Matthew McCutcheon has won the Hampton Downs NZ Racing Academy (HDNZRA) shootout, earning $30,000 towards a campaign in the upcoming Best Bars Toyota 86 Championship.
The winner was decided by a virtual shootout, judged by former CART series team owner Steve Horne, Highlands and Hampton Downs CEO Josie Spillane, and professional racing drivers Greg Murphy and Daniel Gaunt.
“It’s an awesome start to the season. That really takes the pressure off. It’s not been so easy to get sponsorship in these Covid times, so that’s game changing help,” said McCutcheon.
“As soon as we saw the academy was offering this scholarship it was something I wanted to achieve. My dream is to end up racing in ‘tin-tops’ and this is the first transition towards that goal.”
Eighteen-year-old McCutcheon will make the move to the Toyota 86 series from single-seaters, having raced in the most recent season of Formula Ford.
“It’s going to be completely different going from a single-seater to a tin-top, but to have an amazing team around me is what’s important in making that transition as easy as possible,” said McCutcheon
“The Rookie of the Year winner in the 86 championship gets a drive at Bathurst so I’ll definitely be going for that.”
The HDNZRA team see this as the first of many future scholarship opportunities for Kiwi drivers.
Former CART championship team owner and Tony Quinn Foundation (TQF) trustee Horne was impressed by the finalists.
“It was a fantastic experience for both the trustees and the contenders. It was quite difficult to choose a winner. New Zealand motorsports has a bright future based on their qualities,” said Horne.
“Congratulations to Matthew for his winning effort and demeanour. Special thanks to Tony Quinn for his tireless commitment to NZ motorsport.”
The ongoing difficulties due to the pandemic forced interviews, questioning and testing to move online, with on-track activities at Hampton Downs also cancelled.
Judges were so impressed by the finalists that they have given the runner ups Liam Sceats and Hayden Bakkerus $5000 each, to go towards their Formula Ford campaigns.
“We were so impressed with all three of them, and while there can only be one winner, the committee decided on top of Matthew’s $30,000 scholarship to award a $5,000 sponsorship to both Hayden and Liam,” said Highlands and Hampton Downs CEO Josie Spillane.
“These three chaps become our first official ambassadors for the academy and we look forward to mentoring them through the season and watching their progress.
“Hats off to Tony Quinn, I’ve no doubt that his foundation is going to be a game changer for many young men and women in the years to come. He has started something very special.”
Image credit: Geoff Ridder