New direction, new car, new sponsor
Wellington teenager Ryan Wood begins his journey to become a V8 Supercar driver this weekend when he lines up in the Super2 field on the streets of Newcastle with a new team, new car, new direction and a new sponsor.
Wood looked destined to continue racing a Porsche in Australia this year before the Walkinshaw Andretti United V8 Supercar team announced they were returning to the Super2 development series this year, creating an opportunity for Wood to change direction and follow his dream.
The step-up to Super2 also increased the amount of support Wood needed and the Tony Quinn Foundation trustees added their support to bring the opportunity together for him to race the full 6-round calendar.
"For me it's been a huge benefit to have Tony's help and everyone at the TQF supporting me. It's a really big confidence booster for myself and what they're doing for New Zealand motorsport at the moment is huge. Being able to call them after my testing and to ask for some advice, particularly from Greg [Murphy] is very beneficial for me going forward," said Wood.
Wood's #2 WAU Commodore will sport a large TQF logo on the roof this season, a car he has only tested once before heading to Newcastle this weekend.
"We did a two day test out at Winton a couple of weeks ago and it went really well. We logged a lot of laps and learnt a lot about what sort of changes that we need to do and what the outcome is when we do them, so just getting my head around the difference of a Supercar compared to a Porsche is huge. But I'm very comfortable going to Newcastle."
Racing on a street circuit isn't going to be the only novice experience for Wood this season. Even though he raced the Porsche Sprint Challenge Pro Class last year in Australia, most of the tracks he'll be racing on this year will be new to him.
"It's my first time at a street circuit so that's a huge task on its own but I'm really excited and looking forward to something new and putting it in my logbook of tracks I've been to," added Wood.
"I've only raced at two of the tracks I'm going to, which is Sandown and Bathurst. It'll be a really big learning curve for me also for my first time at a couple of street tracks. Really excited about that new challenge of being able to go to some cool places."
When WAU announced the formation of the Super2 team the TQF were quick to support Wood's quest to secure one of the seats. Foundation trustee Greg Murphy, himself a V8 Supercar legend, says the TQF has every confidence in Wood succeeding in his goal.
"It's no surprise to me that Ryan was given an opportunity by WAU to go and do Super2. This is where he wants to be, he wants to be a Supercar driver and this is his dream. It's awesome to be a part of. I think he's got a huge future.
"And again it's the collective effort between the TQF and the Giltrap Group, who had him in Carrera Cup this year supported by Team Porsche New Zealand. They are fully supportive of this opportunity for him and see the benefit," said Murphy. "They are there for the same reasons as we are, which is to provide these young talents with opportunities."
Last week TQF and Giltrap Group joined resources to support Toyota Racing Series runner-up Callum Hedge make his debut in the American regional Formula 3 series which also gets underway this weekend.
Leading up to his Super2 debut Wood has relocated to Australia and put in the hard work to ensure he is ready for the racing.
"There's been a lot of training in the past couple of months, physically getting better and making sure I'm the best prepared I can be going into the season and I feel the best I have for a long time, so really excited to hit the ground running.
"For me it's just about learning every time I get out in the car. It's a strong field with some very good guys and some very good teams so being able, to learn and progress each time I jump into the car, My goal personally, you know I'm a racing driver so my goal is to win some races and show I'm capable of moving forward and one day end up in the main game.
"A big thank you to the Tony Quinn Foundation and everyone that supports me to keep going on this journey and I'm looking forward to an exciting 2023."
Wood joins several other elite Kiwi motorsport stars who are assisted by the TQF this year, each one on their own separate pathway, all racing in different categories and in different countries. Hedge and fellow TQF ambassador Hunter McElrea (Indy NXT) race in America while Liam Lawson will race Super Formula in Japan.
Caption: Ryan Wood makes his Super2 debut on the streets of Newcastle this weekend.