FROC: Three top-10 finishes for Chloe Chambers at Teretonga
Updated: Jan 23
Chloe Chambers completed six races out of six in the top-10 after the first two rounds of the 2023 Formula Regional Oceania Championship. At Teretonga, Breanna Morris had her strongest races so far and was close to her first top-10 of the season.
One week ago the rebranded Castrol Toyota Formula Regional Oceania Championship kicked off its 2023 season at Highlands Motorsport Park – and it was a spectacular start for one of the female drivers on the grid, young American Chloe Chambers.
Chambers, 18, contested the all-female W Series championship in 2022, in her first year since stepping up from F4 to F3 Regional machinery. As the series' on track operations are currently on hold due to a lack of funding, drivers are staying race-ready in series like F4 UAE and Formula Regional Oceania - traditionally one of the most competitive championships for drivers preparing their summer programs. After a test in September – and with the help of her sponsor Monoflo International – Chloe joined Giles Motorsport for a full season in the Tatuus Toyota F-60.
At Highlands Motorsport Park, Chambers consistently showed progress throughout the sessions and always moved up the order from her starting positions; with a remarkable feature race, she claimed her first top-five, as she showed a glimpse of her potential as she learns New Zealand's racetracks.
Alongside Chambers, Giles Motorsport also lined up Kiwi Breanna Morris, 2022 North Island Formula Ford champion. A highly-promising talent, Morris' step from Formula Fords to the high-downforce Tatuus Formula Regional car will require some time of adaptation, but the 19-year-old is taking her time to learn and progress.
The second round of the 2023 season was held at Invercargill, at the 2.414 km long Teretonga Park Raceway. A short but fast circuit, with few fast and long corners, Teretonga also presented the drivers with a further challenge: the changing weather conditions.
Practice was in fact contested in sunny, then windy and rainy conditions, while the first qualifying on Saturday was cold but dry.
Winner of the season opener Callum Hedge was back on top in Saturday's qualifying, as the New Zealander claimed pole position in the 15-minute session with a 53.513 that proved unbeatable. Hedge's main rival in the drivers' standings after one round, Austrian Charlie Wurz, was second fastest, while Jacob Abel and Josh Mason shared the second row for Race 1. In mixed conditions, Chloe Chambers focused on learning the track and finding the rhythm, which would be so important for the races; she qualified in P10 for the first race of the weekend. With the whole grid separated by one second and a half, Breanna Morris was P13, just a couple of tenths from the cars ahead.
The big battle for the top spot was again a matter of Hedge versus Wurz, as the two drivers went side by side at the start – in what was the crucial moment of the race: Wurz had a slightly faster start on the outside and held the line until the long left hander, ultimately passing Hedge for the lead.
The nature of the track made the rest of the race quite tricky for Hedge to respond and, as the leading duo pulled away quickly at a clearly faster pace, Wurz had the upper hand.
Jacob Abel couldn't catch up with Wurz and Hedge, as the American was busy trying to keep Briton Josh Mason at bay. They preceded Penrose, Morales, Sceats, Quinn, Shehan, McLennan and Chambers, in a train of cars waiting for their chance to find a gap.
Chambers kept the pressure on McLennan and was the only driver able to eventually make a move stick, claiming back her starting position.
After 25 laps, Charlie Wurz crossed the finish line and secured his first win in the Formula Regional Oceania Championship, seven tenths ahead of Callum Hedge, who had tried to launch a late attack, unsuccessfully.
Jacob Abel was back on the podium after the second Highlands race and edged Mason for third; Chloe Chambers completed another solid race in the top-10, while Breanna Morris was P13. Sixth across the line, David Morales was handed a 5 second time penalty for a starting grid procedure infringement and was dropped to ninth.
Conditions changed dramatically on Sunday, when the second race went underway in mixed weather. As cars lined up on the grid, rain had stopped and the track was drying up quickly, but everyone opted for the wet Hankook tyre. Ryan Shehan and Ryder Quinn shared the front row of the reverse-grid, as Charlie Wurz and Callum Hedge had some more to do to come back to the front from the eighth and seventh position respectively. On the extremely tricky conditions, Quinn fired in the lead from the outside line and kept Shehan behind at the green flag, while both Chloe Chambers and Breanna Morris had more troubled starts and dropped at the back of the pack. On the first lap, David Morales was sent into a spin by Tom McLennan and the former damaged his front suspension. Chambers and Morris were able to take evasive action and gained a few positions – as Chloe Chambers had found good pace on the low grip but drying track. Chambers passed McLennan and Fecury, then closed in on race 1 winner Wurz. While the Austrian progressively made his way up, Chloe was left battling with Josh Mason - and the two traded positions at one point, with Chambers moving to eighth temporarily. Breanna Morris was also making good progress and, despite a couple of off-track excursions through the grass, she could stay ahead of McLennan and Fecury, slotting in tenth. Unlike the first race, action was non-stop throughout the field – and all eyes were on the recovering Hedge and Wurz, who made their way up the order. At the same time, Shehan was putting pressure on Quinn, who was starting to struggle with his tyres once the track was almost fully dry. Shehan found a way past around the outside of the final corner and moved in first place. Mid-way through the race, a sudden rain shower changed everything once again: Callum Hedge quickly cleared most of the field and passed Abel, Penrose and Sceats – before he could catch up with Quinn and completed a bold move around the outside of Turn 1. The heavy rain meant positions changed by the minute in the midfield but Charlie Wurz could not keep up the pace with his main rival Hedge and had to settle for fourth. Meanwhile, Chloe Chambers was back behind Mason, and Breanna Morris lost tenth to Fecury on the final lap of the race, while she was tasting her first top-ten of the season. Callum Hedge took his second win of the season from seventh on the grid, in a brilliant recovery drive that allowed the Kiwi to gain a few points to main rival Charlie Wurz. Ryan Shehan was second – scoring his first podium – and Liam Sceats completed the podium. Chloe Chambers' comeback from the difficult start to ninth was one of the highlights of the race.
Earlier in the morning, Charlie Wurz had claimed his first pole position in the series, beating Callum Hedge and James Penrose for the grid of the feature race. Now on a fully dry track, Wurz had a blistering getaway and tried to pull away from Hedge, but Sceats and Mason followed the two leaders in the opening stages. Slowly, Wurz built a gap of over one second to Hedge, but the latter was able to come back during the second half of the long race. Sceats spent most of the race defending third to Mason – who was often the fastest driver on track but could not find a way past the M2 Competition rival. Just like in the opening round last week, Chloe Chambers had another brilliant start and moved from P12 to eighth, once she passed Thomas McLennan. She would chase Ryder Quinn for most of the race, running often under the two-second gap, but was never close enough to attempt a move. After her best qualifying to date, Breanna Morris also battled for the top ten with Lucas Fecury, but an early flatspot made her life more difficult in the long run. James Penrose pitted with clutch issues and eventually rejoined, albeit two laps down. David Morales also had a nightmare weekend, as the American retired with 3 laps to go after he picked up debris that damaged his radiator. In the final laps, Callum Hedge was closer than ever to Charlie Wurz, but the Austrian held on and took the chequered flag to win his second race of the weekend and in the series, thus extending his championship lead to 24 points over Callum Hedge, second in race 3. Liam Sceats clinched his third podium of the season, as Mason and Abel completed the top five. With eighth place, Chloe Chambers had another strong result, and her sixth consecutive top-ten in Formula Regional Oceania. She has now scored 80 points over the course of the first two rounds. "Some tricky conditions throughout the weekend made for some great experience", Chloe Chambers told us on Sunday. "Especially in race 2, where it was a mix of dry and wet conditions including a wet standing start which is a good experience to have now." "Teretonga is quite the opposite of Highlands, it’s short, fast, and doesn’t have many corners", she explained. "The field was super close so it really came down to the small details driving wise. I’m steadily making improvements on my technique that will hopefully all come together in these last few rounds." "Nonetheless, some good learnings and more progress this weekend. As always, thanks to the Giles Motorsport team, and Monoflo International!" Breanna Morris had arguably the best race of the season so far and finished P11, equalling her personal best and again nearly breaking into the top ten for the first time. Her lap times were consistent and, despite a few lock-ups, Morris is closing in quickly on some more experienced competitors after only two race meetings. The series will now head to the North Island for the third round of the season at Manfield, Circuit Chris Amon, in a week's time.