Matt Butchart swaps karting for Formula Ford as motorsport career takes surprise turn
After a decade in the kart racing game, Matt Butchart's motorsport career is about to take a surprise turn.
The 21-year-old from Nelson has been revealed as the first recipient of the South Island Formula Ford Club's new scholarship, which gives Butchart the opportunity to compete in the six-round South Island series later this year.
Butchart said his father, Mark Butchart, fielded an "out of the blue" phone call a few weeks ago, where a member of the South Island Formula Ford Club said he had been selected as their scholarship winner.
He still does not know why he was chosen, or who put his name forward, but a quick look at his success in a kart might provide a few clues, being a two-time South Island champion in the Rotax Heavy class and the current 2NZ in the open class.
"Formula Ford has been known to take people straight out of karting and it's really that first step into car racing, so the field is usually pretty full of kart races; rookies and people who have been doing it for a few years," Butchart said.
"It's a pretty good opportunity and there's a lot of that in the North Island but it's the first of its kind in the South Island."
Butchart will be leased a tier-three Formula Ford, owned by competitor Gary Lovie, free of charge for the season. He will also receive mentoring and other assistance.
Butchart said after 10 years of racing karts, the time was right to turn his hand to a new challenge.
"It's been a long time coming I think, to have a go at the next step," he said.
"We were actually talking between us how long we'd go on with the karting for but then this came up at the right time.
"We'll be going for a tier-three win but there's a lot of learning to come before that. It's going to be a steep learning curve but all going well we should be able to go close to winning."
Standing at 190cm tall, Butchart said it was a tight squeeze trying to fit into the vehicle for the first time, even with the padding taken off the seat to allow for a few more centimetres of room.
"We went down three weeks ago now to have a go in the car to make sure it was all going to work before we said yes or no. It is a tight fit but it's not too uncomfortable."
Butchart has completed just 15 laps of Ruapuna but has already clocked 220km/h down the home straight, which is a significant difference to the 120km/h max speed in a kart.
"The first lap was pretty unreal, coming down that straight."
Butchart will continue racing karts up until the end of October and said he is hoping to secure a third straight South Island title before stepping into the Formula Ford.
"That would be a good way to sign off," he said.