PR professional wins at the NZ motorsport media awards

Awards were presented in five categories to motorsport media representatives at MotorSport New Zealand’s annual awards night in Wellington on Saturday 26 May.

The awards for two categories of photography, news and feature journalism or production, and communications were part of an evening celebrating New Zealand motorsport at Wellington’s TSB Arena where more over 50 awards, trophies and certificates were presented to competitors, officials, volunteers and media at all levels of four-wheeled motor sports in New Zealand.

The MotorSport New Zealand media awards are designed to promote and recognise the media who provide quality coverage of New Zealand motorsport news and imagery in the media.

“This year we have seen a wide array of New Zealand motorsport covered in all forms of media and our media award winners certainly demonstrate the breadth and depth of motorsport activities in this country,” says Brian Budd, CEO of MotorSport New Zealand. “Our media representatives attend all kinds of motorsport events, from club-level grassroots motorkhanas and hillclimbs, historic and classic racing, through to our national championship events, high profile annual events like Leadfoot Festival and international features such as Supercars’ ITM Auckland Sprint.

“We value our relationship with the media who continue to help expand the coverage of motorsport in New Zealand. Hundreds of thousands of Kiwi motorsport fans love seeing more of their favourite sport on television, in newspapers, and on news websites and social media. We appreciate the considerable efforts of the photographers, videographers, journalists and PR professionals who devote their weekends to covering our sport.

“We also thank all those who submitted entries for this year’s motorsport media awards. Your work is outstanding and it’s fantastic to see new people and valued long-time contributors recognised for their efforts as the category winners.”

The Motorsport PR Communicator of the Year award was first presented in 2016 with the intention of recognising the specialised publicists who work with competitors, events, championships and sponsors around New Zealand to help generate media coverage of motorsport. Two finalists were selected by the independent judge – Aucklander John Coker, an account director with Wright Communications who oversaw the publicity for the 2018 Toyota Racing Series, and Wanaka-based Kate Gordon-Smith, principal of Relish Communications, for her work with Kiwi rally driver Dave Holder and rally-turned-rallycross driver Sloan Cox.

Gordon-Smith took out the motorsport PR communicator award for the first time with the independent judge, a highly-experienced sports publicist, saying: “Sometimes in this industry, the tough jobs are when the story needs to be sold and not automatically grabbed by mainstream. Kate achieved mainstream television cover by offering an exclusive arrangement and followed this with a well-written story. It was well illustrated and achieved good cut-through on social media channels.”

The MotorSport New Zealand media awards have two photography categories. The finalists for the President’s Award for the best single shot were Aucklanders Neville Bailey and Simon Chapman. The finalists for the Photographer of the Year for the best portfolio, of which at least two images must have been published in the media, were Tauranga’s Greg Henderson and Dunedin’s Becky Ladbrook.

Neville Bailey’s image of a dramatic moment in the long and illustrious race career of Kiwi legend Ken Smith saw Bailey selected for the big single image award. The independent judge, themselves a multi-award winning photographer, said Bailey’s winning image of Smith’s Lola T332 was exceptional. “A very fast shutter speed made for an incredibly sharp image and perfect timing, freezing the moment forever,” said the judge.

Becky Ladbrook’s line-up of rallying images from South Island events was selected as the winning portfolio with the judge saying it showed a lot of thought and creativity as well as good composition. “There was a sense of something happening, and, importantly, about to happen, portraying a real sense of what rallying is all about,” said the judge.

Both Bailey and Ladbrook are first time winners in the motorsport photography categories.

The finalists for Motorsport News Journalist of the Year were Abby Wilson from 1 News and Simon Chapman from the independent motorsport website,

The news journalist award went to Wilson – her first win in these awards – with the independent judge, an experienced sports news reporter, commending Wilson’s ability to make specialised motorsport stories interesting to more general sports fans.

The judge said: “Abby’s portfolio included stories which would have not just attracted the interest of motorsport folk but would have also drawn in non-motorsport followers. The big story in New Zealand motorsport over the past year was obviously Brendon Hartley’s rise to the Formula 1 ranks. Abby’s one-on-one interview with Brendon was both insightful and fun. It offered up some great newsy bits for the real enthusiasts but was also a nice personality piece for the casual observers. There were many stories produced on the great Kenny Smith over the year but Abby’s angle when Kenny and his team talked the viewers through a spectacular crash was a little bit different.”

The Motorsport Feature Journalist or Producer of the Year had two independent producers selected as finalists: David Hedge from Volt TV Productions and Craig Lord from Ontrack Media, both from Auckland.

Hedge was selected as the winner, his second win in this category, having also won in 2016. The judge said: “David’s Waitomo Rally programme contained some great action footage, but it was the Toyota Racing Series final round feature that set this entry apart. The start of the TRS video with the young driver was impressive, and the historic footage was great. The whole production was extremely professional and had an international flavour. When interviewing drivers, the framing was excellent and the interviews were interesting. Showing footage of the mental and physical preparation the drivers go through was an inspired move. The pole position graphics were innovative and the whole video was absolutely riveting. Add to this the fantastically captured drone footage, which did a great job of keeping up with the action.”

Budd comments: “Our sincere congratulations to this year’s motorsport media award winners. It’s fantastic to see our first-time award winners Neville Bailey, Becky Ladbrook, Abby Wilson and Kate Gordon-Smith being recognised for their work. We also thank Dave Hedge for his ongoing outstanding work to provide quality coverage of our sport. Again, congratulations to all the finalists – the judges had a challenging job picking the winners.”