Foster stuns Kiwi series with sensational opening day

Louis Foster Day 1 (940 x 450)

He may have only arrived early on Friday morning suffering from jetlag after an overnight flight to New Zealand, but Louis Foster ended the final test session of the day at Manfeild – Circuit Chris Amon at the top of the timesheets.

In a wet final session of testing at the third round of the 2023 Castrol Toyota Formula Regional Oceania Championship at the North Island circuit, Foster mastered the damp conditions to top the timesheets ahead of series protagonists Callum Hedge and Charlie Wurz.

It sets up the weekend well for the current IndyPro 2000 champion, who has won first time out in a new category several times before.

As soon as Foster arrived at the circuit, Giles Motorsport manager Stephen Giles and a couple of mechanics got stuck into making him feel comfortable in the car – with no time to complete a specific seat fitting - and helped him familiarise himself with the controls of the Toyota FT-60 car. As a result he didn’t make the first session but with a set mileage for every driver, championship organisers ran a separate session for him and within three laps he was down to a competitive time.

He had time for the compulsory practice starts too before the second session, run in the dry, which saw him clock the fifth fastest time. In the third session, run on a damp track amid a deteriorating weather outlook, he ended up almost four tenths ahead of Hedge.

It wasn’t the only eye-catching performance of the day. Ryan Shehan continued his ever improving form with a run on new tyres in the first session in the morning which saw him beat Kiwi Billy Frazer – back in New Zealand racing for the first time in two years – and Josh Mason to top the times.

In the second session most of the drivers ran new tyres, undertook an ‘unofficial’ qualifying run and continued into a longer run. The major reason for this was the weather outlook for the weekend – not a good one – and championship leader Wurz blew everyone away with his outright speed, the only driver into the 1 minute 3 second bracket around the 3.3km track and several tenths ahead of second placed Liam Sceats.

It proved a good day for newcomers to the championship – with Ireland’s Adam Fitzgerald the third newbie this weekend alongside Foster and Frazer. Fitzgerald was sixth in the first session, ninth in the second and fifth in the final half hour on the track. Like Foster and Frazer, he signalled his intent to be a threat for wins in the championship and helped set the scene for a thriller of a weekend.

Elsewhere in the field Liam Sceats had another strong day and it was good to see Highlands feature race winner David Morales find his form again.

With the weather forecast predicting worsening conditions overnight and throughout Saturday at the track, the third round of the championship could be the most intriguing yet. It all gets underway on Saturday morning with official qualifying for the first race, which then takes place in the afternoon.

Saturday’s action will be live-streamed only and will be available on Motorsport.TV or on the SuperSprint Motorsport NZ Championship and TOYOTA GAZOO Racing New Zealand Facebook pages.