The Bruce McLaren Trophy is a prestigious one in New Zealand motorsport and for the past three years the name Leitch has been inscribed on the trophy at the conclusion of the Toyota Racing Series.
The trophy is presented to the top New Zealand passport holder in the series each year and in 2014 and 2015 it was the name of Damon Leitch on the trophy while this year younger brother Brendon was the recipient. It has been a remarkable chapter of success for the brothers as each year they battle against young talent from around the globe fresh from wheel to wheel racing in Europe or America and with far greater budgets than the young Southlanders. Both brothers have had to go back to their day jobs between rounds of the series over the years whilst their opponents concentrate solely on the next race weekend.
In his five years in the series Damon finished in the top ten every time, twice finishing in the top three and twice as top kiwi while Brendon in three campaigns has won two races and this year finished in the top three and top kiwi.
The brothers have also had little or no competitive racing each year prior to the series. At best they may have one outing in their father Barry Leitch’s 1981 Ralt RT4 each season.
While the lack of miles is a disadvantage, the biggest problem is their lack of time on qualifying tyres. “It is getting the feel of new tyres in qualifying,” says Brendon while Damon agrees saying, “the racing is not too bad but the lack of experience on new tyres for qualifying each year is a setback. Qualifying is so important because if you don’t qualify well your race results suffer.” Damon adds that is “rewarding to battle against the talented internationals each year but frustrating to see them able to use their greater resources to go on to bigger and better things.”
Both are extremely grateful for the support they have received. Post Haste, ITM and SIT Zero Fees have been their major supporters over the years while many local companies plus families, friends and supporters have all helped out while Victory Motor Racing has also been a great support. “There is just no way we could have done it without them,” say the boys.
Despite the success the road ahead is far from easy. Damon is looking at endurance racing and saloon and GT opportunities in New Zealand and overseas while Brendon is in talks and trying to get a budget together to travel to the States, possibly for a stint in the Pro Mazda Series which is part of the Mazda Road to Indy Programme.