Home Formula RegionalFRegional Oceania NZ GP winner “almost couldn’t hold steering wheel” in tense lead fight

NZ GP winner “almost couldn’t hold steering wheel” in tense lead fight

by Ida Wood

Photo: TGR NZ

Laurens van Hoepen has revealed how tough it was to hold off Louis Foster to win the 2023 New Zealand Grand Prix.

The M2 Competition driver took pole but lost the lead to Giles Motorsport’s Foster on the opening lap before regaining his position at the front and then holding off Foster to the chequered flag in the lengthier 28-lap race at Hampton Downs.

Neither driver are contending for the Formula Regional Oceania, having only joined the series late in the season for part-time campaigns, but have been two of the fastest since making their respective debuts.

“I’m really, really happy. It was such a tough race,” van Hoepen said after winning the grand prix.

“Especially the last five laps, like I almost couldn’t hold the steering wheel anymore. But we’ve done a really good job, and I’m super happy to take the win.”

The 17-year-old, whose career has been mentored by Formula E world champion Nyck de Vries, is the second Dutch winner of the race following Richard Verschoor in 2018 and is also the second driver to win the grand prix at Hampton Downs as the venue first held the race in 2021 and the country’s COVID-19 pandemic response meant the 2022 race was cancelled.

“I didn’t feel like I was dropping the tyres, I actually just managed them,” van Hoepen explained about his race management from the front.

“I didn’t slide too much. I had a few times I had a bit of wheelspin, but afterwards I just kept nice in the traction zones. I managed them [the tyres] quite well, I think.”

Van Hoepen is currently embarking on his third FRegional campaign, having won in the Ultimate Cup Series in 2021 and raced in the FRegional European Championship in 2022. He will return to that series with ART Grand Prix later this year.

On his move to regain the lead, and ultimately win, van Hoepen added: “To be honest, before I was in the slipstream I didn’t even know – I was kind of debating whether i should do it now or should I wait? But it was really nice to just go up on the inside. Like it was quite close, but yeah, it was cool.

Grand prix runner-up Foster admitted there was nothing he could do to beat van Hoepen, eventually finishing 0.846 seconds behind, and praised his race-winning move.

“Good start, got around the outside into turn one and held the lead for almost a lap,” Foster said of his race.

“But yeah he put in a really, really good move, it was quite bold, quite an aggressive move. Sometimes you’ve got to take risks, and he did that and it paid off for him. Congratulations to him, he was fast all race, I really struggled to keep up with him and managed to just trade lap after lap and the gap [to him] didn’t really change. It was a good race.”