Why is motorsport shunned from government funding?
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Brendon Hartley's rise to Formula 1 has sparked debate around New Zealand's High Performance funding model again.
The 28-year-old became just the ninth New Zealander to compete in motorsport's highest echelon and the first in 33 years when he lined up at the US Grand Prix late last year. He has since gone on to win the World Endurance Championship for the second time and sign a fulltime contract with F1 outfit Toro Rosso.
When you add in the incredible success other New Zealand drivers are having on the world stage it raises the question why more isn't done to encourage that same level of success from the next generation of Kiwi racers.
Scott Dixon is one of the all-time great Indycar drivers while Hayden Paddon was the first driver from the southern hemisphere to win a WRC rally. Mitch Evans is a star of the fast-growing Formula E championship. Five Kiwis (Shane van Gisbergen, Scott McLaughlin, Fabian Coulthard, Richie Stanaway and Andre Heimgartner) are leading contenders in the Australian Supercars. Marcus Armstrong is competing in Formula 3 and is signed to F1 giants Ferrari while Nick Cassidy and Taylor Cockerton won titles in Asia last year.
MotorSport New Zealand boss Brian Budd feels those drivers were the lucky ones that managed to make it despite not getting any help from official channels.
"That is the conundrum," he told The Herald. "The guys you mentioned are the ones that were lucky enough to have outside backers early in their careers that put the money up.
"I come across competitors all the time who have oodles of talent but are not able to make that next step because they didn't have that support.
"It has always been a disappointment to MotorSport NZ that our top drivers, particularly young drivers, aren't recognized or included in any high performance program here.
"Young drivers that want to make it Europe and elsewhere aren't getting that high performance support that athletes in other sports get."
At present not a single dollar of High Performance Sport NZ's annual $35m funding budget goes towards motorsport. HPSNZ uses certain criteria to decide where money goes and motorsport doesn't tick the appropriate boxes.
Budd believes it is time to review that criteria.
"I have had discussion with High Performance Sport in the past and I just think that there whole focus is too narrow in that it is Olympics and Commonwealth Games medals," Budd explained.
"We need to be able to assess where a world championship in motorsport sits up against a gold medal at an Olympic or Commonwealth Games. The effort and commitment is no different to someone who goes and throws a javelin or a shot put or runs a race at an international athletics event."
Drivers like Hartley that have made it to the world stage earn big salaries and certainly don't need the help but the younger drivers trying to get that break are the ones that need assistance.
Hartley thinks any funding should be channeled into developing our own racing series.
"It is a huge ask financially," Hartley said. "I was fortunate that I had Red Bull pick me up early in my career but they picked me up from racing in New Zealand so I think promoting the categories that we have in New Zealand and making them stronger with more and more New Zealand drivers would be the first step.
"I got a Formula 1 development contract from racing in New Zealand so I think that proves we should be investing in our local championships."