Beachlands competitors win NZ driver of year awards

Otago drivers Benji Smaill and Madi Stewart with the prizes they won at the New Zealand Speedway...
Otago drivers Benji Smaill and Madi Stewart with the prizes they won at the New Zealand Speedway Awards. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Madi Stewart is not old enough to drive on the road but she is already a demon behind the wheel.

The 14-year-old was one of two Beachlands Speedway drivers to collect competitor of the year titles at the New Zealand Speedway Awards in Christchurch at the weekend.

Experienced streetstock driver Benji Smaill also picked up the competitor of the year title in his category after an impressive season.

Madi followed her father, Matt Stewart, into the sport when she was 12 and has been competing in the youth saloons for 12 to 16-year-olds.

The Taieri College pupil drives a Honda Civic on the track and has performed strongly in her second full season.

The competitor of the year title takes into account the driver’s performances, sportsmanship and what the person does to help the sport away from the track.

Matt Stewart, who is the president of Beachlands Speedway, said his daughter’s intention was to spend a few years in the saloons to "master her craft" and "then move on to the world of contact".

Madi is not the only girl competing on the circuit.

"We’ve actually seen, over the last two years, a real growth in females joining the sport," Stewart said

"In our youth saloon class, we’ve got about five or six in it now and a couple more in the adult class.

"It is something that is growing and, with Madi winning this award, it sort of shows the other girls, in a more male-dominated sport, there is room for females, which is great."

Smaill’s award was further recognition of an excellent year.

"He is one of our hard chargers in the club. He won the South Island championship for that grade, he won the New Zealand Grand Prix and the Otago Champs all in one year, and a whole lot of other little awards.

"He came close to being the New Zealand champ as well but had a roll-over in the last heat, which put him out."

Beachlands Speedway driver Darrell Richards won the New Zealand Championship, and clubmate Shea McKenzie was second.

Richards was presented with his No 1 plaque at the awards evening.

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