NZ’s Elite Motorsport Academy selects competitors for 15th year

Eight motorsport competitors from Auckland, Pukekohe, Inglewood and Christchurch have been selected to participate in New Zealand’s world-class Elite Motorsport Academy programme for 2018.

Representing several categories of racing, the talented young competitors selected for the 2018 Elite Motorsport Academy are:

Callum Crawley, 17, Fielding
Billy Frazer, 15, Pukekohe
Callum Hedge, 14, Milford, Auckland
Bailey Paterson, 19, Christchurch
Matthew Podjursky, 18, Inglewood
Jaden Ransley, 16, Christchurch
Brock Timperley, 23, Henderson, Auckland
Peter Vodanovich, 17, Mission Bay, Auckland

The Elite Motorsport Academy is managed by the MotorSport New Zealand Scholarship Trust and run by specialist tutors from Academy of Sport South Island and the University of Otago’s School of Physical Education’s Human Performance Centre. The year-long programme for eight participants commences with a ‘camp’ in Dunedin in July where the participants learn a wide array of skills and techniques to aid their mental and physical fitness as a motorsport competitor, as well as the sponsorship and marketing, nutrition and media skills needed to succeed in the sport. The programme also provides a twelve-month follow-up package tailored for each participant to ensure they retain and further develop the training regimes and educational opportunities demonstrated during the camp.

Wayne Christie, MotorSport NZ President and a trustee of the MotorSport NZ Scholarship Trust, says when reviewing applications, the five trustees look at the applicant’s determination and resources to make motorsport a career.

“This year, we saw a very high standard achieved by the applicants who reached the interview stage of the application process, in terms of their conduct and current racing skills. We stress to them that the Academy is another form of competition and encourage the successful applicants to push themselves throughout the year-long Academy programme. Everything counts – just as it would if a competitor approaches teams and sponsors – from their initial application form, to personal presentation and conduct, and interview capabilities.”

A member of the Manawatu Car Club, Callum Crawley has twice contested one of New Zealand’s key introductory motor racing series, the NZ Formula First Championship. Last season, he took sixth overall and was the second-placed championship rookie. This season finished in early April with Crawley showing great consistency throughout the eight-round series to win the championship. The Palmerston North Boys High School student is looking at with the competitive one-make Toyota TR86 series or continue in single seaters with the NZ F1600 Championship for this summer’s race season.

Having started in karts, Billy Frazier also contested the 2017-18 Formula First series, the Pukekohe teen finishing fifth on the championship points-table in his first full season of motor racing. The Kings College student is planning on two years in the Toyota TR86 Championship next, and then contest New Zealand’s premier open-wheeler championship, the Toyota Racing Series.

Auckland Car Club member Callum Hedge has already enjoyed a stellar career in karts, winning the right to carry the special 1NZ number. In February this year, at the age of 14, he became the youngest-ever winner of the NZ Formula 1600 Championship title and also winning the opportunity to attend the Mazda Road to Indy Scholarship Shootout in the USA later this year. The St Kentigern School student also competed in a SsangYong ute this summer, building his experience. He aims to race in the Australian Formula Ford series and the Toyota TR86 series in New Zealand this summer and has the Australian F4 Championship or the Toyota Racing Series in his sights for the summer after when he’ll be just 16.

Canterbury Car Club member Bailey Paterson raced both a Formula Ford and a Mini 7 over the past summer, winning the South Island Formula Ford title and the Mini series. At the same time, he proved himself a title contender in the NZ F1600 Championship, leading the national series earlier in the season and eventually finishing eighth overall, having not contested the two North Island rounds. Having left school, Paterson now works as a signwriter. He aims to give it his best shot to take out the national F1600 title this coming summer before looking to head to Australia and their F4 series.

Like many of his Academy classmates, Matthew Podjursky started in karts – at age 7 and becoming a two-time national title winner. The former New Plymouth Boys High School student then spent three seasons racing in the NZ Formula First Championship where he finished a close second this past season with 20 podium finishes in eight rounds. He also contested his first year in ‘tin tops’, racing a class two Falcon in the BNT V8s Championship. In what he describes as a big season of learning as a rookie, Podjursky scored five race podium and two round podiums. Now an apprentice automotive technician, he aims to win the class two V8 title this coming summer and look at GT racing in the future.

Christchurch’s Jaden Ransley started in the competitive Toyota TR86 series in 2016, aged just 14, having raced karts for six years and winning two national and two South Island karting titles. He finished his firstTR86 season as the third-placed rookie and returned to the series last summer, running as high as second overall before a crash. Ransley finished the 2017-18 season fourth overall. Now 16, the St Thomas of Canterbury school student aims to race in the Australian TR86 series next summer and then perhaps the Toyota Racing Series.

Brock Timperley, from Auckland’s Henderson, is a former rookie of the season in the Mazda Pro 7 Championship and then won the NZ Mazda Pro7 Plus title and took third in the North Island Mazda series. Stepping into a class two-winning Falcon in the BNT V8s Championship delivered a big learning curve for the 23-year-old who works in the automotive sector. Strong mid-season performances, including three class wins at Manfeild, saw Timperley jump up the class two standings to finish his rookie season second in class.

Peter Vodanovich is one busy 17-year-old. Prior to stepping into a Toyota MR2 to race in the popular 2K Cup series last summer, Vodanovich’s motorsport experience was online – racing on a simulator. Over the summer, he was named most improved driver after contesting the SsangYong Racing Series thanks to winning the SsangYong Dealer Team scholarship against 13 other applicants. Second in the BMW E30 scholarship, he also raced strongly in that hotly-contested, popular series. Vodanovich then joined the Toyota 86 series for three rounds. Dubbed the star rookie, the Saint Kentigern College student showed great pace and race craft from the outset, finishing the TR86 season on the podium at Manfeild. He plans to race the TR86 and the BMW again next season with top five finishes his goals.

Christie says the Academy programme is reviewed each year by the trustees and the Otago Academy of Sport. “We want to ensure we are doing the very best for each person who attends. Last year, for example, we added elements specific to the rally co-drivers who attended. We’ve amended several times the training around data analysis as the sport requires a greater understanding of these technical tools available to drivers and engineers. In what is a very intense week for participants, we constantly assess and adjust the balance of physical and mental training elements included in each of the days.

Christie also says the trustees and trainers can be justly proud of the programme which is highly-regarded around the world. “Our programme is well regarded by the FIA and many other motorsporting countries around the world. No one else has a programme like us, mostly being shorter and costing a substantial fee to attend. Our Academy programme is unique in that it is a year-long programme and provided at no cost to the participants. The value isn’t solely monetary; how do you place a value on the skills a driver or co-driver can gain from some of the world’s very best sporting tutors, the contacts and networking, and the opening of doors to new opportunities through the Academy.

“Many other sporting codes in New Zealand do not have anything like the Elite Motorsport Academy, and as a sport, we can be proud of the fact we offer our talented competitors this unique opportunity to better prepare themselves for a career in motorsport. The trustees appreciate the support we receive from our benefactors to ensure we can maintain the Academy to this high standard.

“We look forward to seeing the class of 2018 to use the tools and skills learned during the Academy to represent themselves well at home and offshore in their future motorsport endeavours.”

This year’s Elite Motorsport Academy programme gets underway with the camp in Dunedin running 1 to 7 July.

New Zealand’s Elite Motorsport Academy first ran in 2004 with race drivers Nelson Hartley, Christina Orr, Chris Pither and Tim Edgell among the selected participants that year. Since then, many academy graduates have forged successful international careers such as Shane van Gisbergen, Brendon Hartley, Hayden Paddon, Earl Bamber and Mitch Evans. Other national motorsport governing bodies have consulted the MotorSport New Zealand Scholarship Trust on the programme’s format and goals to assist the development of their own driver development programmes. Follow the Elite Motorsport Academy on Facebook.

NZ’s Elite Motorsport Academy selects competitors for 15th year

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