DRIVING THE DREAM
Brendon Leitch’s career to date is one which most young car enthusiasts dream of. The 22-year-old New Zealand race car driver grew up racing go karts alongside elder brother Damon, where his natural talent for driving became apparent. From first contesting the New Zealand Formula Ford Championship in 2007 to pushing for championship honours at the 2019 Castrol Toyota Racing Series, Invercargill-based Brendon is quickly becoming a household name in the industry with aspirations of one day driving the Indy circuit like his childhood hero Scott Dixon.
With his racing a priority, Brendon is still finding time to complete a New Zealand Certificate in Light Automotive Engineering through MITO – something he sees as an incredibly valuable tool to assist his racing career.
How are you managing to balance your MITO apprenticeship with your racing?
It isn’t easy but I just try to find a balance that works around my racing. It’s really awesome that the theory aspect of MITO’s training programme is online which means I can complete my work if I’m away racing for a week, or even overseas. When I’m at home, I spend 30 minutes a night four to five days a week and just concentrate on being as time-efficient as possible. I’m really committed to becoming qualified and am only 6 months away from completing my training programme.
Did you always know the automotive industry was where you wanted to work?
You could say my entry into the industry was pre-ordained, growing up around my Dad. He’s been building and restoring cars for 35 years now, and since I was a kid I always had my own project cars to work on in the workshop. I’ve always found the work fascinating – particularly the performance and fabrication. You have an engine in front of you and you have to strip it down to find some more horsepower, whether that’s boring out the cylinders or changing the shapes of the inward exhaust ports. Or even rebuilding the cars I’m racing. I rebuilt the car I raced in the Formula 4 three times from the ground up - from cutting a new stainless floor to rebuilding the gearbox and everything in between. I love the hands-on aspect.
With racing the main focus of your career, why did you decide to gain a qualification?
For me, a qualification is very important for my racing career and profession. It’s such a valuable tool to have and learn what the car is doing underneath you. Then, if something goes wrong while you’re racing, you can come straight back and report what the issue is to the engineer. It’s just another thing that makes you more valuable to an overseas racing team.
Plus, at the end of the day, if racing didn’t work out for me, there’s always the possibility of working for a Formula 1 team as a technician which is something I think would be really cool. There’s no doubt that getting qualified through MITO is hugely beneficial and fantastic to have – it really can take you anywhere.
Do you have any advice for young automotive technicians or aspirational racing car drivers?
There is a lot to be said for finding something that you are passionate about and being able to turn that into a rewarding career. Whether it’s racing or becoming a technician, if you’re willing to work hard and commit to it, you’ll succeed and wake up every morning happy to go to work and loving what you do. I think about that all the time – the day I stop loving what I do is the day I’ll stop doing it. But I still love it - nothing has changed since I was a little kid!