Ahead of the highest profile race of his career around the streets of Monaco this weekend, Tauranga's Richie Stanaway has won New Zealand's premier motor racing award.
Stanaway, 20, is the 2012 recipient of the Jim Clark Trophy which recognises the driver who has demonstrated excellent performance and sportsmanship. It was announced in Auckland on Saturday night at the annual Motorsport Awards evening.
The award is named in honour of the late Jim Clark, Scotland's 1963 and 1965 Formula 1 world champion and 1965 Indianapolis 500 winner who raced in New Zealand during the 1960s' Tasman Series races.
Stanaway's performances in winning the 2012 German Formula 3 title and winning on debut in the GP3 Series were key factors in winning the award. Previous winners include Scott Dixon, Greg Murphy and Paul Radisich.
This weekend Stanaway contests the second round of the World Series by Renault in support of the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix.
Although he performed strongly in pre-season tests, Stanaway had a difficult start to the opening round of the series at the Motorland Aragon circuit in Spain earlier this month.
He qualified fourth but his car was left stationary on the grid of the first race because of an electronics fault and was then hit by another car. In race two Stanaway stepped up to finish sixth.
While other World Series by Renault rounds have two races per weekend, the Monaco event features qualifying on Saturday and a single Sunday race on the morning of the Grand Prix.
Groomed to race
Last weekend's motorsport awards ceremony also recognised the efforts of Te Puke teenager Michael Scott, who will be one of nine young racers attending this year's Elite Motor Sport Academy in Dunedin in July.
Scott, 18, finished runner-up in the Formula Ford Championship over the summer and also placed fourth in the Formula First category.
Scott also raced in the opening round of the Victorian Formula Ford Championship at Phillip Island in April and completed his local season by winning the One Hour Formula First Grand Prix at Manfeild.
The Elite Academy, established in 2004 by the MotorSport Scholarship Trust, has proved successful in preparing New Zealand's top race and rally talent for domestic and international championship competition.
Richie Stanaway with GP3 race winner Mitch Evans and Production World Rally Champion Hayden Paddon are among the previous graduates from the academy.
The week-long academy, from July 2 to 8, puts the focus on physical fitness, nutrition, promotional abilities, media skills, psychometric and mental performance. It's based at Excellence in Sport NZ South Island and the School of Physical Education at Otago University.
"After a successful season I'm stoked to keep the momentum going by getting into the academy," said Scott. "It's going to be an intense week, but I am really looking forward to the challenge."
Scott also hopes to continue his Australian campaign next month.
MXing it up
Some mixed results at the South Australian round of the Australian MX Nationals on Sunday sees Papamoa's Cody Cooper in sixth place at the halfway point of the series.
Cooper qualified second fastest in the Pro Open class at the Murray Bridge track on his Motul Pirelli Suzuki RM-Z450 and posted third and fourth placings in the back-to-back 20-minute motos early in the day. In the longer 30-minuter Cooper finished 10th.
His Suzuki team-mate Todd Waters was the round winner at Murray Bridge while Kiwi Yamaha racer and series leader Josh Coppins also had mixed results with a sixth, third and eighth place.
With five of the 10 rounds completed, the Australian Champs now take a five-week break before the action continues at Queensland's Hervey Bay - midway between Brisbane and Rockhampton - on July 1.
Coppins leads the series with 301 points from Waters on 280 and Brad Anderson (Honda) on 274. Yamaha rider Lawson Bopping is fourth with 255 points from Tye Simmonds (Honda) on 234 and Cooper on 232.
November's Silver Fern marathon rally will make a brief stop in Mount Maunganui during the opening day of competition.
The week-long event for historic rally cars and modern two-wheel drive cars will start from Auckland on Sunday, November 11 and finish in Hamilton on November 18, with the route expected to include about 1200km of special stages.
It's the fourth time the biennial event has been held with the 2006, 2008 and 2010 events, which have attracted international competitors, all being staged in the South Island.
The opening day will stop at Mount Maunganui's Baypark Speedway where the teams will use the pit area for the main service park of the day. The second half of the route on the opening day will take the crews to the first overnight halt in Rotorua.
On Monday, November 12 the teams will head through the Eastern Bay of Plenty, including the famed Motu Rd special stage, which has not seen rally cars in competition since 2006. The other overnight halts as the rally laps most of the central North Island are Gisborne, Napier, Palmerston North, Ohakune and Taupo before reaching the finish in Hamilton.
The early information from the opening round of the World Drift Series in China suggests Tauranga driver Cole Armstrong finished 10th in his Nissan Skyline.
A field of more than 40 drivers competed at the arena event in the Tianjin Olympic Stadium with Kiwis Carl Ruiterman, Sean Falconer and Armstrong qualifying second, seventh and 11th respectively.
Armstrong won his first round battle then lost in round two to finish 10th overall. The winner was defending World Drift Series champion Vaughan Gitten Jr (USA) while Ruiterman was sixth and Falconer finished ninth.
Dust-up in the dirt
Several speedway classes will race at the Waihi Beach Dirt Track Club on the Saturday of Queen's Birthday Weekend. The mid-winter holiday weekend fixture is a low-key race day which will have saloon cars, stock cars, production saloons and ministocks in action at the hillside oval track with racing from 10.30am.