Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Skills crisis: Qualified and now preparing to race

Andrew Waite got his apprenticeship through the Motor Industry Training Organisation.  Photo / Dean Purcell
Andrew Waite got his apprenticeship through the Motor Industry Training Organisation. Photo / Dean Purcell

An automotive electrical apprenticeship has helped give Andrew Waite an entree into the super-competitive world of V8 car racing.

The son of a panelbeater, 23-year-old Mr Waite grew up with cars.

"It was my goal since I was 5 years old to do car racing," he says.

He started racing karts at 8, was NZ kart champion at 16, and when he left school his first step was into Manukau Institute of Technology's one-year Certificate in Motorsport at Pukekohe.

"It gave me a baseline on everything - car building, painting, engine rebuilding," he says.

At 18, he got an apprenticeship with Craig Laing at Automasters in Kingsland through the Motor Industry Training Organisation.

He wanted a solid skill as "something to fall back on", and has been surprised at how useful it has been in racing.

It was a big commitment. As well as working fulltime at Automasters, he worked part-time as a DJ and kept up his racing career. He found it hard to focus on his studies at first, but soon developed a routine.

"On Monday night I'd stay at work till 8 or 9pm. ... Everyone knew, Monday night, don't bother calling me."

The hardest part was the maths.

"There are some things that just blew my mind. It did get quite hard," he says. "Craig was really good. If I had a question, he'd be there to help me answer it."

He finished the apprenticeship in March and in July was signed up by Steve Horne's Tasman Motorsports Group for the V8 SuperTourers.

Mr Horne, a legendary figure whose team won the Indianapolis 500 in 1986, says Mr Waite's main attraction was his record in motorsport, but the apprenticeship helped.

"Being a racing car driver is not just sitting in the car and turning the wheel, they have to understand the mechanical aspect of the sport," he says. "The fact that he has done an apprenticeship is an advantage. He knows what's going on in the car and that's an added bonus."

Mr Waite says the driving is physically challenging.

"The in-cabin temperature is 60C when you're racing," he says. "Your heart rate can sit at over 140 beats per minute, the normal is about 80."

Winning involves keeping fit both physically and mentally.

"When you're so hot, that's when you start losing mental concentration."

Mr Horne says Mr Waite is now well placed to become a fully professional V8 driver in Australia, and he will not stand in his way.

"That would make me feel really good," he says. "I was 23 once, a long time ago."

On the web
www.mito.org.nz

The series

Monday: Our mismatched skills
Yesterday: Vocational pathways
Today: Industry training
Tomorrow: Second-chance education
Friday: Tertiary education.

- NZ Herald

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