Strong performances in international competitions in Australia and America this year has showcased the talent of young Kiwi racer Liam Lawson and led to numerous inquiries from overseas race teams and management personnel.
After finishing runner-up in the Australian Formula 4 championship, Lawson headed to Phoenix, Arizona as the New Zealand representative in the Mazda Road To Indy Shootout, which carries a prize package worth more than $280,000.
An outstanding performance in the ‘mock’ race that concluded the Shootout, contested by just five of the 17 international drivers that started the weekend’s competition, was enough to raise interest in the 15-year-old from Pukekohe.
Although he failed to get his hands on the main prize, throughout the 30-minute race simulation, Lawson bolted from the front to gap those behind him, circulating throughout the race with laps that were no more than 4/10ths-of-a-second apart – the fastest and most consistent of the finalists.
During the mock race the five finalists were sent away from pit-lane at 10-second intervals, with the half-hour duration mimicking the length of a usual USF2000 race.
“Obviously a scholarship like this is more than just the driving on the race track but I gave it my all and couldn’t be happier with all of my performances over the weekend,” said Lawson.
The Mazda Road To Indy Shootout in association with Cooper Tires was won by Keith Donegan, 20, from Northern Ireland.
“To have driven the whole race without missing a single apex and never putting a wheel wrong while wrestling the car around quite a physically demanding circuit was hugely satisfying. I would have to rate that as one of my best performances ever.”
Held at the Bondurant Racing School in identical Formula Mazda single-seater cars, producing 180hp from a 13B rotary engine, the drivers were switched between the cars throughout the two days of competition. Lawson also clocked the fastest lap of the first day.
After the shootout Lawson was approached by a number of American race teams vying for him to contest the USF2000 competition in 2018 and he was also invited to test with a European Formula 4 team at Valencia the following weekend.
However he was already scheduled to appear at a Formula 4 test in Australia at Phillip Island with championship winning team AGI Sport, where he also produced the fastest lap of the day.
Lawson’s Australian Formula 4 campaign concluded on the streets of the Gold Coast last month with two race wins for rival team BRM, and it was only courtesy of BG World Wheels, cumulo 9 and Pukekohe Toyota that was able to make the follow up trip to America.
“It’s been an awesome year, and I’ve been blessed to have the support of so many wonderful people this year,” added Lawson.
With numerous offers on the table from Australia, USA and Europe the racing programme for next year will depend entirely on the financial support he can raise over the next few months.
One thing is for sure, the Pukekohe kid’s dream of one day becoming a professional race driver is far from over.