Motorsport: Smith spots promising young talent

By Eric Thompson

Tom Alexander leads the way in a Toyota GT86. Picture / Bruce Jenkins
Tom Alexander leads the way in a Toyota GT86. Picture / Bruce Jenkins

A hot young prospect spotted by one of the best motorsport scouts around, Kenny Smith, was in action again this weekend at the last round of the V8 SuperTourers' series at Pukekohe.

Tom Alexander is contesting the inaugural Toyota GT86 championship and after two rounds he sits on top of the points table, 24 ahead of Angus Fogg and another four points up on Jamie McNee.

Smith has a habit of spotting talented young drivers and guiding them on the road to international success, among them Scott Dixon, Brendon Hartley and Shane van Gisbergen. Smith considers Alexander has what it takes.

"I met Tom about four years ago when he was helping Andrew Higgins," Smith says. "He'd just come out of karts and I don't think financially they could have carried on themselves. A mate of mine and I bought a Formula Ford for him and gave him a run in that.

"I could see very early on he was able to make fast progress. When you told him to do something then within one lap he was doing it - not like some youngsters who take 20 laps to get it right.

He's got a lot of talent and is good in an open-wheeler, but you need about $10 million to go overseas and race in them.

"He's quick as well and picks up stuff really fast. If I put him in a F5000 car there's no doubt he'd be quick in one of those as well. This GT86 class will be good for him but it's obvious saloon car racing is the future for him.

"Single-seaters are too expensive and there's no future in them unless you take a bundle of money with you.

"He's a good kid and I'm looking forward to getting him going a fair way up the line."

Smith himself had a bit of a play in the GT86 over the weekend and found it to be a bit of a handful - not through any fault of the car, mind you, more that it wasn't quite his cup of tea after 50 years in open wheelers.

"I didn't get to grips too well in it," Smith said. "It's a totally different thing [to my F5000 car] and I felt it needed another 200 horsepower. They are a very good car, and great for teaching kids coming through how to keep your corner speed up.

"In the older cars you drive them a bit more aggressively. You can't drive the GT86 aggressively - you have to be smooth in it.

"In the old F5000 and Atlantic cars you can push them around and steer them on the throttle. After 50 years of driving like that it's hard to suddenly change your ways.

"It was only a one-off thing and I'm much more happy with what Tom did. Toyota have done a magic job with these cars and all we need are more of them on the grid next year."

The next round of the Toyota Finance GT86 Championship is at Hampton Downs, from January 2 to February 2.

- NZ Herald

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