Pukekohe student Liam Lawson will be the CareVets Racing Team's scholarship driver in the coming 2017-2018 Toyota 86 Championship.
"It's a real honour to be selected, the scholarship has been a fast track for the drivers chosen in past seasons and I'm looking forward to racing in a two-car, professionally run team like this," he said.
He will contest the series alongside CareVets' 2016-2017 scholarship winner and series rookie of the year Jack Milligan, Christchurch.
Though he is just 15 years old, Lawson is a young man in a hurry. He is currently second overall in the Australian Formula 4 Championship with two rounds remaining and won the 2016-2017 Formula Ford 1600 championship. Still a student at Pukekohe High School, he stepped up from karting with a string of race, event and championship wins to his name and moved into Formula First in 2015 then to winning pace in Formula Ford a year later.
In the scholarship test day at Hampton Downs on Monday of this week, Lawson was up against nine other hopeful racers. He had his sights set on winning the drive from the first test - but struck an early setback on the day.
"First up we had to run the track - and running just isn't my thing. I can cycle or do gym work or whatever but I can't run."
Fearing the run challenge may have harmed his prospects, Lawson redoubled his efforts in the remaining fitness tests and the other off-track challenges including a media interview.
"I hadn't ever done any media training so that was interesting too, but I've had a camera in my face at every round of the Aussie F4 championship so I'm familiar with how it works," he said.
Once in the car, Lawson said, the day gelled and he could enjoy the challenge of driving the Toyota 86 sports coupe race car at competitive pace.
"It's very different from single-seaters, because the power steering takes some getting used to and it's not as easy to feel what the front of the car is doing - but the cars are so nicely balanced that it's relatively easy to get dialled in and go fast," he said.
Lawson's next project is to secure the top-up funding that will cover the championship. His mentor, Kiwi motorsport icon Kenny Smith, will help with this task.
"The scholarship is a massive financial boost and the team itself is going to be great, a fast track to competitive pace alongside Jack. I'm keen to bolt in the additional funding we need to bring to the drive," he said.
Now entering its third year, the scholarship is based around the competitive two-car CareVets team and offers substantial support to one new competitor entering the Toyota 86 Championship for the first time.
The CareVets Scholarship was created in 2015 by company owner Dr Keith Houston, a passionate motor racing enthusiast who was looking for ways to help foster rising talent in motorsport. It is the first such privately-driven scholarship in New Zealand motorsport and in its previous two years has taken racers to the Championship Rookie title and then (in the case of the 2016-2017 Championship) also to the Championship outright win.
Dr Houston says the CareVets Scholarship puts the successful driver in a competitive car in a two-car team environment and gives them the tools to visualise, plan and work towards their ultimate goal as a professional racing driver.
"CareVets is very proud to help identify and support a talented young driver through the scholarship. Liam is an exciting new talent and has huge potential so we are looking forward to a season of racing with him and Jack as our drivers," he said.