Finalists chosen for HD NZ Racing Academy Shoot-out
Winner to receive prize package for Toyota 86 Championship campaign
The Hampton Downs New Zealand Racing Academy (NDNZRA) has chosen the three finalists that will race off for this year's Toyota 86 Championship prize package in a one-day shoot-out on November 9th.
The successful winner will receive a cash prize of $37,500 from the Tony Quinn Foundation towards a season of racing in the 2023 Toyota 86 championship following a pressure-cooker evaluation of the drivers both on and off the race track.
The Tony Quinn Foundation has been established to identify, support and sponsor the next generation of talented Kiwis on their journey to the world stage.
Ultimately the goal is to create a global network of Kiwis, supporting Kiwis to the world stage, through contacts, mentoring, funding, training and opportunities.
The youngest of the three finalists is just-turned 15-year-old Tom Bewley, a student at Havelock North High School. Bewley comes to the shoot-out with an impressive karting resume and is the youngest driver ever to represent New Zealand at the worlds. He is both the current North Island Junior champion (Rotax) and South Island Junior champion (Vortex).
Cormac Murphy, also from Havelock North, has won a place in the shoot-out from a very different pathway. The 18-year-old youngest son of Greg Murphy is hoping to follow older brother Ronan's success in Toyota 86 racing but has done very little circuit driving, apart from the Level 1 and Level 3 HDNZRA 86 tests and with a couple of track days with his father. Cormac comes from a competitive background in Motocross.
The third finalist is successful Blenheim kart racer William Exton, also 18. Exton has more seat time than the others having driven two rounds of the South Island Endurance Series in a Toyota 86. He leaves in November for the Rotax worlds in Portugal.
The finalists will start the day with a familiarisation run on the Hampton Downs circuit before they each do a Qualifying simulation and then a longer 'race run'. Off track there will be a commercial component where they will be put through their 'off track paces' by TQ Foundation Trustee's Steve Horne and Josie Spillane.
HDNZRA chief instructor Daniel Gaunt is all too familiar with the pressure-cooker situation of shoot-out competitions and knows it's essential to perform on the day.
"I've been there, contested shoot-outs, won them and lost them," said Gaunt. "The prize is a big step towards a racing budget for a season and the reality is to win the prize you simply have to step up and perform on the day over three aspects, driving, understanding the commercial requirements and the ability to relate technical information about the car set-up and performance."
Over the past 12-months over 70 drivers have gone through the Hampton Downs NZ Racing Academy which qualifies them to be selected. While drivers going through the Academy drive a HDNZRA Toyota 86,for the shoot-out the three finalists will steer a fully race-prepared Toyota 86.
The HDNZRA shoot-out winner will be on the grid for the first round of the 2023 Toyota 86 championship at the Highlands race circuit, Cromwell in mid-January. The season features six rounds with the opening two based in the South Island.
Last year's inaugural winner Matthew McCutcheon finished a creditable sixth in the New Zealand championship.
Caption: Tom Bewley
Photo Credit: Bruce Jenkins Photography