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Statement From The Mchugh Family

Statement From The Mchugh Family

Steve, Dawn and Kirsty McHugh are deeply moved by the outpouring of love following the tragic death of Michael on Sunday.

Michael was an outstanding young man who during his short life touched the hearts of so many people. He was caring, polite and courteous, with a winning smile and a mischievous sense of humour.

Michael had an absolute passion for motor racing, a sport in which he displayed his immense talent and potential.

It has been said that Michael was born with racing wheels. At the age of three he would take his Grandma for a walk along the street identifying all models and colours of the vehicles, but he loved Fords the most.

Michael grew up driving cars around the back of his Dad’s work – his explanation was that he was warming up the vehicles so they would be in top condition for his Dad. We all know it was just an excuse to drive the cars.

Since the beginning of his competitive career in a Kart at the age of 10, he displayed a rare talent, winning the Mount Wellington Kart Club’s Most Improved Driver Award in his first year of competition, then winning his first North Island title – in the Junior Restricted Class – just a year later.

Michael was just as successful when he moved up to the hotly-contested Junior Yamaha Class, finishing second overall at the North Island Championships at his first attempt then winning it – along with the North Island Junior ICA title – a year later.

In the four years he competed at North Island level, he also won his class at most of the big regional meetings, earning a reputation as a smooth, clean, fast driver popular with friends and competitors. He was a three time North Island Champion.

Like many young men Michael dreamed of the day he could follow in the footsteps of his hero Greg Murphy and drive an international racing car.

The opportunity came when earlier this year Michael completed extensive training courses for Formula Ford at the Canterbury Driving School at Ruapuna.

He acquitted himself well earning praise from his instructors for his competence and maturity behind the wheel. He also deeply impressed New Zealand motor racing’s elder statesman, Kenny Smith, who saw in Michael the same set of skills and qualities he had seen before in drivers like Scott Dixon and Matt Halliday.

The question has been asked was Michael too young to be driving a racing car at the age of 15. Those who knew Michael and who had the opportunity to instruct and race against him both in karts and Formula Ford would emphatically say no!

The examiner for his Restrictive Road Driving Licence was blown away by Michael’s driving ability. Michael had already covered thousands of kilometres at racing speeds in karts all over the country and was vastly more experienced in the art of driving than any other 15 year old let alone many adult motor racing competitors.

No one has ever died karting or in Formula Ford in New Zealand. Michael’s family did everything they could to give him the best instruction in the country, the best safety equipment and vehicles.

Some people are passionate about sailing, football or the arts – Michael’s passion was car racing.

Michael was supported by his family, all of whom were at the track on Sunday afternoon.

Their grief is immeasurable, the gap in their lives can never be filled. Only those who have experienced such a tragedy can have any understanding of the depth of their despair.

No one was at fault – it was a freak accident which has taken a loved and loving son and brother.

In the immortal words of Bruce McLaren: “To do something well is so worthwhile that to die trying to do it better cannot be foolhardy. It would be waste of life to do nothing with ones ability, for I feel that life is measured in achievement, not in years alone.”


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