Hawke's Bay driver Rowan Shepherd was quick to heap kudos on his karting background after scoring two Touring Car Racing (TCR) dual drives in Europe.
"I did karting in the Bay from the age of five through to 13. I raced against the likes of Mitch Evans and Scott McLaughlin. It set me up well for my future motor racing pursuits," Shepherd recalled.
Christchurch-based for the past six years where he works as an IT systems consultant for Commarc Consulting, Shepherd, 27, hopes his latest scores will be stepping stones to further international drives. He will compete in the final round of the 24 hour Series Champion of the Continents at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain from August 30-September 1 and in the inaugural TCR SPA 500 from October 4-6 at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, a 500-lap race solely for TCR homologated cars.
Both races are run by Creventic who host long distance endurance races around the world for professional and amateur drivers.
A former two-time New Zealand Formula First Championship title winner who also tasted success in the SsangYong Racing Series and Mazda Pro-7 Series, Shepherd, will race for Holmgaard Motorsport in a Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR car alongside Norwegian driver Roy Edland as well as Danish brothers Jonas and Magnus Holmgaard.
"The European stint combines both TCR and endurance racing and that's where I see my future," Shepherd said.
"I'm watching the TCR Australia Series very closely and also seeing how the TCR New Zealand Series develops. It would be great to secure drives in either of those championships at some stage. TCR is massive worldwide. I'm jumping the gun a little bit for when it does come to New Zealand and hopefully I can pick up a drive ... going to Europe is keeping me fresh on the wheel," Shepherd explained.
"I'm also very keen to make a good impression in these two European events as a way to build some momentum and secure a fulltime drive in all of the 24 hour Series Champion of the Continents races next season."
In recent times Karamu High School product Shepherd has contested the Carter's Tyre Service South Island Endurance Series. He finished second overall and in the One Hour Series he won the GT-B class driving a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car.
Shepherd pointed out while motorsport has always been his true passion there was a period when he stopped racing to allow his family to focus on older brother Michael's racing. Michael retired in 2011 after winning five New Zealand Formula First Championship national titles and is now a Palmerston North-based father of four.
During his time out of motorsport Shepherd spent seven years as a golfer and became a scratch handicapper. He represented Hawke's Bay at junior level and was a member of the Hastings and Maraenui clubs.
In 2013 Shepherd became the first Hawke's Bay driver selected to attend MotorSport New Zealand's Elite MotorSport Academy in Dunedin. He was pleased to see fellow KartSport Hawke's Bay products Ronan Murphy and Zac Stichbury selected for the academy's latest intake.
Shepherd's selection followed his first year in the Formula First Championship during the 2011-12 season when he won the rookie of the year award and finished third overall.
"Looking back on those feats it reminds me of how lucky I was to be raised in Hawke's Bay. The Bay was a good place for families and opportunities in racing. It was also a close community which I do miss living in Christchurch," Shepherd said.
His recent performances attracted the attention of Holmgaard Motorsport team principal Kim Holmgaard who was happy to assist him with securing the drives in the northern hemisphere.
"In my career I've worked with race drivers from all over the world and I am looking forward to adding New Zealand to that list and working with Rowan at the last two events of 2019," Holmgaard said.
"We're very keen that he finds a good home here and enjoys his racing and learns from the experience. If he is quick, consistent and brings the car home in one piece then we'd love to build on these two events and do something longer term," he added.