Newly crowned SpeedSport Scholarship winner Liam Lawson will make his racing debut in the New Zealand Formula First championship this weekend when the series begins at the Manfeild race circuit.
The 13-year-old from Pukekohe High School, heads into the first round with confidence after scoring 10 podiums from 12 races at the same circuit during the recent Manfeild Winter Series.
Lawson appreciates how important the pre-season training was, but doesn’t put too much attention on his results to date.
“Coming from racing karts to [single-seater] cars has been a big, big learning curve,” said the tiny teenager, who is full of praise for his tutor and driving instructor, as well as last year’s SpeedSport Scholarship winner, Brook Reeve.
Reeve drove in three rounds of the Manfeild Winter Series, winning 7 races and ‘showing the way’ for his Scholarship successor.
“Racing behind Brook helped me a lot,” said Lawson. “There’s a lot to learn about racing these [Formula First] cars, and I know I have to be patient because drafting is so important to being fast.”
“I’m really, really looking forward to it. Can’t wait!” he said.
Lawson, who became the youngest-equal winner of New Zealand’s premiere young driver development program, has impressed the Scholarship co-founder, race team owner and driving instructor Dennis Martin with his on track performances so far.
“I haven’t seen a 13-year-old who is so much in control of the race car for a long, long time,” said Martin. “It would have to go back to Nick Cassidy. Liam, too, has a maturity beyond his years.”
Cassidy, who was the Scholarship driver in 2009, went on to win three New Zealand Grand Prix titles in a row and is currently tied in the lead of the Japanese Formula 3 championship with one round to go. He is also racing Formula 3 in Europe.
Martin says Lawson is also the best prepared of any previous Scholarship winner, purely because of the competition he has raced against in the Winter Series.
“With Brook coming back and a better than usual field [of competitors], Liam has had some good racing. If he can get all the technical aspects sorted, then there’s no reason why he can’t win [championship] races.”
It is only in more recent years that the SpeedSport Scholarship winner has been able to participate in the Winter Series as part of the program.
Meanwhile, 2006 winner, Alastair Wootten is providing Lawson with a physical training program from his business ‘Formula Fit’.
Wootten graduated to racing Formula Ford and Toyota Racing Series cars but these days he offers assessment and fitness programs, and operates a successful gym. He also assists with MotorSport New Zealand’s Elite Academy program.
The opening round of the New Zealand Formula First championship will consist of practice only on Saturday, 3 October with the three championship races on Sunday.
The remaining two rounds this year will be held at the Taupo and Pukekohe race circuits. Then there are five rounds in 2016 to conclude the championship.
Lawson won the annual SpeedSport Scholarship back in May and receives a season racing in a Formula First car under the guidance and tuition of Martin’s Sabre Motorsport Team. As well, the winner also receives a personalised race suit, boots and racing gloves from Chicane.
The SpeedSport Scholarship Charitable Trust, currently operating without a sponsor, is making a public crowd-funding plea to help raise money to assist Lawson through the 15th anniversary year of the program.
Donations can be made through the ‘Give A Little Foundation website. Log-in direct at: http/givealittle.co.nz/org/speedsportscholarship.