Motorsport lover returns after near-death experience

Dennis Martin, the driving force behind the SpeedSport Scholarship, is at selection weekend.
MANFEILD/Supplied

Dennis Martin, the driving force behind the SpeedSport Scholarship, is at selection weekend.

A year on from an illness that hospitalised him for 55 days, a motorsport buff is preparing to launch the career for the next big thing. 

Dennis Martin is the driving force behind the annual SpeedSport​ Scholarship, which aims to find New Zealand's future racing superstar and kicks off at Manfeild in Feilding this weekend.

The $20,000 package provides the winner with an entry programme into single-seater racing and a fully funded drive in the New Zealand Formula First Championship with the Sabre Motorsport team. 

Founded in 2000 as a partnership between Sabre Motorsport and NZ SpeedSport magazine, the annual Scholarship has launched the careers of some of New Zealand's best young motor racing drivers.

READ MORE: Successful mentor Dennis Martin in critical condition

The winner will join an illustrious list beside Shane van Gisbergen, Brendon Hartley, Nick Cassidy and Richie Stanaway. 

This year, 10 young hopefuls are striving to shine in the elimination trial on Manfeild's back circuit. 

Martin, a multiple New Zealand Formula First winner, said the 1.5-kilometre track gave drivers no slack. 

"There is nothing there that can help them. It is a demanding piece of flat, constantly curving track. 

"It's hard to get it right and when anyone gets it wrong we can see it all. There is nowhere to hide when mistakes are made." 

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He's happy to have the chance to stay involved in the programme after a close brush with death last year. 

The Sabre Motorsport owner was hospitalised with pneumonia, spending 10 days in intensive care where he was in critical condition and a coma for two weeks.

Martin said he was fighting a heavy workload and head cold at the time. He'd spent last year's scholarship weekend in a bitterly cold wind and sideways rain. 

"I was feeling pretty rundown... I remember getting into the truck [at the end of the weekend] and I was totally drained." 

He woke that night drenched in cold sweat and his heart racing. His wife Cherie rung an ambulance. 

"I can't tell you what happened next. All I know is that I woke up in a hospital bed thinking I'd just nodded off and when Cherie told me I'd been in a coma for two weeks my immediate thought was 'I cannot afford to spend two weeks away from the workshop'." 

While he was in the coma his kidneys failed. Cherie said he had tubes everywhere and was close to passing away at stages. 

Martin said doctors thought he had a stroke because he lost all strength and movement. The root of the issue was his body fighting back, drawing protein from muscles to fight the infection, he said. 

"You don't need your arms and legs to survive, so it took all the protein from those muscles first. I couldn't even lift my arm off the bed." 

Martin said he'd be sure to "rug up" this weekend. 

 - Stuff

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