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Following years peppered with household names such as Earl Bamber, Hayden Paddon, and Shane van Gisbergen, there is no doubt that the MotorSport New Zealand Elite Academy produces exceptionally competitive and talented potential stars.
Thirty-four graduates have competed internationally, almost 30 per cent of the total. That figure is remarkable in this most competitive of sporting disciplines.
Simply qualifying for the Elite Academy means these young people have proved they know how to drive a racing or rally car well.What the academy does is hone those skills so these young Kiwis can rise above their international peers.
No other country has a programme to match it. Certainly no other country has consistently turned out as many internationally recognised high achievers.
However, the academy and its scholarship trust are continually searching for funding to allow the programme to continue.
It’s an old story that is brought up regularly, but I will never cease to be amazed at just how little recognition is given to our motor sports athletes and how little funding is made available to them.
The question of them actually being athletes is now surely spurious, especially as the sport is formally recognised by the International Olympic Committee.
New Zealand has supplied many a championship winner as well as the occasional world champion and winners of all three of the sports’ “Blue Riband” events, so it cannot be that.
Perhaps because it is seen as a “rich kids” sport? In fact, it is much the opposite.
Perhaps, then, because it is seen as a “team” sport with commercial backing, engineering excellence and inventiveness heavily involved.
I think international events have demonstrated that those parameters are not applicable and no bar to public funding.
The funding issue is a problem for most sports. And we know that some sports grab the public imagination and manage to prise open government purse strings better than others.
But surely some recognition should be given to the achievements of our motor sports international ambassadors and how they managed to get to that position.
The MotorSport New Zealand Scholarship Trust Elite Academy is an important step in any young Kiwi’s motorsport career.
People say the Kiwi teams punch above their weights. Personally, I find that a demeaning phrase as it insinuates we are underdogs.
But if it can be interpreted as meaning our motorsport competitors and technicians have a disproportionate influence internationally than this country’s size would suggest, then who could argue?
- Disclaimer: Bob McMurray, along with Lyall Williamson, Tony Herbert, David Turner and MSNZ President Wayne Christie, is a trustee of the MotorSport New Zealand Scholarship Trust, the entity that administers the Elite MotorSport Academy.