CareVets Scholarship winner Callum Hedge has converted pole position into victory in the opening Toyota 86 Championship race of the weekend at Highlands Motorsport Park.
It wasn't a simple win for Hedge either, having lost a spot off the race start. But after emerging on top after an extended battle with Jaden Ransley, the 15-year-old was able to cruise to victory.
From the second row of grid Peter Vodanovich appeared to have the best start, but Ransley and Hedge blocked any potential routes. Instead, Ransley took the lead into the bus-stop, Hedge filing into second off the start with Vodanovich, Arran Crighton and Connor Adam in tow.
A moment over the bridge between Crighton and Adam saw the top three momentarily break away, although soon enough Crighton's pace bought him back into the battle.
In fact, as the dice for first endured, they all began to slow each other down. This led Adam and Jordan Baldwin back into the equation for a six-way dice for first.
Hedge finally got back by Ransley. After filling both wing mirrors and kicking up dust for a couple of laps, Hedge made the pass on the run to the turn 15 at the bridge; a great run out of the previous hairpin forcing Ransley to concede the spot. And Hedge immediately bolted to take the race win by 2.2 seconds in the end.
Behind him, Ransley was fading with some kind of issue. He was passed by Vodanovich, then by Crighton, Baldwin, and Adam before peeling off into pit-lane at the end of lap four. He rejoined the race shortly afterwards, but was down the order.
It left Vodanovich in second with over a second in hand over Crighton. The remainder of the race was at odds to the beginning, as the top five raced on unchanged for the rest of the race. The closest battle among the leaders was Crighton creeping up to the back bumper of Vodanovich, but ultimately neither would swap paint or positions in the dying laps.
Brock Gilchrist, Campbell Stewart, Jacob Cranston, Connor Davison and Kaleb Ngatoa completed the top 10. Ransley meanwhile, after being forced into the pits to rectify his woes, ended up finishing 15th.
The Miles Toyota-backed driver will hope to rebound tomorrow when the series returns for the second and third race of the weekend.
Race 1 result – Round 3 Highlands Motorsport Park
1. Callum Hedge - CareVets NZ Ltd
2. Peter Vodanovich - CMC Markets/MacClure's ITM
3. Arran Crighton - CareVets NZ Ltd
4. Jordan Baldwin - Intermach NZ/Carters Tyres
5. Connor Adam - Post Haste/Weigh Northland
6. Brock Gilchrist - NEXUS Logistics/Giltrap Group
7. Jacob Cranston - Best Bars/Vista Lite
8. Connor Davison - Hampton Downs/Highlands Park
9. Campbell Stewart - NZPGS/Hydraulink
10. Kaleb Ngatoa - JJ Wallers/Capture Signs
11. Justin Allen - Battery Town/Thunder Adventure
12. Sam Wright - Tony Richards Toyota/Premier
13. Leo Bult - North Shore Toyota
14. Mitch Hughes - Gilpin Cartage Contractors
15. Jaden Ransley - Miles Toyota/Kitchen Studio