Morales beats fever for victory, heartbreak for Hedge

Morales win Highlands (940 x 450)

American David Morales turned the tables on weekend pace setter Callum Hedge with a fantastic lights to flag victory in the feature race at Highlands Motorsport Park.

There was heartbreak for Hedge, however, who was chasing hard in second place before damaged suspension incurred in his chase of the leader sent him to the pits for repairs and consigned him to a last place finish.

Charlie Wurz survived the hottest and longest race of the weekend to finish second despite a late trip through the gravel while Liam Sceats gave the home fans something to cheer about with third place.

Morales, however, saved his very best to last at Highlands and having not been with Hedge tucked in behind. He never looked back. But it was far from an easy victory.

“I was running a bit of a fever earlier on today and didn’t feel that well at all in the build-up for the race, so it was more about survival,” he said afterwards as he held the Dorothy Smith Memorial Cup tightly to his chest.

“It is the longest race I’ve ever done in this type of car and it was incredibly hot which didn’t help me or the tyres. It was very loose towards the end but I just kept pushing hard. It’s the biggest race I’ve won and it gives me the confidence to go forward into the next rounds knowing I can do it. I’m only just learning about Kenny Smith as well so to win this trophy is very special indeed.”

It was a pretty lonely race for Wurz and Sceats behind Morales, who’s press on style took him and Hedge well clear of the chasing pack before Callum’s unscheduled trip to the pits.

Behind them Ryder Quinn had his best race of a very promising debut weekend at this level of motorsport, moving through the field from ninth place at the start to an eventual fourth.

Arguably the performance of the race outside of that of Morales came from a fellow American – Chloe Chambers – who had a pair of hands blighted by blisters as she rolled up for the race start in her Giles Motorsport-run car.

Passed by Josh Mason early on, she dusted herself off and put in a fantastic drive to move through the field to an eventual fifth place, her best result of the weekend. Equally as impressive were the former W Series driver’s lap times which were just a few tenths off the leader’s in the most physical stages of the race.

Jacob Abel and Mason would have probably finished a lot higher up the order had they not made contact on lap 11. The British racer had made some great passes over the weekend but ran slightly wide trying to find a way past the American and the two touched on the corner exit, spinning both off the track and tumbling down the top ten.

Abel eventually took the flag in sixth place ahead of Ryan Shehan and morning race winner James Penrose, with Mason in ninth and Australia’s Tom McLennan in tenth.

For Hedge it was a case of what might have been. He never lost sight of Morales and for much of the race looked primed and ready to attack. One too many heavy trips over the chicane’s unforgiving kerbs was probably the culprit behind his damaged suspension and his weekend – or at least his Sunday – was ruined.

Quick work by his M2 Competition mechanics to get the FT-60 mobile again so him return to the track and take the points for 13th overall and those points are likely to be vital as the championship unfolds over the next four weekends.

The championship moves to Invercargill next weekend and to the world’s most southerly circuit racing facility – the iconic Teretonga Raceway. Hedge knows the circuit well and will be fired up to bounce back.  Doing so will certainly look a lot harder on Sunday evening in New Zealand than it did on Saturday.


2023 Castrol Toyota Formula Regional Oceania Championship – Round 1 Highlands – Dorothy Smith Memorial Trophy feature race

  1. David Morales (USA)
  2. Charlie Wurz (Austria)
  3. Liam Sceats (NZ)
  4. Ryder Quinn (Aus)
  5. Chloe Chambers (USA)
  6. Jacob Abel (USA)
  7. Ryan Shehan (USA)
  8. James Penrose (NZ)
  9. Josh Mason (UK)
  10. Tom McLennan (Aus)
  11. Lucas Fecury (Br)
  12. Bree Morris (NZ)
  13. Callum Hedge (NZ)