Hedge heading to Monza for FREC finale
Rising Kiwi star Callum Hedge has secured a seat for the final round of the Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine which takes place at Monza at the end of the month - and it could see the popular Auckland-based racer having a tilt at putting his name on the New Zealand Grand Prix trophy in February.
Eighteen year old Hedge will race for G4 Racing and will be team mate to former Castrol Toyota Racing Series competitor Axel Gnos. Hedge was a dominant New Zealand Formula Ford champion in 2018 and followed that up with an equally impressive title winning campaign in the Toyota 86 Championship in 2019. He has also impressed for Earl Bamber Racing in the Australian-based and COVID-19 affected 2021 Porsche Michelin Sprint Challenge Australia, taking one win and three further podium appearances.
Although he has numerous test days in both Toyota's FT-50 and FT-60 at Hampton Downs and Taupo, the trip to Europe represents his first competitive single seater appearance in more than three years. It will also be his wings and slicks race debut.
"Yeah, I'm back into single seaters for my first wings and slicks event and yes it's going to be at Monza! It's been a mission for me to find track time over the last two years so it was a no brainer to take the opportunity when it arose and give it a go," he explained. "We've been looking at the possibility of a GP drive for a number of months now and this is one major step in that process.
"I've done a fair amount of driving since being home after Australia. This has been mainly in the Toyota FT-50 and FT-60 as well as some 86 work with my good friend and supporter Mark Mallard. I can also drive the Monza circuit on my home simulator, but not in the same car. The track in the game is represented very well and will give me a good idea of where the corners go.
"I'm well aware of the magnitude of making a debut at a place like Monza. It is a very historic and iconic circuit. It has a lot of long straights so I expect the effects of a draft will be significant. This obviously makes qualifying important and being able to gain enough on competitors through the corners to be able to hold them off on the straights.
"The team and I have been in constant communication over the last week and more. We have been working on everything from finalising the drive all the way to pre-event data and notes that we can use to prepare myself as best possible before I even get into the car, so we're as far ahead as we can be at this stage and I'm looking forward to getting out there and racing with great excitement.
"The FT-60 is actually the same chassis and aero package as the car used in FRECA. I've driven the FT-60 in the rain and also for one session in the dry on slicks. So I will definitely draw onto my own and others' experience and knowledge of this car in New Zealand from people associated with TRS to try and quickly adapt and apply the best technique to the FREC car.
"The championship is incredibly competitive with top class drivers. Coming into the last round with only one day of testing is going to be a great challenge. I will aim to match my front running teammates, but realistically a top 10 result would be a great achievement.