Giltrap Group Motorsport 2021 Season Review

Albeit with some pandemic related scheduling changes, it was great to see global motorsport come back to life in 2021. Both locally and internationally the stable of Giltrap Group supported drivers have continued to deliver impressive results in their respective disciplines.

While it’s very much eyes forward to 2022, we also want to reflect on the year that was and celebrate the achievements of our kiwi drivers that continue to fly the flag at tracks here and around the world. From the Evan’s brothers to SVG, here is our 2021 season report for each Giltrap Group sponsored driver. See you trackside in 2022!

Earl Bamber

For a driver who competes all over the world, one of the challenges Bamber faced in 2021 was one of scheduling. The silver lining was, along with Earl Bamber Motorsport (EBM) contesting various series around the globe with various drivers, including Earl’s very capable younger brother, Will. Bamber himself could focus on expanding the EBM business and, alongside Porsche New Zealand, developed a young driver scholarship programme that leverages Australia’s Porsche Paynter Dixon Carrera Cup and Porsche Michelin Sprint Challenge. Bamber was determined to create world class opportunities for young drivers, much like how the now-defunct A1GP series did for him.

“The idea was, back when I went through the motor racing levels, there was always a pathway and there was a very good pathway especially with the [New Zealand] A1GP junior programme they had at the time,” said Bamber.

Among the EBM drivers competing in Australia is Callum Hedge and Madeline Stewart. As a driver, Earl Bamber contested Le Mans in a 911 RSR with Weathertech Racing in August and he had a full dance card in the back half of 2021. Frustratingly however, a COVID-19 impacted Bathurst 1000 schedule meant Bamber had to relinquish confirmed co-driving duties with Andre Heimgartner and Kelly Grove Racing. Bamber has signed on with Chip Ganassi Racing to contest the top tier IMSA Sportscar Championship in 2022 and the new Bathurst dates clashed with commitments in USA.

Bamber rounded out the year winning the Thailand Super Series title with co-driver, Piti Bhirombhakdi. The drivers of the EBM-assisted Singha Motorsport Team Thailand Porsche 911 GT3 R claimed victory in the second of two 60-minute races on Christmas Day.

 

Mitch Evans

Season seven of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship was Jaguar Racing’s most successful yet. The Jaguar I-TYPE 5 cars of Mitch Evans and Sam Bird achieved eight podiums, two wins, one pole position and a total of 177 points scored.

Those points were enough to propel Jaguar Racing into second place at the season’s conclusion, a frustrating four points behind Mercedes EQ. The 2020/21 season also saw history made for the team, with its first double podium in Formula E and the first double podium for Jaguar in over 30 years.

Evans finished fourth overall in the season seven driver’s championship, securing five podiums for Jaguar Racing. The Kiwi also secured a home race third-place podium finish at the London E-Prix round of the 2020/21 ABB FIA Formula E championship in July, marking the first podium on home soil for Jaguar in 30 years.

Evans’ position as Jaguar Racing’s longest-standing Formula E driver will continue, with the team committing to a new multi-year contract with the Auckland-born racer. Evans has been with the British team since its inception in 2016.

 

Simon Evans

With international driving duties on the backburner, Evans looked to the exciting domestic TR86 one-make series in 2021 as an affordable and hotly contested challenge. Evans enjoys nothing more than the door-handle to door-handle proximity of tin top racing that enables drivers to be aggressive on track and his years of this style racing served him well in the TR86. Along with competing, Evans also undertook a mentoring role for Rookie, Marco Giltrap, who went on to be the TR86 Rookie of the year.

The season was one of the most competitive in TR86 history with Evans battling hard all season with experienced competitor Rowan Shepherd. The Championship would eventually come down to the final race, Evans won the race, but Shepherd finished second to ultimately take the championship points lead by a mere 5 points.

Evans will head into the 2022 season eager to go one better.

“The racing last year was just brilliant, and it looks like it is going to be even better this coming season with another bunch of talented young guys and girls added to the mix, a bigger field and the reigning champion as the benchmark for everyone.”

 

Marco Giltrap

Marco Giltrap finished the 2021 Best Bars Toyota 86 race series in sixth spot and with 697 points to his name after 15 races.

The year would prove exceptionally challenging for last season’s Toyota 86 race series ‘Rookie of the Year’ following a heavy crash at Taupo in June. The incident drew a line under any further race activity for the teenager while he recovered, but news that Giltrap is returning to the grid for the 2022 season shows he has resilience and determination; attributes that will no doubt translate into his efforts on-track as the coming season progresses.

Giltrap’s teammate and mentor, Simon Evans, secured a second place and 968 points behind the wheel of the other Giltrap Group supported Toyota TR86 in the 2021 season.

 

Brendon Hartley

Brendon Hartley finished his 2021 campaign on a high in November, with a first-place result in the Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 car alongside co-drivers Sébastian Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima at round six of the FIA World Endurance Championship in Bahrain.

Earlier, Hartley was buoyed to have taken pole position for the Six Hours of Bahrain: his first WEC pole in the Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 car since 2019.

The two Toyota Gazoo Racing driver teams both had three wins apiece as the 2021 WEC season drew to a close, but the #7 car of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez was slightly ahead on points, thereby taking the championship as ultimate victor.

Hartley also narrowly missed out on a third crown at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in August, coming in second (and two laps down) on the #7 car. The one-two win for Toyota helped give the Japanese factory team a conclusive win in the series, 78 points clear of the number two placegetter.

With Kazuki Nakajima retiring from endurance racing at the conclusion of the 2021 season, Hartley’s new teammate for 2022 has been named as Ryo Hirakawa, a long-standing member of Toyota's development programme and a former TDS Racing LMP2 squad member.

 

Callum Hedge

Befitting a true rising star in Kiwi motorsport, Callum Hedge had a busy 2021, including a stand-out performance in the opening round of the Porsche Michelin Sprint Challenge, forming part of the Shannons Motorsport Australia Championships at Phillip Island.

Contesting the second-tier Porsche series with Earl Bamber Motorsport, Hedge qualified third for the first 13-lap encounter and finished fifth. Wet conditions for race two were to Hedge’s advantage as runaway leader Ryan Suhle spun, allowing the teenager to take the lead. Hedge extended his margin as the laps wound out, eventually crossing the line for a category win.

Back home, Hedge also completed two days testing in the Tatuus FT-60 Toyota Racing Series car at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park.

Hedge impressed on each day, spending the first participating in the Hampton Downs Academy test featuring among others Daniel Gaunt as a mentor, while the second day was instigated by Toyota Gazoo Racing New Zealand where the 17-year-old was aided by Chris van der Drift.

Hedge also performed impressively on his Porsche Carrera Cup Australia debut at the Bathurst race weekend.

Hedge had a difficult lead in after being forced to complete 72 hours quarantine upon arrival into Australia and only got to the Bathurst circuit an hour before the opening Porsche Carrera Cup Australia session. Despite never having driven at Bathurst before, Hedge drove admirably, finishing 16th (and just four places behind seven-time 1000 winner Craig Lowndes). In a shortened second sprint, Hedge progressed to 12th and recorded his best result of the weekend in the third race, finishing ninth.

 

Liam Lawson

2021 was arguably bittersweet for Lawson. His performance and ability were never in question as he delivered outstanding results in both the DTM and Formula 2 championships. Lawson concluded his debut Formula 2 season within the top 10 but was frustratingly robbed of winning the DTM Championship on debut after rival driver Kelvin van der Linde failed to navigate turn one of the Championship determining race, colliding into the Lawson who had started in Pole position. The subsequent damage to Lawson’s car meant he couldn’t finish in the points, and he lost the Championship by just three points. Van der Linde later admitted fault for the accident.

After demonstrating his capabilities however, Lawson had impressed as a Red Bull junior and 2021 concluded with a career highlight in the form of a Formula 1 test for AlphaTauri. And what a test it was, posting a best lap time of 1:24.517 around the Abu Dhabi test circuit, Lawson secured Position 2 after 125laps (660.125km.)

After 125 laps of testing Lawson was blown away by the car and clearly grateful for this opportunity.

What an amazing day, it’s incredible how unbelievably fast these cars are. I’ve obviously driven in the simulator before and when I’m there I always think that there’s no way that the car can actually be that quick in real life, but it really is. I want to say a huge thank you to Red Bull, Dr Marko and everyone that has made it possible to be here driving for Scuderia AlphaTauri today. This has been something that I’ve been dreaming about since I was a kid so it’s just incredible and I’m really, really happy.” Lawson said.

It took me a little while to get to full throttle but when I did, I thought ‘holy moly that’s a lot of power!’ The biggest difference is just the downforce, there’s significantly more than anything I’m used to.

 

Brendon Leitch

Suffice to say, 2021 will be etched into the book as a career highlight year for Brendon Leitch.

As part of a five-man team in the Leipert Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3, the Giltrap Group backed driver took out the 2021 24H Series GT3 Pro championship in the International GT Open league – the young Kiwi’s first such title.

During the course of the year Leitch racked up three wins, four podiums, three pole positions and a fastest lap from eight races.

The 2021 24H Series GT3 Pro championship title was won at Sebring as part of the first ever 24-hour endurance race to take place at the iconic central Florida circuit, which is usually home to 12-hour endurance racing.

Leitch drove alongside Tyler Cooke, Dennis Fetzer, Sebastian Balthasar, and Seb Morris.

A driver error during the 14th hour of the 24 Hours of Sebring put Leitch’s team out of contention in the GT3 class after their Lamborghini Huracan GT3 hit a wall. It was an incident Leitch described as “cruel”, but after only racing in New Zealand during 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the experience of racing at night for the first time, and the GT3 Pro championship win, left him feeling exuberant and looking forward to next season.

It has been confirmed that Leitch will contest GT World Challenge Europe with Leipert Motorsport in the Endurance Cup in 2022.

 

Hunter McElrea

After two seasons with Wisconsin-based Pabst Racing Services, McElrea returned to the 2021 Indy Pro 2000 Championship for the team and looked to convert the previous year’s development into more wins. He did exactly that, winning 3 of the eighteen races and making the podium in a further four races, to secure third overall in the championship.

The solid and consistent performance in the Indy Pro 2000 series caught the eye of reigning Indy Lights Champions, Andretti Autosport, who signed McElrea for the 2022 season.  “It is a dream come true for me to join a team like Andretti Autosport,” said McElrea, “After my first days in an Indy Lights car and working with the team, it’s clear to me why they are one of the world’s most successful race teams. This is the biggest opportunity I have ever had in my racing career to date, and I plan on making the most of it!"

 

Shane van Gisbergen

Hot on the heels of his first Bathurst 1000 victory in 2020, 2021 was a stellar year for van Gisbergen starting with a legendary performance at the New Zealand Grand Prix, winning the race despite starting from Pit Lane. He followed up with a faultless drive to secure the Bathurst 6 Hour title.

And it was business as usual with the Kiwi winning 14 of the 30 races within the 2021 Supercar Championship and nine further podium finishes. A mid-season charge from Shell V-Power’s Anton De Pasquale and some exhilarating door-to-door battles with teammate Jaime Whincup in his final full-time season, kept the Kiwi on his toes, but ultimately it wasn’t enough to loosen SVG’s grasp on the Championship trophy.

Seemingly untouchable, Shane van Gisbergen won his second Supercar title convincingly with 2930 points, 211 clear of retiring teammate Jamie Whincup. Simply astounding performances came at Van Gisbergen traditionally raced with #97 but the recently crowned Championship winner also had won the right to race with the #1 on the side of car heading into the final race of the series, the Bathurst 1000.

But Triple Eight Racing extended the opportunity to have #888 for the great race, a fitting tribute to how far van Gisbergen has come within Triple Eight, and the Supercar series in general. Unfortunately, the number wasn’t a lucky one for SVG and while in second position and just 7 laps remaining, the Triple Eight Red Bull Racing Commodore suffered a catastrophic tyre delamination.

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