World endurance champion Brendon Hartley, national rally champion Ben Hunt, single-seater racing star Brendon Leitch and dedicated classic rally competitor and organiser Brent Rawstron have been presented with the top awards at MotorSport New Zealand’s annual awards gala dinner.
Held at Te Papa in Wellington on Saturday 28 May, the annual MotorSport New Zealand awards recognise the achievements of competitors, officials, volunteers and media at all levels of four-wheeled motor sports in New Zealand.
Outgoing MotorSport New Zealand president Shayne Harris says: “We present nearly 60 trophies and awards during this very special celebration of New Zealand motorsport, from our grassroots competition with hillclimbs and clubsport events right through to the highest tiers of world motorsport with the talents of drivers like Brendon Hartley and Hayden Paddon.
“With the four premier awards – the Jim Clark trophy, the Rally Founders trophy, the Steel memorial trophy and the Lupp trophy – we celebrate the best of the best in New Zealand motorsport and recognise the contributions made by these individuals at the top-end of the sport from a wonderful array of talented nominees.”
Hartley, originally from Palmerston North and now based in Monaco, was presented with the Jim Clark trophy for the second consecutive year in recognition of his 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship title alongside Porsche team-mates Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard.
This trophy is awarded in memory of Jim Clark who was Tasman Champion in 1965, 1967, and 1968 before being tragically killed at Hockenheim, Germany, that year. It recognises the New Zealand driver competing at a national or higher level who shows a sportsmanlike attitude to the sport and fellow competitors and natural ability in ‘putting up the most meritorious racing performance during the season’.
Also nominated this year for the Jim Clark trophy were US-based Scott Dixon who fought right to the end of the 2015 season to secure his fourth IndyCar championship title and Invercargill’s Brendon Leitch for his third place and top New Zealander position in the 2016 Toyota Racing Series Championship.
Ben Hunt, formerly of Nelson and now based in Auckland was presented with the Rally Founders trophy for the first time in recognition of his professionalism and performance in winning the 2015 New Zealand Rally Championship.
Inaugurated in 1990, the Rally Founders trophy, recognises the rally driver who performs with distinction during the rally season, either nationally and/or internationally; has a sportsman-like attitude towards the sport and others, and displays the qualities of a true sporting ambassador. Hunt got the nod ahead of fellow nominees Tauranga’s Phil Campbell, a NZRC competitor who shows consistently strong and improving results, and Geraldine’s Hayden Paddon who continues to compete at home as his World Rally Championship schedule allows. Paddon has won the Rally Founders trophy six times previously and this year was selected by New Zealand motorsport media representatives as the motorsport media personality of the year.
Invercargill’s Brendon Leitch, age 20, took out the prestigious Steel memorial trophy which recognises the efforts of a junior (under 21 years) driver at national race level and their dedication, skill and professionalism as they strive to progress to the upper echelons of motorsport.
Leitch, who was also presented with the Bruce McLaren trophy during the awards evening as the best New Zealander with third overall in the 2016 Toyota Racing Series Championship, wins the Steel memorial trophy for the first time from two other nominees, Aucklander Taylor Cockerton, a Former NZ Formula Ford champion, a 2016 Toyota Racing Series competitor and a rising star in open wheeler racing, and Christchurch’s James Munro – recipient of the Steel memorial trophy for the past two years – who was the 2013 NZ Formula Ford champion and is currently contesting the IndyCar-feeder series, the USF2000 championship with Team Pelfrey in the US.
The Steel memorial trophy was presented to MotorSport New Zealand with these criteria by the late Owen and Gwenn Steel.
Christchurch’s Brent Rawstron was presented with the Lupp trophy which is awarded to recognise a competitor from classic and historic racing who has demonstrated exceptional levels of sportsmanship, vehicle presentation and who embodies the very spirit and values associated with the classic and historic movement.
Rawstron’s efforts as a dedicated and committed historic and classic competitor saw him awarded the Lupp trophy over Auckland’s single-seater racing legend Ken Smith. Rawstron’s competitive days include rallying with John Kennard, who now co-drives for Kiwi rally star Hayden Paddon, back in the 1980s. Rawstron is well-connected in world rallying circles and uses these connections to secure the entries of former top WRC drivers such as Ari Vatanen and Markko Martin to compete at the Otago Classic Rally. Rawstron provides the classic rally car and crew.
The Lupp trophy is from a collection of the late Sybil Lupp and made available to MSNZ by the Wellington Central MG Car Club. Famed for her motorsport exploits, Wellingtonian Sybil Lupp began racing in 1947 and by 1952 had won 144 trophies.
Nominations for the four premier awards and other awards such as the distinguished service awards come from the 96 member clubs who jointly own and contribute to MotorSport New Zealand as the country’s governing body for four-wheeled motor sports.