Teen provides tough competition
Amid the lingering scent of petrol, the whirring hum of engines and the crowds of boys in leathers and bikie boots is a 16-year-old girl with a streak of blonde hair peeking out of her faded blue-coloured beanie.
Jade Winter's hands may be muddied with grease and grime, but her smile is wide as she modestly recalls her two days of success at this year's fifth annual national Mini Moto Grand Prix at Manfeild Park.
"I'm pretty rapt with my outcomes this week."
The Feilding High School student was one of six girls among more than 200 secondary school students who took part in this year's instalment of the New Zealand National Secondary Schools' mini motorcycle racing event.
Jade competed in the under-62-kilogram, air-cooled, unmodified class, racing a bike she designed and built herself.
After finishing with two thirds and a first in her preliminary heats, she sat in pole position heading into the final.
But, she missed out on a podium finish after taking a corner too fast, careening off the track and being overtaken to finish in fifth place.
Jade said it was heart-wrenching stuff as she had been coming third.
"I was gutted and pretty disappointed in myself, because I knew I could do better."
However, it's not all about the thrills and spills, the event offers 15 to 18-year-old students the chance to turn NCEA-accredited course work into hands-on practical experience.
Jade, who grew up among the nuts and bolts of motorsport, got into it because her father was a mechanic.
She said this was definitely where she saw her future and she was considering joining an automotive course at UCOL or Hawke's Bay Eastern Institute of Technology as early as next year.
But it's not just the students involved who think the initiative is on the right track.
Motorsport ambassador Bob McMurray, who spent more 30 years involved in Formula One with McLaren, was on hand at Manfeild to give out awards and as a guest speaker.
As a trustee for the Motorsport New Zealand Scholarship Trust, which runs an elite academy for young drivers, he said it was good to see young kids getting involved in motorsport.