Dannevirke's Michael McLean is set to take his motorsport career to the next level after being named as one of eight drivers to be selected for the 2016 New Zealand Elite MotorSport Academy.
McLean (21) said it's a huge privilege to be accepted into the academy so early in his racing career.
"I'm stoked. I'm pretty new to the sport and in only my second year behind the wheel of my own car."
However, McLean has had an impressive start, winning the Central Districts rookie of the year title, as well as his class. Motorsport is in his genes, his father Don is second in the New Zealand hill climb championships.
McLean is joining the elite academy which has produced most of New Zealand's top motorsport talent over the past 13 years, including Brendon Hartley, Hayden Paddon, Shane Van Gisbergen, Emma Gilmore, and many more.
Following in the footsteps of New Zealand's world class drivers is exciting and promising for McLean, helped by the support he has gained from New Zealand's world rally championship star Hayden Paddon and current New Zealand rally championship leader David Holder who is also an ex graduate of the academy.
"I'm very thankful to both Hayden and David for helping and advising me and giving me the support to achieve my rallying goals," he said. "While they may think what they do has little effect, checking your emails to see an email from one of the best drivers in the world is defiantly a good motivator."
The Elite MotorSport Academy runs a year-long programme helping drivers become the "full package" McLean said. The emphasis is on fitness and physical demands including heat tolerance, nutrition, sports psychology and mental skills, sponsorship planning, media training, along with other skills required to become a top race car driver.
Preparations have begun for Mclean as he gears up for the academy's week long camp but it won't be without its challenges with a busy schedule ahead.
"Today I head off to compete in the rally of Gisborne. The day after I fly to Dunedin for the start of the academy for a week long camp. Once back I have a few days to prepare the car for rally Tauranga the weekend after.
"A big hurdle has been the struggle to find a main sponsor to help get us to the events," he said.
"While making the elite academy is a huge achievement," he said, "the big thing is the financial side of things. I'm dependant on sponsorship."
"We have a really cool package we can offer, it's just trying to make contact with the right people. So if there is anyone interested please get in touch."
And like most sports there is a list of people who make it happen, McLean said.
"I can't thank everyone enough for the support I have received from local businesses, friends and family. A huge thanks goes out to my major sponsors Andrew at A&A Auto Works for our new paint scheme and Dannevirke Dairy Supplies for their ongoing support, as well as the rest of our sponsors, Complete Paints, Blast and Coat, Neil Allport Motor Sports, SPR Street Performance Race Parts, and Independent Tyres."
- You can keep up to date with Michael by following him on Facebook at Switched Motorsport.