Supercar ace Scott McLaughlin’s charity Grand Prix event in aid of KartSport New Zealand’s Driver Development Academy could well become a fixture on the country’s motorsport calendar after the inaugural event, held last week, was declared ‘an unqualified success’ by the organisation’s President Graeme Moore.
‘In fact,’ Moore said this week, “I don’t think it could have gone any better and I don’t say that lightly.
“For a start, everyone involved, every man, woman and child had a ball. Over a week later and I am still fielding calls, emails and Facebook/Instagram messages from people telling me how much they enjoyed themselves.
“Everything about the event exceeded our expectations by at least 100%. And for that I’d obviously like to thank Scott, and our promotional partners, the Giltrap Group, Hampton Downs Motorsport Park and the Downforce Auto Events and Training group. Everyone gave so willingly of themselves to make the event memorable for everyone involved.
“Our only problem is how we are going to top it. The bar – truly – has been set so high.”
KartSport New Zealand patron Scott McLaughlin was also well impressed with how ‘his’ first charity event panned out.
“It was awesome,” he said. “Everyone was just so into it and loving it. It was all for a very good cause too, obviously, so overall, yes, I think it was very successful.”
The event kicked off with the Team Captains’ draw cocktail function at the Giltrap Group’s premises on Auckland’s Great North Road on Monday Nov 05 then moved to Hampton Downs on Tuesday Nov 06 for a full range of track-based activity in cars and karts before a gala dinner and charity auction at Kawakawa Bay’s Kauri Boomrock venue.
Proceeds from the event will go to helping KartSport New Zealand fund and run its highly-rated Driver Development Academy. The Academy has been designed to provide a set of programs and coaching clinics to assist all members from new entrants through club day racers to aspiring and existing elite international level competitors.
It has a team of contracted KartSport New Zealand Accredited Coaches, all of whom have had to meet strict accreditation criteria including a solid background in coaching of karters and participation in KartSport New Zealand coaching workshops. Many of the Coaches also have a distinguished history of competition in the sport.
The Pro-Am format of the Grand Prix event saw guests from the corporate world team up with high-profile local sportsmen and women to complete a variety of challenges in sports and performance cars provided by the Giltrap Group, and karts provided by Auckland-based international Daniel Bray and his N-Zed Motorsport operation.
Each team was captained by one of the high-profile sports stars from other codes who organiser Nick Rowlands had invited to join McLaughlin at this inaugural KartSport charity event.
Included on that list were the likes of former All Black Olo Brown, winning Americas Cup skipper Peter Burling, Cricket all-rounder Grant Elliott, Warriors and Kiwis Rugby League great Awen Guttenbiel, Speedway ace Michael Pickens, Commonwealth Games gold medal-winning Black Stick hockey player Rosie Keddell, former World MX2 class motocross champion Ben Townley, Olympic track cycling medallist and Emirates Team NZ ‘cyclor’ Simon Van Velthoven, and Golf Caddy to the stars, Steve Williams.
Unlike other similar charity events – where guests might get to play a round of golf – the Scott McLaughlin one was all about getting behind the wheel – of everything from one of the Hampton Downs’ Go-Kart track’s 4-stroke hire karts, to a line-up of exotic Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, Ferrari, Jaguar, Lamborghini, McLaren, Porsche supercars and pukka KartSport racing karts.
The cars were all provided by the Giltrap Group, while the Downforce Auto Events and Training Group put together a number of ‘Challenges’ each team member got to try. These included gymkhana-style sessions on dry tarmac and on a wet skid pan, as well as drag racing, through-the-cones slaloms and fast laps (accompanied by an instructor) round the national circuit.
All activities were scored and Olo Brown’s Team BMC took out overall honours.
It was the opportunity to actually get behind the wheel of cars he wouldn’t normally get to drive which proved the highlight for Invercargill businessman Scott O’Donnell.
‘It was a marvellous day, really, and getting to drive the Supercars was certainly the bit I enjoyed most,” he said. “The Lamborghini Huracan’s not a car I’d probably ever go into a showroom and take out on a test drive yet I was able to drive one here, and it was the one I enjoyed the most!”
Other guests also enjoyed driving the Supercars. Though for some, it was their first taste of a serious racing kart, which left the biggest impression.
“The highlight for me? The Karts definitely,” said Kerry Farmer. “Getting to meet Scott, obviously, was a special part of the whole day, but getting to drive the Rotax kart was something I would never normally get to do.”
Getting to drive a genuine racing Kart was also the highlight for fellow Mike Pero team member Lewis Goudie.
“Definitely,” he said. “The day was absolutely brilliant and the Karts were awesome, I loved it.”