Bunnythorpe 16-year-old Josh Drysdale outperformed his peers during a day-long selection process to win the $35,000 Suzuki Swift Sport Cup scholarship for the coming season.
At the Hampton Downs circuit last Friday, the Palmerston North Boys' High School student drove away with a race-ready Suzuki Swift Sport Cup car to contest the six events held during the V8 SuperTourer series.
He will also be given a complete kit of safety clothing and an engineer during the race weekends to optimise the car's set-up.
In his first time at the north Waikato venue and behind the wheel of a race car, Drysdale impressed the eight judges with his fitness, aptitude, interview skills and on-track prowess. He sealed it by setting fastest time in a one-lap shootout around the 2.7km circuit.
This was the fifth time the Suzuki series has held the Castrol-backed scholarship, with the drivers aged between 15 and 23. "Each of the tests is designed to let the cream rise to the top - and they pretty much all did," said class co-ordinator Paul Burborough (Hamilton).
Making up for the day off school, where he is sitting NCEA level 1, Drysdale said the selection was exhausting but his karting experience since 2007 made the transition to a race car easier. Assessed by NZ V8 champion Angus Fogg, Drysdale was thrilled at the experience:
"It was very cool to have someone next to me who is so well known as a race-car driver and who had the faith at encouraging me to push a bit harder meant he had the confidence in me," Drysdale said.
"He was able to help me in areas where I was struggling, turning negatives in to positives. But it was scary too as I didn't want to stuff it up.
"Being able to apply so much of what I already knew to the race car made the transition much easier."
Drysdale delivered the news to his family at home, starting with his mum.
‘She couldn't believe it that I'd actually won - she was very excited - over the moon. So too was my gran - I think she was in tears when I told her on the phone.
"I couldn't believe it myself. I had my mind set on this day all week. So for everything to work out is a pretty amazing feeling."
Drysdale will have pre-Christmas testing at Manfeild before a test day in January at Hampton Downs, where the first round will be held on February 16-17.
- © Fairfax NZ News