NZ Governing Supports Young Driver Program
KartSport New Zealand is hailing a MotorSport New Zealand initiative which - for the first time - will see one of the country's most talented young karters - Auckland's Daniel Kinsman - join eight of his motorsport contemporaries at this year's MotorSport Elite Academy in Dunedin in early July.
The week-long Elite Academy programme - set up in 2004 with funding from the MotorSport Scholarship Trust - is run by the New Zealand Academy of Sport South and the Physical Education School at Otago University.
Successful applicants - over the years that list has included the likes of recent GP3 Series race winner Mitch Evans and fellow European single-seater series front-runner Richie Stanaway - are offered a mix of physical and mental exercises aimed at preparing them for the rigours of professional sport.
KartSport New Zealand has an Academy programme of its own but President Lance Hickey says that the MotorSport New Zealand one is complimentary.
"We already run our own KartSport Academy Stage One and Two driver training, with some off-track content, so - if you like - the Elite Academy is Stage Three."
The organisation could hardly have wished for a better qualified applicant for the inaugural intake either.
A third-generation karter from Howick in Auckland, 17-year-old apprentice electrician Daniel Kinsman, is the reigning New Zealand and North Island Yamaha Light class champion and a former New Zealand and North Island Junior Yamaha champion.
He also currently leads the points standings in the Rotax Max Light class in the 2011 Right Karts Kartstars New Zealand Rotax Max Challenge series, and is a former winner of the series' Formula Junior class and New Zealand representative at the Grand Final in Egypt in 2009.
According to MotorSport New Zealand President Shayne Harris the decision to include a karter in the Elite Academy intake for the first time was made in recognition of 'the important role that KartSport plays in introducing youngsters to the thrills and skills of motorsport (so) it felt appropriate that we should be encouraging its top youngsters to apply for the Academy and we hope that one competitor this year may lead to others in the future.'
Indianapolis 500 winner and two-time US Indycar Series champion Scott Dixon got his career start in karts here in New Zealand, as did 2003 World Karting Champion Wade Cunningham, but before and after them, successful drivers without a solid background in KartSport have been the exception that proves the rule.
Before Dixon emerged on the local motorsport scene three-time New Zealand Grand Prix winner Craig Baird, now a leading figure in Porsche GT3 Cup and V8 racing here and in Australia, got an early competitive start in karts, while since Dixon there has been a steady stream of top local karters who have gone on to enjoy success in motorsport circles.
Many - like former kart and Toyota Racing Series champions Mitch Cunningham and Andy Knight - continue to race karts when the opportunity allows. While others - like KZ2 kart category protagonists Ryan Grant and Daniel Bray - remain focused on karts here and around the world, leading KartSport New Zealand President Lance Hickey to conclude;
"This is a great opportunity for the two codes to work closely together. Most of today's successful young race drivers have a KartSport background and no doubt there will continue to be competitors moving across from karts to cars, but there are also many KartSport competitors who will look to pursue their careers both nationally and internationally in karts. The Elite Academy will benefit them all."