East Auckland race driver Jordan Baldwin has topped the points-table of the 2017 New Zealand Elite Motorsport Academy to win the Ian Snellgrove trophy.
The prestigious trophy, awarded in memory of long-time MotorSport New Zealand general manager and Academy programme trustee Ian Snellgrove, was presented to Baldwin during the MotorSport NZ annual awards dinner in Wellington on 26 May.
New Zealand’s highly-regarded Elite Motorsport Academy is administered by the MotorSport NZ Scholarship Trust and run by world-class tutors from Academy of Sport South Island and the University of Otago’s School of Physical Education’s Human Performance Centre. Last year marked the 14th time the programme has run.
Baldwin, who turned 20 in March, was one of eight young motorsport competitors selected for the year-long academy programme which started in July 2017 with an intensive week-long camp in Dunedin. He topped the points-table at the camp where participants learn an 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.
“Coming to grips with all those aspects of being a top competitor, all those steps to make sure we’re the best we can be, that learning has been fantastic,” Baldwin said of the camp. “It’s been one of the best weeks of my life. What you’ll learn is far more than you can ever learn somewhere else. The Academy is run so professionally. Everyone involved does an amazing job.”
Over the past year, Baldwin has mixed his university studies in commerce alongside the Academy’s twelve-month coaching programme and an impressive array of racing including taking out the rookie driver title for the six-round 2017-18 Toyota 86 Championship with seven podium finishes, a record for a rookie driver in the intensely-competitive, one-make series. He’s also competed in local endurance racing, finishing second in class on debut and, last December, tested a V8 Supercar at Philip Island in Australia resulting in an offer of a drive once he puts the budget together. Baldwin also co-drove for eventual title winner Peter Bennet in the SsangYong Racing Series endurance race, helping to put Bennet’s SsangYong ute on the podium for the weekend.
Of his specifically-tailored Academy coaching programme, Baldwin has worked with coaches for nutrition, strength and physical conditioning, mental skills and life planning for athletes.
“The coaches I worked with have been invaluable,” Baldwin says. “Gavin Clearkin, sports nutritionist for the NZ Warriors, helped me with specific race weekend nutrition, as well as pre- and post-event requirements. Alastair Wootten, from Formula Fit, worked with me extensively over the past 10 months, helping me improve in all areas of strength and fitness. This has paid huge dividends for my on-track results. Former Silver Fern Jenny-May Clarkson advised on maintaining a balance between striving to become an elite athlete and performer, and day-to-day life. The real-life experience and knowledge passed down from these mentors is just one of the many opportunities the Elite Motorsport Academy experience provides.”
Baldwin says his achievements in the past year would not have been possible without the skills, contacts and habits he picked up from the Academy programme.
“The work that goes in to it behind the scenes in order to achieve in motorsport is huge,” Baldwin says. “The Academy creates a realisation for what we do off the track, to ensure that when we hit the track, we are as prepared as we could possibly be. Putting into practice what I learnt while at the Elite Academy has helped me to achieve the most rewarding, successful and enjoyable 10 months of motorsport of my career to date.”
Next up for the talented young racer is a drive in the South Island Endurance Series, beginning September 2018, in the ex-Supercar Falcon owned by Carter’s Tyre Services. “I will compete in the Toyota 86 Championship again starting November this year, where my goal is to take out the overall Toyota 86 Championship title.”
Talking of the Elite Motorsport Academy overall, Baldwin says: “For anyone in New Zealand motorsport wanting to take their career to that next step, I believe the Academy is the perfect opportunity to grow and develop not only as a driver, but as an athlete and as an achiever. The skills that are attained during this programme will help shape and develop any young driver’s career. I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of the 2017 Elite Motorsport Academy, and highly recommend the programme to anyone who is looking for that competitive edge.”
Wayne Christie, MotorSport NZ President and a trustee of the MotorSport NZ Scholarship Trust, says the Academy class of ’17 was of a very high calibre.
“These eight young competitors are some of the highest calibre of graduates to have successfully completed the Academy,” says Christie. “Every year sees a different mindset among the graduates and individuals soon stand out in the various disciplines. In 2017, we had one of the most even and mentally mature group of people who all consistently reached a high level of understanding and effort.
“The competition was close, particularly close among the top four candidates, but as in all forms of competition, consistency collects points and that is what Jordan achieved, always on or near the podium.”
With the 2017 group marking the conclusion of the 14th Academy class, Christie says the trustees hope, as they do every year, that the Academy has made a material difference to the graduates’ chosen path in motorsport, and in life itself.
“The Academy can only try to give the candidates an insight into what they need to work on and improve within themselves. In time, as they reflect on the Academy as earlier graduates have done, we hope it was the intensive Academy camp and follow-up programme that gave them an impetus, or a mental path, for the future.”
Christie adds: “On behalf of all trustees, it must be noted that none of this could have been achieved over the past 14 years without the full co-operation and enthusiastic dedication of those members of the Otago Academy of Sport and members of the University of Otago involved in the programme. They have worked with the MotorSport NZ Scholarship Trust and our trustees to hone and continually mould the intensive week of learning to be relevant to the continuing and changing motorsport scene. As in all motorsport, it is not the individual but the team behind them who makes the entire operation work.”
Baldwin’s 2017 Elite Motorsport Academy classmates were:
Sarah Brennan, 26, rally co-driver, Christchurch
Arran Crighton, 20, race driver, Auckland
Samantha Gray, 23, rally co-driver, Lincoln
Reece Hendl-Cox, 17, race driver, Whakatane
Kaleb Ngatoa, 17, kart/race driver, Marton
Job Quantock, 24, rally driver, Christchurch
Jack Williamson, 26, rally driver, Hamilton