East Auckland’s Jacob Smith has topped the points-table of the 2016 New Zealand Elite Motorsport Academy to win the Ian Snellgrove trophy.
The prestigious trophy, awarded in memory of long-time Motorsport New Zealand general manager and academy programme trustee Ian Snellgrove, was presented to Smith during the Motorsport New Zealand annual awards dinner in Wellington on 27 May.
Smith, now aged 18, was one of eight young motorsport competitors selected for the 2016 year-long academy programme, which was the 13th time the programme has run. The academy is administered by the MotorSport New Zealand Scholarship Trust and run by world-class tutors from Academy of Sport South Island and the University of Otago’s School of Physical Education’s Human Performance Centre.
Smith took an early, but narrow lead during the intensive, week-long academy coaching camp in Dunedin last July ahead of two Gold Coast, Australia-based Kiwis Hunter McElrea and Jaxon Evans. The live-in camp is the core of the programme and sees participants learn a wide array of skills and techniques to aid their mental and physical fitness as a motorsport competitor from an array of sports experts. They also gain sponsorship and marketing, nutrition and media skills needed to succeed in the sport. The Elite Motorsport Academy programme also provides a twelve-month follow-up package tailored for each participant to ensure they retain and further develop the training regimes and educational opportunities demonstrated during the camp.
Tony Herbert, one of five trustees, says the 2016 class was one of the most professional and dedicated in recent years.
“This class was very close in terms of their performance throughout the year-long programme,” Herbert says. “Jacob was consistently just ahead on the points-table and it’s this consistency and dedication to completing the follow-up programme to the best of his ability which has earned Jacob the Ian Snellgrove trophy. We congratulate Jacob and all the 2016 academy graduates and look forward to following their future motorsport careers with great interest.”
Smith says the academy programme provided him with the skills required to perform at an elite level both on and off the track. “The academy programme covers every area from fitness to nutrition, media work and sponsorship. Personally, it has taught me how to balance the demands of my motorsport career with the demands of my personal life to get the best out of both worlds.
“There wasn’t just one aspect of the programme that stood out for me; all of the aspects were so important and valuable in their own way. Every class and practical session was just as useful as the others as they helped me learn and develop my skills to make a career out of motorsport. That is what makes the New Zealand Elite Motorsport Academy so beneficial to young drivers moving their way up in motorsport.”
The comradery of each academy class is noted each year and the 2016 class was no different. “I loved the team environment at the Academy. Having seven other drivers to bounce ideas off, learn and compete with made the academy an amazing experience. It is awesome to see how far we all have come since our time down at Dunedin and how we have applied the skills we learnt to better ourselves as drivers both on and off the track.”
A determined and consistent driver in the highly-competitive, one-make Toyota 86 Championship, Smith says the highlight of the 2016/17 race season was at the fourth round at Invercargill. “I achieved three podium placings with two thirds and one second-place to take second overall for the round. Achieving fifth place overall in the 2016/17 Championship, despite crashing out of round one and scoring no points, was a great way to finish off the summer season which gives me confidence heading into the next year of racing.”
Smith says he aims to contest the Toyota 86 Championship next summer. “I want a good crack at the top spot of the championship, and beyond next season, I would love to venture overseas to further my career.”
Smith’s 2016 Elite Motorsport Academy classmates were (participant’s name, hometown, age, motorsport discipline, current race vehicle):
· Jaxon Evans, Gold Coast, Australia, 20, race, Porsche 997 and Toyota TR86
· Connor Adam, Auckland, 18, karting, Maranello racing kart and Toyota TR86
· Alexandra Whitley, Auckland, 23, race, SsangYong Ute
· Michael McLean, Dannevirke, 22, rally, Subaru Impreza WRX
· Brock Cooley, Wellington, 26, race, NZ Touring Cars Class 2
· Kieran Anstis, Auckland, 20, rally, Mitsubishi Evo
· Hunter McElrea, Gold Coast, Australia, 17, race, Formula Ford