denying the British driver his first podium of the season.

It looked like more of the same in Race 3 for Mason, but on Lap 7 he finally made the overtake to finish fourth, ahead of Abel. Mason showed great pace throughout the race, catching the leaders quickly and setting the fastest lap.

Abel’s consistency gives him the edge over Mason in the championship so far. Look for the two of them as they continue their battle when FROC returns this weekend at Manfeild.

Wet races are fun

Overtakes were hard to come by during the first two rounds of FROC in 2023. Narrow tracks, paired with Formula Regional cars notorious for making overtaking difficult on any circuit, meant that few drivers were able to pull off any successful moves.

The big exception to this was Race 2 of this weekend, when rain hit the track at Teretonga Park. The tricky conditions led to a larger pace gap between the drivers that could adapt to the weather and those that could not.

This difference in pace made overtakes more feasible and frequent. Ryan Shehan overtook Ryder Quinn for the lead in the last corner of lap nine, whilst Hedge, who had started from seventh, took first place from Shehan just three laps later. Championship leader Wurz also joined in on the fun, moving from eighth on the grid to an eventual fourth.

There was more action further back in the field, where David Morales and Tom McLennan came together on the opening lap. Morales, winner of Race 3 last weekend, was forced to retire, whilst McLennan finished three laps down on the leaders.

More rain is expected for next weekend’s round at Manfeild. For the young drivers in FROC, this presents another opportunity to gain experience adapting to changeable conditions whilst for the spectators, the unpredictable weather can produce exciting races. There are certainly plenty of things to look forward to in Round 3 of FROC. 

Header photo credit: Formula Regional Oceania Championship

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