Motorsport: Leitch to follow in Dixon's footsteps

By Eric Thompson

Brendon Leitch during the Toyota Racing Series. Photo / Matthew Hansen
Brendon Leitch during the Toyota Racing Series. Photo / Matthew Hansen

Young Cromwell based single seater racer Brendon Leitch is following in the footsteps of the likes of IndyCar racer Scott Dixon, and World Rally Championship front runner Hayden Paddon, in launching a supporter's club to help fund a tilt at an overseas championship.

After a number of years of taking on some of the brightest wings and slicks international racers in the Toyota Racing Series, Leitch and a number of backers are hoping to get him to the United States to contest the FIA sanctioned Formula Four championship.

Leitch finished third overall in the 2016 championship and was regularly pressing overseas drivers, a number of whom were part of development squads for Formula One teams. Managing to hold his own on a limited budget against much better funded international drivers just proved that, with the right backing, the 21-year-old could be a force to be reckoned with.

"The TRS championship was a bit up and down this year [including a very big crash], said Leitch.

"Overall though, I leaned a whole lot more and was definitely driving a lot better than last year according to the data. It's always good to see that you keep on improving.

"It's really quite humbling to have a bunch of supporters who want to get behind me and try and make this happen. They've got right behind me and I'm thankful for all their support.

"We're starting to get the funds together and have made a start. It's taking a bit longer than I thought, but with some more people coming on board, and we're chasing hard, the package should come together to get me to America this year.

"Kenny Smith has been great and supported me during my Formula Ford days. His advice has been very valuable."

It will not be Leitch's first foray to North America. He had the opportunity to experience US single seater racing when he had an impressive test with Newman Wachs Racing Team in a F2000 car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year. On the back of this showing and his pace in the TRS, the decision has been made to try and get him across the Pacific to race in the the six-round Formula Four United States championship, which begins at Miami, April 8.

"I had a good time testing last year and racing in America is nowhere as expensive as it is in Europe. The quality of the competition is just as high in America and the F4 championship is a lot cheaper.

"There is more of a chance to get to the top on a smaller budget, which helps coming from New Zealand. There are a lot of Kiwis over in America and the support I got when I was last over there was amazing.

"Being another Kiwi they helped out with advice and getting to meet people," said Leitch.

A number of young Kiwis have made the journey to America in the past to try and emulate Dixon's IndyCar success. These sojourns have been primarily in the feeder categories for IndyCar. Leitch and his supports have decided to take a different route contesting the F4 series.

This longer term strategy could see Leitch making his way to Europe if he does well. The winner of the US championship gets the opportunity to go into a Champion of Champions run-off at the end of the year against the FIA Formula 4 Champions from around the globe.

"The championship [F4} does have more options being an FIA championship. There's also the point that there is a wider variety of what we can do with the prize money, rather than having to put it towards another specific category [like the Mazda road to Indy].

"I haven't driven one of the F4 cars yet, but I'm not too concerned. They are a bit down on power compared to a TRS car, but still run slicks, slide around a bit and have downforce.

"As a stepping stone for getting into America it's a good fit for me. I'll get the same, if not more track time than any of the other championships," he said.

Such a campaign requires support, hence the launch of the Brendon Leitch Supporters' Club. New Zealand motorsport icon Kenny Smith has mentored many young drivers and he endorses Leitch's talent, "one hundred percent".

"What Brendon achieves each year in TRS against those hotshot overseas drivers is outstanding," said Smith. "If he had the mileage they had going into the series each year he would kick most of their butts!

"It is a waste of his talent to only have the opportunity to race five weekends a year as he does at the moment. Kids in New Zealand motorsport have to struggle to make it but, I know if he goes to Formula 4 in the States he will be very hard to beat."

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 23 May 2017 22:03:57 Processing Time: 642ms