Motor racing scholarship open for entries

| Photographer Credit: Geoff Ridder

Entries are now being taken for New Zealand’s most successful annual motor racing scholarship, offering the winner a prize package which includes a season of competing in the national Formula First championship.

The Sabre-SpeedSport Scholarship has kick-started the motor racing careers of some of this country’s most successful young drivers and is about to enter it’s 16th year of competition.

The entry level Formula First category has been the starting place for most of New Zealand’s most successful motor racing stars. The scholarship was the first motor racing step for Shane van Gisbergen, Richie Stanaway and Nick Cassidy, and Formula First has also launched the careers of the Brendon Hartley, Mitch Evans and Scott Dixon.

“Just as the title suggests Formula First is the first, and in my opinion, the best place to start a motor racing career,” said Sabre-SpeedSport Scholarship founder Dennis Martin.

Martin, who owns and operates the Sabre team, has taken his new drivers to Rookie of the Year 14 times in the past 15 years.

“These cars [Formula First] are not sophisticated race cars and that’s why they are ideal for driver development,” said Martin.

Pukekohe High school student Liam Lawson, 14, has just completed his scholarship year and racked up podium finishes and a race win on his way to the Rookie of the year title.

The Formula First single-seater cars are powered by 1200cc Volkswagen engines and race an eight round championship at circuits over the North Island.

Although a large majority of the drivers to come through the scholarship program began their racing careers in karts before moving to cars, both Stanaway and van Gisbergen came from backgrounds in speedway and ATV-bike racing respectively.

“Our previous winners have come from a variety of [racing] backgrounds but they all have the desire to advance towards a career in circuit racing, and there’s no better place to start,” added Martin.

While a handful of previous winners compete internationally, Martin says helping young drivers make the transition to our national motor racing categories is his most important priority.

“It’s nice to have international champions among our former winners, but the main aim of the Scholarship is to introduce new drivers into New Zealand motor racing with the hope they become long-term competitors and become good ambassadors for the sport.”

The SpeedSport Scholarship winner receives an all expenses paid year racing a Formula First car under the guidance and tuition of Martin, including the Manfeild Winter Series and the New Zealand Formula First championship, 12 events in total.

The winner also receives a personalised race suit, boots and racing gloves from Chicane.

Entries for the 2016 SpeedSport Scholarship can only be made on-line at The evaluation and Finals weekends is on May 21-22nd.

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