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Velocity News Driver of the Year: 50–41

It's become a hideous cliché, but only because it's true — this little nation at the bottom of the world called New Zealand punches very well above its weight.
 
And certainly the motor racing sphere is one that subscribes to the narrative. The last decade in particular will one day be looked back on as a watershed phase for the sport in this country.
 
The response to this incredible surge has been fantastic within the throes of the sport. But in some channels (mainstream media, I'm looking at you...) there's a lack of recognition towards classes and drivers outside of the core periphery.
 
In many ways, bringing together these categories has been a motive for the existence of velocitynews.co.nz.
 
And so in order to further stab the stake in the sand, we bring you our Velocity News Driver of the Year list — a compilation of the 50 best Kiwi driver of 2019.
 
This year we add three judges to the awards alongside velocitynews.co.nz editor Simon Chapman (SC), Driven journalist Matthew Hansen (MH) and co-founder Richard Gee (RG).
 
New to the panel this year is Murray Taylor. A former team owner and journalist, Murray Taylor Racing contested British F3 during the mid 1980’s with icons like Damon Hill and 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Davy Jones.  
 
Tonight, we look at the drivers ranked from 50th to 41st in the country.


Rhys Gould


50. Rhys Gould (New Entry)
Categories / NZEC, SIES
Achievements / P2 SIES Class B
 
SC: An unknown name to most at the start of the year, Rhys Gould burst onto the scene with literally no previous racing experience.
 
Having only driven a selection of road-going muscle cars at Highlands GT Members days, Gould hopped into a fully-fledged Hyundai i30 N TCR car.
 
Paired with Gene Rollinson, Gould impressed throughout the year, setting competitive times relative to the rest of his class rivals.
 
Gould nearly won his class in the South Island Endurance Series but narrowly missed out due to a DNF.
 
In the end, they were the ‘best of the rest’ only finishing just behind the GT3 sports car and various Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars.
 
Gould went on to race a Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX with Rollinson and was impressive but ultimately stifled by punctures.


Louis Sharp


49. Louis Sharp (New Entry)
Categories / KartSport
Achievements / P1 NZ CIK Trophy, P1 Mini ROK KartSport NZ National Sprint Championship, P1 NZ ROK Cup, WPKA P1 GoldStar Series, P1 South Island Sprint Championship,
 
SC: At just 12 years old, Louis Sharp has shown the world why he’s one to watch in the years to come.
 
Sharp’s season was one to remember with five domestic karting titles to his name and an international debut to remember.
 
Sharp won the reintroduced CIK Trophy, which was last won by none other than Liam Lawson. Success was forthcoming at the KartSport Nationals too where he won the Mini ROK title. Wins in the ROK Cup, WPKA Goldstar Series, and South Island Sprint Championship were among his success story.
 
All of that culminated in a trip to Italy where he faced some of the best in the world. The highlights included qualifying fourth out of 135 drivers and earning three pole position starts.
 
Sharp ended his maiden trip to Italy with a daring drive to storm from 14th to third in the Singha Trophy Final.
 
His drive in the KartSport Nationals was superb in what was a tight tussle between him and fellow young gun Tom Bewley.
 
The kid is on the fringe of an elite list of KartSport stars. With nine domestic titles, he’s near the likes of Daniel Bray (10) and Nick Cassidy (13).
 
Perhaps most encouraging though is his sheer confidence and determination that defies his age. He speaks confidently and will no doubt be among next up-and-comers if he can take the next step out of KartSport and into circuit racing. 

 

Andy Higgins

 

48. Andy Higgins (New Entry)
Categories / Asian Le Mans Series
Achievements / P1 4 Hours of Shanghai, LMP2 Am
 
SC: Having dominated the historic Formula 5000 scene for several years, Andy Higgins made the jump into top-flight sports car racing this year.
 
A maiden appearance in the Asian Le Mans Series with RLR MSport saw Higgins win on his LMP2 debut, an impressive feat for a newcomer.
 
Driving alongside gentleman driver John Farano and Castrol Toyota Racing Series graduate Arjun Maini, the trio combined to take a dominant class win.
 
A solid achievement at the back end of 2019 bodes well for the rest of his season, which continues in 2020.
 
Might we see him in Australia’s S5000 championship continuing his big open-wheel single-seater winning ways? It’s certainly a possibility given a recent test at The Bend Motorsport Park.

 Taylor Cockerton

 

47. Taylor Cockerton (Down 9)
Categories / CAMS Australian Formula 4 Championship, S5000
Achievements / P3 Race 2, Australian Grand Prix
 
SC: Former Toyota Racing Series regular Taylor Cockerton had a quiet year all ‘round.
 
His one major outing came at the Australian Grand Prix supporting the Formula 1 World Championship in the CAS Australian Formula 4 Championship where he managed to claim a podium.
 
In the end, he claimed finishes of seventh, third and fifth for MTEC Motorsport.
 
An outing in the first S5000 race at Sandown Raceway saw Cockerton largely struggle to get up to speed with the somewhat fragile V8-powered single-seater. Perhaps just keen to keep out of trouble more than anything. 
 
Since then, the former Formula Masters Series champion, unfortunately, hasn’t featured on the radar. 
 

 

 

 Glen Collinson

 

46. Glen Collinson (Down 2)
Categories / V8 Utes Championship
Achievements / P5 overall, race/round winner
 
RG: A championship contender in V8 Utes Championship, and a race and round winner, Glen Collinson was a firm favourite for the title in 2019.
 
A strong start to the championship at the back end of 2018 boded well for 2019, but luck didn’t go his way.
 
Collinson continued to be fully committed on and off the track to improve his race craft, often aided by the support of Chris van der Drift.  
 
Collinson started this season of V8 Utes strongly too with a race win and two second places behind experienced ace Paul Manuell.
 
Always of note is the fact that it was him and his team that built their own Ford Falcon FG racing ute and it remains the only one racing in NZ not of Australian descent.
 
Certainly, an underdog who punches well above his weight.
 

Angus Fogg

 

45. Angus Fogg (New Entry)
Categories / Central Muscle Cars, Touring Car Masters
Achievements / Bathurst race winner, P2 overall Central Muscle Cars
 
MH: He may seem like a somewhat shock inclusion to the DOTY rankings, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that this year has probably been Angus Fogg’s best since the NZV8 days.
 
He now competes in a V8 of a different kind; a literal fire-breathing Ford Mustang monster in Central Muscle Cars. There he has been a force to be reckoned with, particularly in the handicap races where he pierces traffic like few others can.
 
Fogg’s greatest moment, though, took place over the ditch. His weekend in the Trans-Tasman Touring Car Masters event at the Bathurst 1000 was exemplary.
 
Yes, there was no denying that the incredible Mustang underneath him played a part in him winning every race of the weekend bar one (the fact it topped 300km/h on Conrod Straight still boggles the mind today). Nevertheless, it was a weekend that underlined that Fogg is arguably as sharp behind the wheel right now as he has been at any other point in the last 20 years.
 

 Brock Gilchrist

 

44. Brock Gilchrist (New Entry)
Categories / Toyota 86 Championship
Achievements / P5 overall, P3 rookie
 
SC: Brock Gilchrist was the quiet achiever of 2019 in the Toyota 86 Championship.
 
The 16-year-old ended his campaign strongly, taking podium finishes at Teretonga Park and Hampton Downs.
 
Gilchrist battled through adversity off the track to be an admirable fifth place at the end of the season.
 
He was the third-best rookie in an extremely high-quality field where wins and podiums were hard to come by.
 
Gilchrist equipped himself with a strong team and support off the track, building mental fortitude at a young age that will serve him well in the future.
 

 Jordan Baldwin

 

43. Jordan Baldwin (New Entry)
Categories / Toyota 86 Championship
Achievements / P3 overall
 
SC: A second season in the Toyota 86 Championship certainly promised plenty for 21-year-old Jordan Baldwin.
 
Having shown speed in his maiden season where he finished fifth overall, Baldwin came into the 2018-’19 championship as one of the favourites.
 
Two wins at Teretonga Park highlighted his campaign, but a string of finishes outside the top five eventually took him out of contention.
 
Baldwin scored five podium finishes alongside his two wins but wasn’t consistent enough. An opportunity missed, undoubtedly.
 

 Steven Richards

 

42. Steven Richards (Down 27)
Categories / PIRTEK Enduro Cup
Achievements / P6 Bathurst 1000


MH: Often acknowledged, but rarely rated among the greats — Steven Richards will go down in history as one of the more curious drivers in Supercars folklore.
 
As the son of Jim Richards, he can be classified as one of the few second-generation racers that have been able to successfully hold a candle to their parents’ achievements.
 
Five Bathurst 1000 wins across three different teams and over two decades of competition ranks him among the race’s most prolific winners. Oddly he never quite fired as a full-time driver, although those watching could sense a championship was lurking within him somewhere during the Larry Perkins era.
 
We reflect of course given that he’s recently announced his retirement from Supercars.
 
So, what of his final year? Well having shifted over to Team18 with Mark Winterbottom it was never going to echo the high watermark of 2018. But, ‘Richo’ was still ever solid in that co-driver role.
 
A nugget sixth place at the Bathurst 1000 was an equal second-best result for that car this year, and a pair of 12ths ensured a top 10 in the PIRTEK Enduro Cup. Solid, workmanlike, dependable.

 

Glenn Smith

 

41. Glenn Smith (New Entry)

Categories / GTRNZ, NIES

Achievements / P1 GTRNZ GT1, P1 NIES outright, P1 NIES GT-A


SC: Without a doubt, one of the coolest moments of 2018 was watching Glenn Smith destroy the Pukekohe Park outright lap record and promptly have his Porsche-powered Crawford DP03 burst into flames.


In some ways, that set the tone for 2019.


A balls-to-the-wall approach saw Smith win the GTRNZ GT1 title, beating John De Veth who he then paired up with for the North Island Endurance Series.


The pair took a seemingly unlikely win, steering Smith’s McLaren 650S GT3 to title victory after the International Motorsport-run Audi R8 LMS GT3 of Neil Foster and Jonny Reid failed to start the second round.


Glenn is one of those drivers you love to watch. Happy to have a go and on the face of it makes very few mistakes. And whilst he has some of the fastest cars in New Zealand, he does know how to drive them, and drive them hard.

 

Stay tuned in to velocitynews.co.nz for Part 2 of the Velocity News Driver of the Year, where we choose 40 to 31. 

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