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Hampton Downs NZ Racing Academy

A huge boost for the next generation of New Zealand Motorsport

The new Hampton Downs NZ Racing Academy and Highlands Excellence Award make it easier for drivers to gain the skills and experience they need to take it to the next level.  

The Hampton Downs NZ Racing Academy programme is led by Daniel Gaunt, an accomplished driver with global experience. The Academy is designed to develop the next generation of talent while providing driver training for drivers at all ends of the spectrum – from a novice track or race driver to advanced driver training for those looking to go faster!

The Academy is offering training in both tin-top vehicles and open-wheelers, utilising Toyota 86 race cars and FT50 open-wheelers.

One wildcard from the Academy will be eligible for the Highlands Excellence Award, an annual event for the country’s top young drivers, with the winner securing sponsorship and support to help race on the global stage.  

Just four drivers will be selected each year to race in the shootout style event. They will drive a range of cars, including a TR86, TRS-FT60, and Aston Martin GT3, at Highlands track in Cromwell. They will also be judged on their professionalism, dedication to fitness, their commercial awareness, and media and sponsor engagement. The winner will be chosen by a panel of experienced drivers and announced at the annual Highlands members dinner. 

“Hampton Downs and Highlands are committed to ensuring the long term viability of the motorsport industry in New Zealand and developing future Kiwi world champions by aligning and connecting the drivers, teams, engineers, benefactors, resources and talent,” says Josie Spillane, the COO of Hampton Downs and Highlands. “We hope these two new initiatives inspire the next generation to dream big dreams and realise that nothing is impossible.” 

Hampton Downs is proud of New Zealand’s rich motorsport legacy and is fast becoming a hub for the sport with the Toyota Racing Series and drift car driver ‘Mad Mike’ Whiddett’s team, just a couple of the motorsport brands to be based out of Hampton Downs. 

The Hampton Downs Academy is primarily designed for up and coming drivers to learn basic and advanced driving skills but it is also open to club racers who want to improve their technique.  

“I’ve seen a few academies in my time and seen what’s worked,” says Daniel Gaunt, who will run the initiative. “Together with the support of Hampton Downs and Tony Quinn I’ve designed and built an academy that is tailored to New Zealand drivers and conditions.” 

“We will have star instructors with impressive resumes and it will be endorsed by a who’s who of New Zealand motorsport. It will be a great stepping stone out of karts and into cars for drivers who want to learn the basics, fundamentals and advanced techniques to build a good foundation for their future racing career.” 

The drivers will train and race in Toyota TR86 production cars and Toyota Racing Series single-seaters, both with dual controls to facilitate in-car coaching. The cars will be fitted with cameras and the latest software to provide detailed data analysis and video feedback that the drivers can take home with them. 

There are three different half-day packages available for the Toyota TR86 and the TRS single-seater: 

Level 1: Intro Into Cars which includes 25 laps of in-car coaching covering the basics including theory, flags, racing lines, car positioning, steering & braking techniques, how to heel and toe, changing gears, using reference points.   

Level 2: Advanced which includes 30 laps of in-car coaching for the more experienced driver and covers: oversteer and understeer, car control, and trail braking techniques.  

Level 3: Experienced which includes 30 laps of in-car coaching to hone techniques learned in Level 1 or 2, and get drivers race-ready. Some of the techniques covered in this course include: race start procedures, practice race starts, and race simulations with the instructor.  

Maintenance and engineering support from the academy comes from Mark Pilcher and his M2 Motorsport team while the academy wouldn’t have happened without the drive and support of Hampton Downs owner, Tony Quinn.  

“With Tony’s support we can offer this course for a token fee compared to what it costs to get this kind of racing experience anywhere else in the world,” says Daniel Gaunt. “Tony is passionate about supporting New Zealand motorsport and particularly the up and coming stars of tomorrow. The academy is designed to give as many kids as possible an opportunity to experience what it is like to drive a race car on a race track.” 

The Highlands Auto Award is a more exclusive offering aimed at supporting a New Zealand driver with the talent and determination to mix it with the best in the world. The motivation behind the award is to identify, nurture and support the winner into a global category like V8 Supercars, IndyCar, Formula 3, Formula 2, or even Formula 1. 

Both the Hampton Downs Academy and Highlands Excellence Award complement the existing Elite Motorsport Academy run by Motorsport New Zealand and the Kiwi Driver Fund aimed at supporting New Zealand drivers in the Toyota Racing Series. The new initiatives create a clearly defined pathway for young, ambitious and talented drivers to make it to the top of the sport.  

Toyota TR86

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FT-50

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Arrive & Drive or Book Online

Group bookings are available outside hours by prior arrangement only (T&C’s apply)
Bookings and availability phone DG/ACE on 09 280 65

 

WHAT TO WEAR

No loose clothing and closed footwear

 

WEATHER

Open in all weather unless torrential or otherwise advised

 

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