Wellington’s Ben Stewart will be kept busy over Bathurst weekend, having secured himself a spot on the grid in the Australian Toyota 86 Series by winning the Scholarship Series Shootout last week.
Stewart, who burst onto the scene when he won the Mazda Racing Series New Zealand, North Island and South Island titles in 2021/22, was one of five competitors selected to compete in the Shootout off the back of an impressive two rounds in the series, which culminated with a race victory and podium in just his second ever Toyota 86 Scholarship Series round early in September.
Stewart returned to Australia last week to challenge for the fully-funded Bathurst seat.
Included in a full day’s activities was a presentation from Walkinshaw Andretti United’s High Performance Advisor Bruce Stewart on what Supercars teams look for in a driver, a fitness and reactions test, and a media skills analysis with Supercars commentators Neil Crompton and Chad Neylon.
The five nominees then got behind the wheel in the afternoon, first on the skid pan in the new Toyota GR 86 road car and then for a five-lap race simulation around Sydney Motorsport Park.
“After lunch was probably the highlight, when we went on to the skid pad in the new GR 86 with the rally driver Harry Bates,” Stewart told Velocity News following the announcement of his victory. “The first challenge was to do a constant radius circle. I’d never done anything like that before in my life, but I managed to pick it up pretty quickly.
“We then had a Motokhana style thing, so we’d drive around cones and things like that, seeing how fast we could do it.
“The main Shootout was at the end. It was pretty much a race simulation with a standing start and five laps. I did alright but probably could have done better. I guess it was enough.”
Now back in New Zealand, the preparations for Stewart’s Bathurst debut have begun, with a review of data and footage from previous events as well as plenty of simulator practice.
“Right now, I’m still really stoked about winning, but once it all dies down, I’ll probably start to get a little nervous,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be an awesome experience. Running in a main series and running with the V8s will be pretty crazy in front of the hundreds of thousands of people that will be there. It will be pretty surreal.
“Experiencing the run of such a high-profile event against all the good drivers in the main series will be incredible. It’s not going to be easy; it’ll be pretty tough. The racing is pretty tough in the main series.
“It’ll be a massive learning curve, but I’m looking forward to it, and I’m sure I’ll get heaps out of it.”
The Toyota 86 Series will race three times over Bathurst weekend (October 5-8), with one race on each of Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Header Image: Mr Dusty Media/ Ninety9 Motorsport