Sunday, May 26 09:51am
Velocity News

Talent pool selected for Elite MotorSport Academy

Eight rising stars will take their place in this year’s Elite MotorSport Academy to further their racing ambitions.


The Elite MotorSport Academy is managed by the MotorSport New Zealand Scholarship Trust. The camp-style program is run by specialist tutors from the Otago Academy of Sport with input from the University of Otago’s School of Physical Education’s Human Performance Centre.


The year-long program begins in July where the drivers will be trained and taught a variety of skills and techniques.


The goal is to build not only their mental and physical fitness as a competitors, but also guide them on sponsorship and marketing opportunities and teach nutrition and media skills to aid their success in the sport.


The programme also provides a 12-month follow-up package tailored for each participant to ensure they retain and further develop the training regimes and educational opportunities demonstrated during the camp.


Originally from Dunedin and now living in Auckland, 16-year-old Josh Bethune raced both a kart and a Formula Ford over the past summer. The Botany Downs Secondary Collage student recently contested the first round of the Formula 4 United States Championship. Bethune aspires to race sports cars professionally.


New Plymouth’s Thomas Boniface has raced both karts and speedway, enjoying particular success in karts from a young age. Runner-up in the 2016 Speedsport Scholarship, he’s tried touring cars in the BMW Race Driver Series. Boniface then contested the 2018–’19 Formula First Championship, where he battled with fellow Elite Academy participant Ronan Murphy for the rookie of the year title, and finishing seventh overall.


The New Plymouth Boys High School student has already raced at a wide range race and kart tracks, and is looking at the New Zealand or Australian Formula Ford Championships for next season.


Conrad Clark from Taupō also started in kart racing in 2014 with a clear focus on developing the necessary knowledge and skills and race craft. Moving to Formula First, Clark won his first race and then won the SpeedSport Scholarship. Clark has raced in the Formula 4 United States Championship as well as the China Formula 4 Championship. He has goals of contesting next year’s Castrol Toyota Racing Series.


KartSport competitor Breanna, or Bree Morris comes from Milford, Auckland. A major achievement was to finish fourth overall at the hotly-contested 2018 Rotax Max challenge, a significant improvement on her 11th place in the same event the previous year.


A Westlake Girls High School student, Morris is active in both touch rugby and netball. Her motorsport aspirations include stepping up to the Pro Kart Series racing KZ2 karts with its huge fields. Formula First and Toyota 86 are the race categories on Morris’s radar for the future.


Ronan Murphy, son of Kiwi racing star Greg Murphy, is forging his own career in motorsport. Like his Academy classmates, Murphy Junior started racing karts and he’s still a member of KartSport Hawke’s Bay. Winning the 2018 SpeedSport ‘star of tomorrow’ Scholarship, earning him a fully funded season the New Zealand Formula First Championship and a Formula 4 test in the USA.


Murphy finished sixth overall, in a field of 22 championship entrants, and enjoyed a close-fought battle with Thomas Boniface for the rookie of the year title. Among Murphy’s aspirations are to compete in the New Zealand Formula Ford Championship, the Toyota 86 Championship and then Australia’s Kumho Tyre Super3 Series.


Palmerston North’s Katrina Renshaw is the sole representative from the rally fraternity in this year’s Elite Academy class. The Dannevirke Car Club member currently competes in the New Zealand Rally Championship, co-driving for Aucklander Daniel Alexander in a Toyota Starlet. When not competing with Alexander, Renshaw co-drives with other competitors in rallies, gravel sprints and hillclimbs to increase her experience – she contested about 40 events in the past 12 months.


A former Palmerston North Girls’ High School student and participant in Rally New Zealand’s Co-driver Academy, Renshaw now works as a customer service representative in the primary sector. She aims to keep competing in as many events as a co-driver as possible, tackle more events behind the wheel of her own rally car, assist with event organisation, and write her own pace notes – a vital skill – for all events as part of her plan to become a professional rally co-driver.


Zac Stichbury, from Hastings, also sports a surname well-known in motorsport circles. The Hawke’s Bay Car Club member is a very successful karter, winning the 2018 Rotax Max Challenge and becoming the first Hawke’s Bay driver to represent New Zealand at the world Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals which were held in Brazil in November – Stichbury finished 15th overall. He returned home for his first season in the NZ Formula 1600 Championship, finishing fourth overall after five rounds and runner-up rookie of the year.


Upper Hutt’s Ryan Wood is the eighth member of the 2019 Elite MotorSport Academy class. Another top karter, Wood recently became the first-ever junior Kiwi karter to stand on the overall podium of the Australian Rotax Pro Tour series. He finished third junior overall in the NZ Rotax Challenge, was second in the Australian Race of Stars DD2 class to win a ticket to the world finals in Brazil, was second in the NZ Sprint Kart Championship and won the Bruce McLaren award at the NZ National Schools Championship for the top junior driver.


Wood is currently the Australian Kart Championship while also a student at the Hutt International Boys School. His career ambitions include Toyota 86 or Formula Ford in New Zealand, Toyota 86 and/or Formula 4 in Australia and then Toyota Racing Series or Super3 Series.