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2023 Elite Motorsport Academy of New Zealand class named

The class of 2023 for the Elite Motorsport Academy of New Zealand has been revealed at the MotorSport New Zealand Awards Evening on Saturday.

Eight young motorsport competitors from across New Zealand will head to Dunedin for the Elite Motorsport Academy camp from 2-8 July. Race drivers Clay Osborne, Dion Pitt, Tom Bewley, Ayrton Hodson, Bailey Cruse, and Blake Knowles will join rally drivers Ari Pettigrew and Zeal Jones.

Held at the Otago Academy of Sport, the week-long academy camp is the first part of a 12-month development program that is world-renowned in motorsport. Participants will receive tutelage from experts on the ‘off-track’ elements of motorsport such as nutrition, fitness, media, marketing, sponsorship, data analysis and much more.

17-year-old Morrinsville racer Clay Osborne had a breakout second season in the Toyota 86 Championship. With multiple race wins, Osborne just missed out on the title in a fight that went right to the final race.

Dion Pitt, 25, from Auckland, is also an accomplished Toyota 86 racer. With multiple race wins to his name, Pitt is looking to move his career forward by learning from the academy.

Hawkes Bay’s Tom Bewley, 15, is a talented young karter who has just wrapped up his rookie season in the Toyota 86 Championship.

Ayrton Hodson, 18, from Katikati, is a speedway star turned circuit racer who has cut his teeth in the Toyota 86 Championship this season. Ayrton recorded a podium finish in the highly competitive series in his debut season.

Pokeno’s Bailey Cruse, 17, has driven with success in classes such as Formula Open and is looking to forge a career in single-seater racing in the sport.

16-year-old Christchurch Formula Ford racer Blake Knowles will join the academy for 2023. The young gun claimed the most recent South Island Formula 1600 series and finished runner-up in the NZ Formula Ford Championship.

Cromwell local Ari Pettigrew, 24, is a young rally driver with a bright future ahead of him. Pettigrew won the New Zealand Junior Rally Championship in 2022.

Zeal Jones, 18, of Pukekohe is another young rally driver who has already enjoyed success at the top. Just last weekend Jones won his class at the International Rally of Whangarei.

Wayne Christie, MotorSport New Zealand President and trustee of the MotorSport New Zealand Scholarship Trust, commended the high level of applicants to choose from in 2023.

“New Zealand has such a depth of young motorsport talent which makes our job as selectors for the academy incredibly tough,” commented Christie.

“This year’s class is the future of New Zealand motorsport, and perhaps even more encouraging was how high the level of talent was of those that just missed out on selection this year.

“On behalf of all the trustees, I want to wish this year’s academy cohort all the best for the camp in Dunedin. I know the trustees are looking forward to monitoring your progress.”

The Elite Motorsport Academy first ran in 2004 and its over 150-strong list of graduates reads of the “who’s who” of the modern era of New Zealand motorsport. International stars such as Shane van Gisbergen, Hayden Paddon, Brendon Hartley, Earl Bamber, Nick Cassidy, Mitch Evans, Richie Stanaway and Andre Heimgartner have all graduated from the academy.

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