A delighted Jack Milligan was last night celebrating selection as the 2016-2017 CareVets Racing Scholarship driver to compete in the coming Toyota 86 Championship.
Milligan, 20, was one of 12 aspiring racers seeking the drive who were pre-selected to attend the assessment day at Hampton Downs in the North Waikato.
Applicants were subjected to a series of on-track and off-track evaluations including fitness tests, a track run, judging panel interview and mentored and solo laps of the 3.81 km circuit.
The judges were CareVets owner Keith Houston, Toyota 86 category manager Geoff Short and motorsport icon Greg Murphy.
Winning the scholarship drive, Milligan said, was a "huge boost" - and something of a surprise.
"This is fantastic. I've worked very hard to get to this point, and I was up against some really good drivers here. I couldn't say I was sure of winning until Keith announced it. I'm very grateful for the help and support I've received and really looking forward to the championship," he said.
Track sessions with judge and driver mentor Greg Murphy, he added, offered the group valuable insights into their driving style and race craft.
"Murph was great, he really helped us all with getting the best out of the car."
Jack Milligan has raced karts from 2011-2013 and most recently has been a leading competitor in the 'Pro7' RX7 Series, finishing second overall in 2015-2016.
CareVets Scholarship convenor Keith Houston said judging across the on-track and off-track criteria was a complicated and detailed process, but Milligan had emerged the winner "by a clear margin".
"The calibre of candidates this year was very high, all twelve who came to the assessment day show massive potential and that's what the scholarship is about. In the end, we could only name one winner and Jack was the stand-out. I have no doubt we will be seeing more of the other drivers," he said.
Mr Houston said the CareVets Scholarship places Milligan in a two-car team alongside 2015-2016 scholarship co-winner and championship rookie title holder Ryan Yardley. Both Milligan and Yardley are from Christchurch.
Ryan Yardley said being selected for the inaugural Scholarship was a highlight of his career so far and the two-car team was an 'awesome' learning environment. Working alongside Milligan, his goal this year is to win the championship outright.
The 2016-2017 Toyota 86 Championship has a $100,000 prize purse and starts at the New Zealand round of the V8 Supercars, held at Pukekohe over the weekend of November 4-6. All six rounds of the Championship are televised.