Three Formula First young guns selected for Elite Academy

Another crop of young Formula First drivers have been selected for the 2019 MotorSport New Zealand Elite Academy.

The Elite MotorSport Academy is managed by the MotorSport New Zealand Scholarship Trust and 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 programme for eight participants commences with a ‘camp’ in Dunedin in July where they will learn a wide array of skills and techniques to aid their mental and physical fitness as a motorsport competitor, as well as sponsorship and marketing, nutrition and media skills to aid their success in the sport. The programme also provides a twelve-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.

Wayne Christie, MotorSport NZ President and a trustee of the MotorSport NZ Scholarship Trust, says when reviewing applications, the five trustees look at the applicant’s determination and resources to make motorsport a career.

“Once again, we saw a very high standard achieved by the applicants who reached the interview stage of the application process, in terms of their conduct and current racing skills. We stress to them that the Academy is another form of competition and encourage the successful applicants to push themselves throughout the year-long Academy programme. Everything counts – just as it would if a competitor approaches teams and sponsors – from their initial application form, to personal presentation and conduct, and interview capabilities.”

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 before contesting the 2018 Formula First Winter Series, winning the rookie title and second overall. 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. He’s a member of the Formula Vee Association of New Zealand.

Taupo’s Conrad Clark 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-ever race and then won the 2017 SpeedSport Scholarship. Next was second overall in the Formula First Winter Series at Manfeild, before taking a big step to race in the 2018 US F4 Championship where Clark’s team won the team’s championship. Now he’s racing – and leading – the Chinese F4 Championship and plans to contest the Toyota Racing Series next season.

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 NZ 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 Super3 series.

Christie says the Academy programme is reviewed each year by the trustees and the Otago Academy of Sport. “We want to ensure we are doing the very best for each person who attends. Last year, for example, we added elements specific to the rally co-drivers who attended. We’ve amended several times the training around data analysis as the sport requires a greater understanding of these technical tools available to drivers and engineers. In what is a very intense week for participants, we constantly assess and adjust the balance of physical and mental training elements included in each of the days.

Christie also says the trustees and trainers can be justly proud of the programme which is highly-regarded around the world. “Our programme is well regarded by the FIA and many other motorsporting countries around the world. No one else has a programme like us, mostly being shorter and costing a substantial fee to attend. Our Academy programme is unique in that it is a year-long programme and provided at no cost to the participants. The value isn’t solely monetary; how do you place a value on the skills a driver or co-driver can gain from some of the world’s very best sporting tutors, the contacts and networking, and the opening of doors to new opportunities through the Academy.

“Many other sporting codes in New Zealand do not have anything like the Elite Motorsport Academy, and as a sport, we can be proud of the fact we offer our talented competitors this unique opportunity to better prepare themselves for a career in motorsport. The trustees appreciate the support we receive from our benefactors to ensure we can maintain the Academy to this high standard.

“We look forward to seeing the class of 2019 use the tools and skills learned during the Academy to represent themselves well at home and offshore in their future motorsport endeavours.”

This year’s Elite Motorsport Academy programme gets underway with the camp in Dunedin running 30 June to 6 July.

New Zealand’s Elite Motorsport Academy first ran in 2004 with race drivers Nelson Hartley, Christina Orr, Chris Pither and Tim Edgell among the selected participants that year. Since then, many academy graduates have forged successful international careers such as Shane van Gisbergen, Brendon Hartley, Hayden Paddon, Earl Bamber and Mitch Evans. Other national motorsport governing bodies have consulted the MotorSport New Zealand Scholarship Trust on the programme’s format and goals to assist the development of their own driver development programmes. Follow the Elite Motorsport Academy on Facebook.

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