Porsche Australia & New Zealand – Motorsport: One of New Zealand’s fastest young racing talents is now climbing the Porsche Motorsport Pyramid.
The Team Porsche New Zealand (TPNZ) Scholarship is a huge opportunity for young Kiwi racing drivers aspiring to graduate from the local scene and make their mark in an overseas series. For 2023, that opportunity has been seized by 21-year-old Zac Stichbury following a shoot-out against four other talented young Kiwi drivers.
Team Porsche New Zealand is a collaboration between Porsche New Zealand and Earl Bamber Motorsport (EBM) that started in late 2019 with the aim of providing promising young New Zealand drivers the opportunity to advance their motorsport careers in Australia.
To this end, the team offers a scholarship each year to an exceptional young New Zealand driver for a season competing in the Porsche Paynter Dixon Carrera Cup Australia, an important step in the Porsche Motorsport Pyramid, while a second driver gets a seat in the Porsche Michelin Sprint Challenge, the feeder series into the Carrera Cup main game.
EBM’s team principal is two-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, Earl Bamber, who progressed his motorsport career via the Porsche Pyramid, working his way through the Carrera Cup Asia and Porsche Super Cup to ultimately become a factory driver for Porsche in both the World Endurance Championship and the North American International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) SportsCar Championship.
In October last year, the Team Porsche New Zealand Scholarship’s top five applicants were invited to test their skills in a 991.2 GT3 Cup car at a shoot-out held at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park.
“Words struggle to describe how much this means to me.”Zac Stichbury
Kaleb Ngatoa (21), Matthew McCutcheon (19), Ronan Murphy (21), Zac Stichbury (21) and Ryan Wood (18) were tested on and off the track at multiple stations, which included one-on-ones with Earl Bamber and the Porsche New Zealand team, track testing in the 991.2 GT3 Cup car, fitness testing and media interviews.
Stichbury faced stiff competition from Ngatoa, McCutcheon, Murphy and Wood, each of whom had earnt their places in the shoot-out through years of karting and motorsport experience. Raising the stakes was the fact that both Murphy and Stichbury are the sons of two New Zealand motorsport legends, namely Greg Murphy and the late Ashley Stichbury.
Stichbury, who recently completed his degree in Industrial Design at Auckland University of Technology, was announced as the recipient of the Sprint Challenge Scholarship on TVNZ’s Sunday current affairs show in November last year.
“This was an amazing opportunity to see five really talented drivers from New Zealand all line up together in the same car,” said Earl Bamber. “I think it’s the first time ever it’s been done in New Zealand.”
“It was incredibly hard to judge all five and I think all of them have big careers in motorsport ahead of them.”
For Stichbury, the chance to compete in the Sprint Challenge Series with Team Porsche New Zealand and Earl Bamber Motorsport came with added emotional weight – his father Ashley had just signed to race a Porsche in Australia before he sadly passed away in 2002 from a brain haemorrhage.
“Words struggle to describe how much this means to me,” said Stichbury, who was only eight months old when his father passed away. “To finally get the opportunity to continue from where my late father finished up and to race under the New Zealand-based team over in Australia – it’s special.”