MSNZ Awards: Formula First takes top honours

Past and Present NZ Formula First drivers, officials and supporters have featured heavily in the 71st annual MotorSport New Zealand awards night at Wellington’s TSB Arena.

Former president of the class and 1992/93 champion, Dom Kalasih was recognised with a Distinguished Service Award for his contribution to the sport. For the past 25 years, Dom has been at the heart of Formula First, once as President of the Association and more recently as a committee member.

Dom and family have been simply incredible for all they have done for the Formula First class over this time with Dom always available to provide measured advice and counsel. As well as this, Dom has held the role of MotorSport NZ Circuit Safety adviser for the past three years, a role he takes very seriously and executes to a very high standard. Congratulations, Dom!

Dennis Martin and Grant McDonald were presented with a Special Award for their contribution to fostering young talent with the SpeedSport Scholarship. Dennis Martin, a successful driver himself and 2x NZ Formula First champion, partnered his Sabre Motorsport team with Grant McDonald and his successful SpeedSport Magazine in 2000 to form the ‘SpeedSport Scholarship’. The program has been the kick-starter for Kiwi talent such as Shane van Gisbergen, Richie Stanaway, Nick Cassidy as well as future stars Liam Lawson and Conrad Clark.

Their support of young talented drivers has extended well beyond the scholarship programme. Dennis and Grant’s contribution to the sport is without a doubt, tremendous and is to be congratulated.

Formula First alumni also featured heavily in the most prestigious awards available on the night, The Steel Memorial Trophy and The Jim Clark Trophy.

The prestigious Steel memorial trophy was presented to 2015/16 Formula First rookie of the year Liam Lawson, from Pukekohe, who is currently racing with great success in the German Formula 4 Championship. He also won this award last year having secured the 2016/17 New Zealand Formula Ford Championship title on his 15th birthday to make him the youngest-ever Formula Ford champion around the world.

First presented in 1983, thanks to late Owen and Gwenn Steel, the Steel memorial trophy recognises the efforts of a junior (under 21 years) driver at national race level and their dedication, skill and professionalism as they strive to progress to the upper echelons of motorsport.

The Jim Clark trophy was presented to Brendon Hartley (Formula First 02/03), now racing for Formula 1 team Scuderia Toro Rosso. Last October, aged 27, Hartley, joined a small line-up of just nine Kiwis who have raced in the world’s top circuit racing category to carry on the tradition set by Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme and Chris Amon.

The Jim Clark trophy is awarded in memory of Jim Clark who was the Tasman race champion in 1965, 1967, and 1968 and then tragically killed at Hockenheim, Germany, in April 1968. The trophy is awarded annually to the New Zealand driver competing at a national or higher level who shows a sportsmanlike attitude to the sport and fellow competitors and natural ability in “putting up the most meritorious racing performance during the season”.

The awards night also brings the announcement of NZ’s Elite Motorsport Academy intake for the upcoming season. Three past and present NZ Formula First drivers will partake in the program designed to prepare them with the off-track skills needed to compete at the highest level.

Current series champion Callum Crawley will head to the University of Otago in July for the ‘camp’ along with this year’s fifth-placed Billy Frazer and 2016/17 runner-up Matt Podjursky.

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