Kiwi Technicians Triumph at the I-1 Grand Prix in Japan

For two MITO - Te Pūkenga learners, opportunity presented itself in Yokohama, Japan recently for the Isuzu World Technical Competition, or the I-1Grand Prix (I1GP). This annual competition tests the skills of technicians from around the world in numerous challenges ranging from practical, to computer-simulated, to written.

Team New Zealand comprised of Jonathan Ward of Blackwell Motors in Christchurch and Harry Shaw of Truck Tech Solutions in Auckland. Both are completing the New Zealand Certificate in Heavy Automotive Engineering (Level 5), with scholarships awarded earlier this year.

The duo first had to compete with other New Zealand technicians to be able to take part in the competition. “You have to be one of the top two heavy automotive technicians in the country to be able to go and represent New Zealand,” says Harry. “I made it through to the finals, coming second. The first of course being Jonathan.”

The pair then trained for two weeks in Auckland to prepare for the competition. “We were running through scenarios, mostly practical problems, trying to theorise what potential faults could be implemented into the truck,” Jonathan says.

2023 is the first year since COVID that has welcomed the technicians back to Japan. It has also influenced the layout of the competition, now including more countries and different challenges.

“It was surreal, not what I was expecting,” says Harry. “There were massive cameras everywhere and teams from all over the world – from Africa, all the way to Europe, you name it.”

Once there, the competition threw the competitors some curveballs, such as the multi-choice part of the written component. Jonathan explains, “Some were multi-answer, multi-choice, meaning that there could be multiple correct answers instead of just one. You’ve got to have a very deep understanding of the component they’re referring to. They also scored these questions as either 0% or 100%, so even if you get two of the three correct answers, you don’t get 66%, you get nothing. Which is an added difficulty!”

Other stages of the competition included a virtual inspection, a component inspection and a vehicle inspection.

The team placed third out of thirty-three countries, with Harry also coming in third in the individual competition, comprising of sixty-six technicians (two from each team). The individual competition is judged based on the results of the virtual inspection and the theory exam.

“It was incredible,” says Harry, of the experience. “I’m grateful for the opportunity. You meet technicians from across the globe. We were getting along great with Team USA and Team Australia. There was obviously a bit of rivalry with team Australia because that’s just what we do! It was one of the best experiences I’ve had in a long time. It was great to work with Jonathan as well, as someone else in the industry. We hadn’t met until the competition and now we’re real good mates.”

Jonathan adds, “I really enjoyed it. It’s very well organised. Meeting everyone from the other countries we dealt with was a great experience. It was very serious as well, but Harry was great fun to deal with.”