Kiwi driver fund seeks new partners
A charitable trust that provides essential support for rising New Zealand race drivers is seeking wider support from the motorsport and business communities in order to expand its work.
The Kiwi Driver Fund has been instrumental in helping New Zealand’s latest crop of young motor racing drivers to build their international racing careers. It provides financial support for drivers entering the annual Castrol Toyota Racing Series, New Zealand’s premier single-seater championship and an essential step for any local driver’s career plans.
Trustee and former McLaren Formula 1 team member Bob McMurray says the fund “is probably the single most important instrument for helping drivers take that crucial next step in their careers.”
“The Toyota Racing Series gives local drivers a chance to compete directly against the best rising stars from Europe, the UK, Asia and the Americas. While drivers from Europe or the USA have championship opportunities literally at their doorstep, the New Zealand drivers must grapple with two further challenges: distance and money. Neither are new, but post-Covid, the difficulty of raising the finance to race at a premier level here in New Zealand is becoming a major hurdle,” he said.
Established in 2015, the fund has since assisted drivers including Brendon Leitch, Taylor Cockerton, Marcus Armstrong, Liam Lawson and Chelsea Herbert. In the 2021 championship, the fund supported Mathew Payne, Kaleb Ngatoa, Conrad Clark, Billy Frazer and Peter Vodanovich.
Kiwi race drivers assisted by the fund have gone on to greater things in New Zealand and abroad. Chelsea Herbert is the sole exception, having broken her back in a racing accident, but she is now on the way to full recovery and has returned to motor racing.
Drivers can apply for help with their TRS engine and/or chassis lease to contest the whole championship. Potential recipients must show they can compete at an international level.
The fund is a fully independent registered charity overseen by a four person board of trustees: McMurray; former Toyota motorsport manager Steve Boyce and former Toyota New Zealand senior executives Bob Field and John Fowke. New Zealand racing identity Kenny Smith has a mentoring, driver training and ambassadorial role as patron of the fund.
“Steve Boyce saw young Kiwi drivers unable to contest the CTRS due to financial issues. They had the talent, but not the funding,” said McMurray.
“We set up the fund when we realised some very good Kiwi drivers were going to miss their chance to progress.”
The fund has been supported by Tony Quinn, owner of Hampton Downs and Highlands Park race circuits; Post Haste; Truck Sales New Zealand and Toyota New Zealand. Now the Trustees are looking to make the fund financially sustainable.
“We need to ensure continual funding so we are looking to the wider motorsport or business community to invest in the future of our young racing stars. Looking to the future we’d like the fund to offer support further down the motorsport ladder and even to up and coming talent from other motorsport disciplines,” adds McMurray.