HEDGE BECOMES YOUNGEST F1600 CHAMP

Callum Hedge is the New Zealand Formula 1600 Championship title winner after the final round at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon over the weekend, in support of the New Zealand Grand Prix.

Qualifying fastest plus two race wins and a second place to rival Josh Bethune was more than enough to secure the title. At 14-years-of-age, he becomes the youngest F1600 title winner, superseding last season’s champion Liam Lawson who turned 15-years-old on the day he won the title. Hedge has also won the opportunity to attend the Mazda Road to Indy Scholarship Shootout in the USA later this year.

“It feels really good,” commented the young Aucklander. “A big thank you to the team, my sponsors, family and supporters. It has gone really well (today), similar to Taupo last weekend but we didn’t quite have the pace in the rain (race 3).”

Closest rival Josh Bethune, also from Auckland, finished just 30 points shy of Hedge. Both have battled for the title with Hedge taking the upper hand last weekend at Taupo where he was able to gain maximum points from that round.

At the Manfeild round, Bethune was just pipped by Hedge in qualifying by 0.005 seconds and then finished runner up in the first two races but went on to win the final feature race of the weekend.

“It’s good to have that winning experience again in a new car at a new track (for me),” commented Bethune. “We have certainly been learning about the new car since its debut in Taupo and found a whole new level of performance, particularly in the wet (race 3).”

Having campaigned a Mygale car in the first three rounds, Bethune’s team debuted a brand new 2017 Ray in the penultimate round last weekend. In winning the final feature race of the season, he picks up both the Morrie Smith Memorial Trophy and the Ron Frost Memorial Trophy.

With three different Classes competing in the championship, Hedge also won up the Class 1 title while Christchurch’s Robert Toshach won Class 2 from Southland’s Noel Atley. Nelson’s Matt Butchart won the Historic Class 3 from Joseph Oliver and Andy Downs.

Toshach, who has been competing for nearly 20 years in the category, was consistent in finishing every race and picked up his best result so far at a national level.

“Finishing every round makes a difference,” commented Toshach. “The North Island rounds have been very enjoyable. Taupo was new (to me) and challenging but really enjoyable. I’ll be there again next year and will have another go at the championship.”

It has been a top rookie year for Butchart having moved up from kartsport. He was the South Island Formula 1600 Scholarship winner that gave him the use of a Van Diemen RF03 Class 3 car for the season. His consistent winning in what proved to be a competitive season was reward for the faith put in him by the SI F1600 Club. He also finished sixth overall.

“It’s been an awesome first season,” commented Butchart. “We had not expected to win and fight for the national title and got a lot of help along the way. The club has been awesome with a great package and help. I’m really wrapped and couldn’t ask for a better outcome.”

Auckland’s Kurt Peterson was another consistent performer finishing third overall having made a return to the category after nine years away from the sport. He won his first race of the season at the third round at Teretonga Park Invercargill and then was never out of the top five in the following ten races.

Fourth overall was Toshach followed by Cantabrian Jack Noble-Adams. This is the second competitive season for Noble-Adams who missed the opening round in Christchurch but went on to finish seven times in the top five including a podium third at Taupo.

Most drivers and teams will now focus on competing in the final round of the South Island F1600 Championship with its sixth round at Timaru International Raceway 24 March 2018.

Overall Championship Points (Provisional) after 5/5 rounds (Top 15)

1 Callum Hedge 603
2 Josh Bethune 573
3 Kurt Peterson 455
4 Robert Toshach 377
5 Jack Noble-Adams 338
6 Matt Butchart 327
7 Ethan Anderson 288
8 Bailey Paterson 267
9 Joseph Oliver 253
10 Noel Atley 183
11 Andy Downs 169
12 Jordan Michels 156
13 Steve Edwards 146
14 Steve Heffernan 141
15 Simon Spencer-Bower 116