V8 Supercar greats Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup gave up their morning on Thursday, November 5 — prior to the ITM 500 Auckland 2015 — to inspire Auckland school students.

The Sylvia Park Primary School assembly with a difference came about due to trucking company Iveco New Zealand donating its corporate opportunity to the school, which is currently fundraising to build a student-designed exercise circuit.

The Triple Eight Racing teammates have a competitive pedigree guaranteed to engage growing kids. Whincup has won the V8 Supercar championship six times and the Bathurst 1000 four times, while Lowndes has three V8 Supercar titles and six Bathurst wins to his name.

Students Milania Cairns, Annaleigh Taufa (back), Ofa Tonga, Isaiah Smith, Elijah Maruariki-Wiki, and Sam Fanguna (front) performed a haka to wish the drivers luck for the ITM 500 Auckland

Iveco New Zealand General Manager Ian Walker said the kids really lit up when the drivers hit the stage, and he was especially moved when the 500 pupils, aged between five and 13, did a rousing haka to wish Lowndes and Whincup luck for their races over the weekend of November 6–8.

“The guys have such good attitudes; they seemed to be excited to be there, and signed loads of autographs, which they didn’t have to do,” said Walker.

School Principal Barbara Ala'alatoa said, “That exposure was a whole other world for our kids, and the racers talked about how they’ve been able to be champions in a language our kids could absolutely understand.”

She added, “Craig loved cricket and football, but also karting when he was young, and realized that was where his passion was. And kids get that, they are starting to develop passion, and it was a lovely connection for our kids to make. The lads are fantastic communicators.”

The pupils, who spent term one discussing how they could make the school a healthy space, and learning what it means to train and develop a healthy-eating and exercise programme, hosted a sponsored fun run, in which they raised $20,000 towards the new facility.

The aim is to now raise the rest of the required funds to get the project completed before the end of the year.

Iveco New Zealand helped with a $1000 donation, but Lowndes and Whincup showed the kids how important it is to look after yourself, underlining what the course is all about.

Ofa Tonga with Craig Lowndes (left) and Jamie Whincup (right), finds out what it’s like to kit up like a V8 Supercar driver

Whincup and Lowndes started their talk by discussing the safety requirements needed to drive at up to 300kph, going as far as putting student Ofa Tonga into the full driver’s suit, including fireproof underwear, socks, gloves, shoes, and balaclava.

They also reinforced how vital it is to be fit when driving at this level, and how important it is to eat properly. “And they kept pulling it back to the kids,” Mr Walker said.

The school still has $10,000 to raise, and is putting the call out for donations for the exercise circuit, which will be open to the public during evenings and weekends.

Anyone wanting to help can call the principal, Barbara Ala'alatoa, on 527 6526.

Photos: Nigel King