Callum Hedge clinched the Formula Regional Americas Championship Powered by Honda (FR Americas) title with a win in race one on Friday morning at Circuit of The Americas. After earning the pole at the Mission Foods Austin SpeedTour during qualifying, the New Zealander jumped out to an early lead and held on through a mid-race caution period to sail off to the checkered flag.
“It’s really cool to finally wrap [the championship] up after a really long season,” said Hedge in Victory Lane. “Ryan [Shehan] put up a real good fight. He’s a class driver; I’ve really enjoyed being teammates and racing him this year. It’s just really a big credit for the people who made it happen for me—Mark Pilcher and Steve Horne—without them looking and finding this series, I wouldn’t be able to go on and do the cool things that I’m going be able to do next year. So, it’s a big credit to them and the people who came on board and supported it—Tony Quinn Foundation, Giltrap Group and Tasman Motorsport Group.”
Shehan stayed in Kleck’s mirrors and the two had quite the battle for the next several laps. All of the back and forth, however, allowed Cooper Becklin (No. 19 Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport Ligier JS F3) to close in and join the fight. While the trio fought for the second, Hedge pulled away with a 7.492s advantage before debris on the track slowed the field with a full-course caution.
The race restarted just one lap later and Kleck made a run at the lead, taking the point position off of Turn 1 before Hedge snapped it back in Turn 2. Hedge pulled away and Kleck settled into second, while Shehan and Becklin engaged in a fight for the third position. Becklin took the position from Shehan and continued his forward progress, while Shehan fell in the running order after suffering a mechanical issue.
With a solid hold on third, Becklin kept his eyes forward and started chasing down Kleck for second. With less than five minutes to go, Becklin pulled side by side with Kleck through Turn 13 and completed the pass by the time they exited Turn 14. Becklin pulled away from Kleck, but Hedge proved to have too great of a gap to overcome.
As they crossed the line, Hedge led the field, followed by Becklin and Kleck.
“We got a really good start—we haven’t made too many good starts this year—but we finally got a good one,” said Hedge. “We put the green tires on this morning to give us the best opportunity to wrap it up in the first race, so that’s what we did. The car was really fast; a big thanks to the team at Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport.”
Oliver Westling makes a last-lap pass to take race two at COTA
Oliver Westling won a thrilling race two at the Mission Foods Austin SpeedTour weekend at Circuit of The Americas with a last-turn, last-lap pass. Marking his second victory in Formula Regional Americas Championship Powered by Honda (FR Americas) competition, Westling (No. 1 JENSEN Ligier JS F3) started the race from the second position and spent the entire race trailing the newly confirmed 2023 drivers’ champion, Callum Hedge (No. 17 Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport Ligier JS F3)—that is, right up until the final turn of the final lap. With a bold move diving deep into the final turn, Westling beat Hedge across the line by just 0.050s.
While they raced for the lead, other drivers found themselves jockeying for position too—teammates Manuel Roza (No. 12 Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport Ligier JS F3) and Ryan Shehan (No. 66 Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport Ligier JS F3) faced off for third, while it was Cole Kleck (No. 11 Speed Factory Ligier JS F3) versus Cooper Becklin (No. 19 Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport Ligier JS F3) battling for fifth.
With just over three minutes left on the clock, Hedge noticed a rear wheel bearing was starting to fail. He was forced to slow his pace, as Westling was able to push his fresh Hankook Tires to the limit, closing the gap from 1.609s to just 0.451s.
Tight on Hedge’s gearbox the entire final two laps, Westling pulled side by side in Turn 12 on the final lap. The two continued to swap positions all the way through Turn 15 when Hedge emerged the leader, but Westling wasn’t giving up that easy. He drove it in deep entering Turn 20 and nosed ahead for the lead as they crossed the finish line side by side.
“The last lap was tough,” said Westling following the race. “Callum was definitely hard to battle, and he won’t let up easy. I feel really good about [this win]; I pushed hard. I wasn’t going to give up or let up. I shot up to Turn 20 and just went for it. I saw him right next to me, and I saw his front wing, but I was like, ‘There’s no way he’s passing me.’ I’m really proud of our effort.”
FR Americas will contest one more round this weekend with lights out for race three scheduled at 9:20am ET Saturday. It will stream live on the SpeedTour TV YouTube Channel. Fans can follow @FRAmericas on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for updates, and use the Race Monitor app for live timing and scoring.