RISING STARS SPEAK OUT FOR THE ACADEMY THAT GIVES THEM AN EDGE
Kiwi stars of motorsport are talking about the Motorsport New Zealand Elite Motor Sport Academy, which this last week has seen the 2016 edition, run in conjunction with the Academy Of Sport South Island and the University of Otago’s School of Physical Education Human Performance Centre, put young motorsport hopefuls through a very intensive, some say gruelling, week of mental and physical challenges.
The academy, a New Zealand-developed initiative that began in 2004, is now imitated by motorsport organisations around the world.
Sports academies have burgeoned around the world in the past few years but the Elite Academy is different in that it does not attempt to teach the attendees how to drive or navigate. Their selection means they have shown talent enough to convince the trustees they should be included in the chosen final eight.
The academy is designed to teach new skills in marketing, personal fitness, media training, how to cook without parents doing it for them, sponsorship, planning, personal goals, stress tolerance, and so much more.
Proof of any academy, as in motorsport itself, is in the outcome.
Without proven results the academy would have ceased to exist long ago and it is testament to the lecturers and providers, many of whom are involved in international sports at the highest level, that it continues to be envied by many an international motor sport federation.
As with all sports, the horizons expand year on year and the academy has adapted by introducing and developing systems that explain and coach attendees in the mysterious ways of data collection by means of computers — now an essential tool in any driver’s box of tricks.
It is not all work during the week and one of the most popular sessions is the driving simulator, pitting driver against driver in a competitive environment.
This session still serves an educational purpose as the simulators are positioned in a heat and humidity chamber imitating equatorial conditions while the drivers are in full race kit, helmets, overalls, gloves, the lot. A thermometer is inserted in their bodies.
Once the week is completed the graduates benefit from one year of support from providers from around the world.
Quite frankly, the academy does a remarkable job for New Zealand motorsport, but how long that job will be able to continue is becoming debatable. Some funding is provided by benefactors but much comes from within the sport itself.
As with many sports clubs, the attendance and membership is in decline as people simply no longer drive to clubrooms in numbers.
The motor racing competition scene is as full of young drivers as it has ever been but with the dwindling club membership comes a dwindling income for the sport and less money that can be granted to the Elite Motorsport Academy.
Funds must be found to enable it to continue to help push our young motorsport talent on to the world stage.
The vast majority of Kiwi drivers do not have the luxury of being the sons or daughters of international billionaires and they need all the help they can get to fulfill their talent.
IndyCar Champion Scott Dixon:
“Being able to learn everything from finance, diet needs, fitness and sponsorship and how to structure your racing career is such a fantastic head start and something currently only New Zealand provides.”
GP2 driver Mitch Evans:
“My NZ MotorSport Academy experience was sensational, for many reasons. It was not only a fantastic week with a lot of enjoyable activities but the knowledge I gained to maximise my performance has helped me hugely to get where I am today.”
Current WEC World Champion Brendon Hartley:
“I am a proud graduate of the Elite Motorsport Academy. For a young aspiring driver the world off international motorsport can be a tough and unforgiving environment. The academy gave me a head start and gave me the preparation I needed to take my motorsport dreams and ambitions to Europe at 16. I'm not the only driver who has benefited and succeeded through the academy, and I hope the new generation’s of New Zealand’s young drivers will make full use of this programme for many years to come.”
WRC driver Hayden Paddon:
“I was part of the Elite MotorSport Academy in 2006 and since that day my performances both in and out of the car have gone from strength to strength and have allowed me to take my career from regional to international level. Being part of such a passionate group showed me a new path and opened my eyes to the aspects that make a driver a complete package in what is a highly competitive environment. It helps us find that extra edge.”
Rally driver Emma Gilmour:
“There is so much more to being a winning driver than simply being fast on the track. Once you get to the top level you realise that every driver you compete against is talented, and to stand out you really need to have the ‘other’ skills mastered as well. The MotorSport Academy focuses on these ‘other’ skills like handling sponsorship relationships, sports psychology, diet and fitness to ensure that as a driver you have the ability to shine. New Zealand continues to punch well above its weight on the international motorsport scene with the number of successful champions we produce and its important that the MotorSport Academy continues to have the funding and support to continue to polish the raw talent that we produce.”
■Disclaimer: Bob McMurray is one of four trustees of the MotorSport NZ Trust, which is collectively responsible for the Elite MotorSport Academy.