Tuesday, Nov 26 06:05pm
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

Meet Ryan Wood: Scholarship winner and KartSport star

The Toyota 86 Championship CareVets Scholarship has a tendency to produce champions, and this year may be no different. 


Over the past three seasons, one of the scholarship winners has gone on to take out the championship, including Ryan Yardley, Jack Milligan and most recently Callum Hedge.


Now into its fifth season, the scholarship has picked up two fresh faces for the 2019–’20 Best Bars Toyota 86 Championship; Ryan Wood and Tayler Bryant.


Wood is a well-known competitor in the KartSport scene both domestically and internationally. Now he’s about to make his mark on circuit racing.


The 15-year-old this year won the KartSport New Zealand National Sprint Championship in the DD2 division and two years ago won the Junior class in the Rotax MAX Challenge here in New Zealand. 


Among his achievements include state-level championships across Australia and North Island schools titles. He also claimed second in the Race of Stars in Australia as one of the youngest competitors. 


His success has taken him across the world, including Brazil, Portugal and Italy. 


Only recently did he get his first taste of the Toyota 86 race car before going on to win the scholarship. Ahead of his debut in the Best Bars Toyota 86 Championship, which takes place at Pukekohe Park over 29 November-1 December, spoke with Wood. 


“It’s a cool car; fast and fun to drive,” Wood said after his first drive.


“I’ve been able to transfer some of my karting skills across, but it’s not perfect. It’s given me an idea of what I can use from karting. I’ll just keep working on it.


“I struggled a little bit getting used to the gearbox, but I’ve been able to use some of my mental skills from karting, not getting too flustered and just staying calm, listening to everyone that’s helping me.


“Braking and when to downshift has to be the biggest thing I’ve learned so far. The brake pressures are huge in one of these. Every time I go out for another practice session I’m getting better.”


Wood’s pedigree in karting is well known, and despite his relative inexperience, the Wellingtonian is optimistic going into the six-round championship.


“Hopefully we can fight for that championship, that sounds like a big ambition, but I’d love to do that,” he said.


“Callum [Hedge] and a few others before have done it so I don’t see why I can’t. Hopefully, we’ll start the season of strongly.”


Wood has never raced competitively on full-size circuits. The championship will take him to Pukekohe Park, Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, Teretonga Park, Highlands Motorsport Park and Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon.


“I can’t wait for Highlands,” he said when asked about which track he’s looking forward to most.


“It's so different to anything else we have in New Zealand. I think it’ll be quite cool. 


“Hampton Downs has always appealed to me too. That first turn is mega and coming down the hill into the hairpin is quick tricky. 


“It was a bit daunting coming to Pukekohe in my first drive of the car here with all the walls, but I’ve got to put myself through that if I want to be successful. 


“I’ve driven around Manfeild once, but besides that, I don’t know any of the tracks. I’ve done a bit of simulator work, but other than I’m fresh to every track.


“Race tracks in general, I’m excited about. I get to drive something new every time I’m out in the car.”

Photo: Andy Kruy