Promising Hawke's Bay driver Ronan Murphy has topped the points table following a week-long camp with MotorSport New Zealand's Elite MotorSport Academy in Dunedin.
The highly regarded Otago Academy of Sport run academy is a year-long programme administered by the MotorSport NZ Scholarship Trust with the Otago Academy of Sport's top sports tutors. The programme starts with an intensive in-house camp covering a wide array of skills and techniques for mental and physical fitness specific to motorsport competitors, as well as sponsorship and marketing, nutrition and media skills to aid their success in the sport.
Murphy was joined by fellow Hawke's Bay 17-year-old Zac Stichbury, Auckland's Joshua Bethune, 16, and Breanna Morris, 15, New Plymouth's Thomas Boniface, 15, Taupō's Conrad Clark, 16, Palmerston North's Katrina Renshaw, 23, and Wellingtonian Ryan Wood, 15, at the camp. Each competitor was assessed on several aspects of their performance and teamwork and Renshaw and Boniface finished second and third respectively to Murphy.
The eight competitors continue with the rest of the year-long programme with tailored coaching and mentoring to ensure they retain and further develop the training regimes and educational opportunities demonstrated during the camp. They are also assessed on their performance and participation in the follow-up programme, so at the end of the 12 months, the highest points scorer is named the academy winner, receiving the Ian Snellgrove trophy, presented in memory of long-time MotorSport New Zealand general manager and academy programme trustee Snellgrove.
The son of New Zealand motor racing legend and Hawke's Bay Hall of Famer Greg Murphy, Murphy, said he learned a lot in virtually every workshop, but that the nutrition and hydration information was an aspect he knew very little about and one he feels will make a significant difference in the future.
"I haven't had issues as such but felt uncomfortable at times, a bit drowsy, tired in the car before the end of the day. Now I know how much and when I need to be drinking, and that's why the learning has been so valuable."
Murphy also mentioned the data analysis (understanding the data captured in a race car and how to translate that to his driving) and mental skills coaching were also particularly valuable.
"The way the academy is run, really early starts and long days, you couldn't just sit back and do nothing for a few hours. You had to be on to it, get things done, and still get a good night's sleep before the next day. That's a big thing I took out of it – to dig a bit deeper, that's there's probably more time in the day than you usually think, to push harder, that's where my level needs to be in everyday life."
After the camp it was back into the race car on Sunday for Murphy in the second round of the Manawatu Car Club Winter Series. This time the field was bigger, with 12 Formula Fords competing.
"I did not get the opportunity to practice on Saturday due to being at the camp, however I managed to qualify for third spot on the grid. I finished second place in the first race in slightly greasy conditions. I got fourth in a wet second race too. I was running second for most of the race but made a couple of minor mistakes at the end. The final race of the weekend was again wet, and I got involved in an altercation with another car going for a move down the inside at turn one. Unfortunately it led to contact and bent steering for myself for the rest of the race. At this point I was in third and through the two front runners making mistakes I crossed the line as the winner of the race.
"Unfortunately we lost the win due to a post-race penalty following a protest from another competitor unrelated to the contact," Murphy explained.
"It was great to put some of the learnings from the academy into action and I think I definitely enjoyed the improvements from myself after only a week with the academy. I'm looking forward to the next outing in a month's time," Murphy added.
MotorSport New Zealand president Wayne Christie is also a trustee of the MotorSport NZ Scholarship Trust and joined the camp in Dunedin on the last morning to meet the participants.
"It was evident that every athlete put in an outstanding effort during the camp – a couple pushed themselves so hard that they threw up! Their teamwork was assessed by tutors as being some of the very best yet. The presentation and speaking skills they demonstrated during the prizegiving were outstanding and all the trustees are delighted to see all participants gain so much from the Otago Academy of Sport tutors. That is, of course, what the academy camp is all about and we look forward to seeing them all take these skills and learnings into their future motorsport careers," Christie said.
The Elite Motorsport Academy first ran in 2004. Since then, many academy graduates have forged successful international careers, including Shane van Gisbergen, Brendon Hartley, Hayden Paddon, Earl Bamber and Mitch Evans.