Brendon Hartley epitomises the Kiwi can-do attitude through bucketloads of talent, hard work and sheer determination. Picture / Photosport

This year would have to be up there with the halcyon days of the 1960s and 1970s when New Zealand had some of the best motor racers in the world.

While we can't quite celebrate a Formula 1 champion in 2017, we can still celebrate two world champions and two Le Mans 24 winners in Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber (World Endurance Championship). And we did get a Kiwi into a fulltime gig in F1 after 33 years in the top echelon wilderness.

Of all our drivers racing at home, and especially abroad, Hartley probably epitomises the Kiwi can-do attitude through bucketloads of talent, hard work and sheer determination. Getting into the cheque book sport of Formula 1 these days is pretty much predicated on the size of one's bank balance, with, in most cases, talent a close second.


With Hartley getting a seat at Scuderia Toro Rosso, it showed that there is still room for a young bloke with big dreams to get what he wants.

For me, though, the shining light in the past few years would have to be World Rally Championship driver Hayden Paddon, who shortly after becoming the Production World Rally champion became the first New Zealander to get a fulltime drive in a WRC team. Shortly afterwards, he and co-driver John Kennard grabbed a round win in Argentina to again raise the bar.

Despite all the barriers for funding in New Zealand when it comes to motorsport, there is a plethora of young men and women, and the odd middle-aged peddler, who have scaled great heights to make their respective marks on the world stage.

We have world-class racers, riders and drivers in motocross, freestyle motocross, X Games, motorcycle road racing, drifting, speedway, land speed records, karting, single-seaters, touring cars, sportscars, V8s, GT racing, rallying and probably a few others I've forgotten.

The only thing really missing is solo speedway, where we once had a rich history. However, you can't have everything. You never know, there may be someone just around the corner who will light up the cinders and fly the New Zealand flag at international speedway races again.

In the past couple of years, young drivers have cut their teeth in New Zealand and then quickly spread their wings to contest, and at times win, championships in Australia, China, Malaysia, Japan, Germany, Italy, England and elsewhere.

If I were to mention every driver who has tasted success in the past few years, the list would take up most of this story, so congratulations to everyone.

Having covered motorsport on and off in its many guises for nearly 30 years in different countries, I would suggest there are four things that have helped young Kiwis climb their motor-racing career mountains.

First, there is the laser-like focus, sheer determination and will and work ethic that are the base on which they have all built their careers.

Second is the passion of their parents, sponsors, supporters and benefactors who are willing to dig deep into their pockets and, in the parents' case, at times sell everything to back their child.

Third is the Elite Motorsport Academy, where young drivers who have shown some talent are nurtured, guided and mentored through a whole range of soft skills (everything bar actually racing a car) that go to make the complete racer at a week-long intensive course in Dunedin.

Finally, the fourth, and by no means the last, is the Toyota Racing Series. Recently it has been the home of some of the best young single-seater drivers from around the world, a few of whom have gone on to race in Formula 1 and other world championships, but it also produced some of our best. It has been a great opportunity for young Kiwis to benchmark themselves against some of the most accomplished young drivers in the world.

New Zealanders have always had a particular affinity with all forms of motorsport and the desire to tinker with things to make them go faster and handle better.

This goes a long way to showing why we also have so many Kiwis who have gone on to be internationally recognised mechanics, engineers and team principals. However, that's a story for another day.

I suppose it all really comes down to our "can do" and "anything is possible" attitude in the long run. I can't wait for 2018, it can only get better.