Snowboard champ takes BMW driver scholarship
Former New Zealand junior snowboard title holder (2007) Aucklander Tom Grooten eclipsed 14 other driver hopefuls to scoop the keys to a ready-to-race BMW E30 by winning the scholarship package for the coming Castrol BMW Race Driver Series.
Tested across a number of disciplines during an evaluation day at the Hampton Downs motor race venue Grooten’s snow and water skills edged him ahead of those with a more exclusive driving background. Impressing judges Mike Eady and Greg Murphy, Grooten was awarded the car as part of the extensive scholarship package.
“It was all a bit overwhelming,” 25-year-old Grooten said of the win.
“It didn’t sink in straight away and with all the congratulations it began to dawn on me that I’d done it.
“I’ve got to get my head in the game now – it’s only two weeks until the first event so I’ve got plenty to do in preparation. It’s a pretty incredible opportunity.”
With the 2.0L BMW race car to use for the six-round North Island based season, Grooten’s rookie campaign is bolstered by a tyre, brake and lubricant package – along with a race engineer and payment of registration fees.
Having recently returned from a three-year off-shore jaunt, Grooten has always been keen on cars, admitting his childhood aspiration was to be a ‘race car driver’.
Competitive surfing and success in snowboarding gave way to university studies – which curtailed his fiscal ability to indulge in his true passion.
Leaving New Zealand to chase an ambition crewing aboard super yachts allowed Grooten to visit Monte Carlo and the Formula One Grand Prix – three times.
“I thought the first time was a once in a life time opportunity, yet I ended up going two more times with each year better than the previous.
“Now, just recently I have arrived back in New Zealand, found myself a fantastic job in the family business, Dad’s Pies, where I am acting as the marketing/branding ambassador and now have the opportunity to become heavily involved in my childhood dream.
“I’d never done any circuit racing before so when I learned about the BMW scholarship felt it was the ideal opportunity – and really really wanted to win.”
Experience and success in the boardercross (Boarder X) snow discipline is what Grooten believes is his key to being successful behind the wheel. “Racing is about the lines – it’s a skill that transfers from one sport to another.”
Needing to put that in to practise Grooten’s first outing will be the season opening round at Waikato’s Hampton Downs circuit 13 to 14 September.
“Initially I’m going to start off all ears – learn from everyone else, take in all that I can and build some knowledge before I see where I fit in. Then I can set some goals and decide where I can get to next. I really want to focus on improving my own skills.”
Fellow judge and top driver Greg Murphy took time out during the announcement to reflect on a parallel scholarship win that got him started in motor racing.
The 2014/2015 BMW Race Driver Series will be made up of the following rounds:
1 Icebreaker Hampton Downs 13-14/09/2014
2 V8 SuperTourer Taupo 27-28/09/2014
3 Sound MG Manfeild 14-16/11/2014
4 NZFMR Hampton Downs 17-25/01/2015*
5 Tasman Revival Pukekohe 21-22/02/2015
6 Legends of Speed Hampton Downs 28-29/03/2015
*Open Classes 17-18th Feb & E30 Series 24-25th Feb