The young drivers Supercars teams have their eye on

04 Jul
The junior programs connecting young drivers with Supercars teams
7 mins by James Pavey

Supercar teams have been investing heavily in finding the next big thing.

While some teams like Tickford have the recently announced Tickford Autosport in place to pool resources together for a group of young drivers, other teams have focused their attention around one rookie, with an eye to development via the many support categories on offer.

So on the eve of the 150th Dunlop Series event at the NTI Townsville 500 let’s take a look at which teams have junior programs in place and introduce you to some of the drivers knocking on the door of Australia’s biggest show on wheels.

Tickford Racing

Tickford have arguably had the most academy success in recent years, with a steady stream of young drivers finding a pathway to the main game.

Zak Best

The first name on the list strangely isn’t actually in the Tickford junior program but will be on the grid for Tickford for the endurance races later this year.

Meet the Dunlop Series Grid: Zak Best

Benalla’s Zak Best is the current Dunlop Super2 points leader and already has two Repco Bathurst 1000 starts to his name.

He’s ironically competing against Tickford in the Dunlop Series this year, driving for Anderson Motorsport and doesn’t want to finish runner up in the points chase for a third straight year.

So while he isn’t an official Tickford junior he’s so close to reaching the big-time it would be wrong to leave him off this list.

Brad Vaughan

Reigning Dunlop Super3 champion, Brad Vaughan has made an impressive start to his Super2 campaign.

The Barossa-born driver was instantly on the pace in Newcastle and Perth but a pair of Sunday DNFs from the opening two rounds has him languishing 15th in the championship. Podiums and race wins are not out of his reach this year.

Elly Morrow

Gippsland-girl, Elly Morrow made the switch from Brad Jones Racing to Tickford for the 2023 season.

While her pace continues to grow, her most impressive attribute is her ability to avoid trouble.

Not only has she finished all 13 of her Super2 races but she’s also never finished lower than where she has started on the grid. Quite remarkable given the chaos often found in the Dunlop Series.

She’ll celebrate her 24th birthday up in Townsville, happy birthday, Elly.

Rylan Gray

The youngest driver on this list, Rylan Gray was recently announced as a part of Tickford’s new junior program.

Son of V8 Ute and Touring Car Masters regular, Jeremy Gray, the 16-year-old has spent some time already testing Zak Best’s 2022 Super2 car and may make a Super3 appearance once he finally turns 17 later in the year.

Until then you’ll catch him on track in the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Australia 86 Series starting this weekend in Townsville.

Walkinshaw Andretti United

After a few seasons away from developing their own in-house talent, the junior program that brought Nick Percat up through the ranks is back in a big way and with Warren Luff playing the role of team mentor.

Ryan Wood

If you saw the racing in Perth, you’ll know exactly what this young Kiwi is capable of. His twin race wins were simply sublime and featured multiple SVG-like race winning moves. Praise that should not be easily heaped on young shoulders but in this case it’s more than warranted.

Meet the Dunlop Series Grid: Ryan Wood

Wood raised plenty of eye brows at a WAU young driver evaluation day when by all accounts he was breathtaking in the drizzly conditions.

The 18-year-old chose to pivot to Supercars after being offered a handsome opportunity in the Porsche world and looks to be making the most of that bold call just two events in.

There’s a lot of people saying he won’t be in the Dunlop Series very long.

Zach Bates

When your last name is Bates it’s a fair chance you can drive the wheels off a race car. That certainly seems to be the case for young Canberran, Zach Bates.

Son of Rick and cousin to rally-stars Harry and Lewis, Zach was borderline untouchable for two years in the TGRA 86 Series.

Much like Cam Hill in 2017, he rewrote every record in the series yet remarkably fell short of winning the actual title.

That aside he’s now aligned with one of the best teams in Aussie motor racing and has a big future ahead of him at just 19 years of age.

Matthew Hillyer

The third name on the list at WAU is actually one of their mechanics.

When he’s not changing tyres during the pit stops, Matthew Hillyer is perfectly at home behind a different kind of wheel.

He currently leads the Australian Formula Ford Championship and recently dominated a round of the TGRA 86 Scholarship series at Phillip Island.

Very reminiscent of a young Will Brown, right down to the hair colour.

Erebus Motorsport


The Erebus Junior Academy has been well established for a few seasons now. Nurturing drivers from all forms of junior racing, via an alliance with Terry Wyhoon’s Image Racing.

The team also regularly host young driver evaluation days at Winton, under their “Who’s Next?” banner.

Jay Hanson

Team boss, Barry Ryan really liked the look of this diminutive Victorian from a very young age when he was winning multiple Australian karting titles.

Meet the Dunlop Series Grid: Jay Hanson

Now the rest of the paddock is starting to see it too.

10th in his rookie season in 2022, while competing as the youngest in the field, Hanson looks to have matured very quickly.

His breakthrough podium at Newcastle was a sign that there’s plenty of untapped potential.

Jobe Stewart

19-year-old Mount Gambier driver, Jobe Stewart has been in the Erebus Academy since he was 12.

Since then he has raced for Erebus in the Eseries, TGRA 86 Series and now finds himself leading the Dunlop Super3 standings.

He flies under the radar in a very un-Erebus sort of way.

What’s more he’s an accumulator of points and podiums.

Take your eyes off the timing screen for a second and bang, there’s the name Stewart somewhere near the top. Then before you know it there he is leaving for the airport with another trophy.

Brad Jones Racing

BJR have been regulars in the Development Series for a number of years and have also set up junior alliances with karting teams as well as the recently announced deal with former racer Simon Wills.

Lachlan Dalton

This young Tasmanian made an impressive debut in quite trying circumstances last year, stepping into the seat previously occupied by Elly Morrow for the final round in Adelaide.

This year he’s building on that solid starting block.

His round podium in Perth came in just his third Super2 start and was very impressive.

Since then he went on to dominate the most recent TransAm event at Winton, in a field rich with talent. More good things are coming you’d have to say.

Jayden Wanzek

South Aussie teenager, Jayden Wanzek will compete in this year’s TGRA 86 Series after an interrupted rookie campaign in 2022.

He is the first driver to be supported by the new alliance between BJR and Simon Wills’ business, CARMA Race Coaching.

While not officially a BJR junior, Jayden has all the right people around him now to move up the ranks.

Blanchard Racing Team

CoolDrive Racing have wasted no time in building a solid foundation under their main game team, not only to help find their next gun driver but also to develop a wider pool of mechanics and engineers to satisfy their impending growth.

The team also sponsor two young Aussie Racing Car drivers in Reece Chapman and Josh Anderson.

Aaron Love

In their Super2 Ford Mustang is fast West Aussie, Aaron Love.

The younger of the Love brothers and son of former Australian Touring Car Championship privateer, Ian Love, Aaron returned to Australia after a brief foray into European Porsche racing.

Meet the Dunlop Series Grid: Aaron Love

His return to Aussie Porsche racing was so blisteringly impressive - including a ferocious flurry of overtakes at Surfers Paradise last October - it earned him a phone call from Tim Blanchard.

With the opening round jitters at Newcastle behind him, he put in a much cooler performance at his home track, which led to an impressive podium result in just his second ever Supercars round.

Keep that up and he may put his own boss out of a drive for the enduros. Maybe.

Grove Racing

The only thing more impressive than Penrite Racing's debut season in Supercars last year was the debut of their junior program. They went all in on flying Kiwi, Matt Payne and were instantly rewarded.

Now they’ve upped the ante with another fresh face and have signed none-other than Garth Tander to play the role of mentor.

Oscar Targett

Grove Racing quietly support a number of young karters, so it’s fitting that 17-year-old karting sensation, Oscar Targett has been thrown the opportunity of a lifetime from the Grove family this year.

Just like his father, Jon, Oscar has represented his country multiple times in karting and now makes the switch to bigger, heavier machinery.

He’s adapted quickly too, racing in both the TGRA Scholarship Series and Porsche Michelin Sprint Challenge. He scored a podium in the latter in his first ever Porsche event recently in Tasmania.

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