Rally Academy Interest in Motorsport Ireland Junior Rally Series
Ryan McHugh and Declan Boyle won the RC4 class on the recent Galway International Rally and will make their competitive loose surface debut this weekend in Killarney
There is plenty of Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy interest on the entry list for the Killarney Forestry Rally this weekend. The 2024 MIJRS season kicks off in Castleisland with the Killarney Forest Rally, the first of four loose surface events within the Sligo Pallets Forest Rally Championship which are interspersed with four tarmac rounds within the Triton Showers National Rally Championship. An incredible 17 drivers have entered the Rally4 (classes 2 and 2A) category, and while not all are eligible for the MIJRS series, picking a winner is anyone’s guess.
Up for grabs is a €44,000 training, coaching and support fund divided proportionally between the top three drivers in both class 2 and 2A. The season-winner of each class will go forward for the Billy Coleman Young Rally Driver of the Year nomination.
The current Billy Coleman Young Rally Driver of the Year Jack Brennan leads the field away on Sunday morning. The Kilkenny-based and his Wexford co-driver John McGrath will be hoping to put the disappointment of a non-finish in the Corrib Oil Galway International Rally behind them as they take their Peugeot 208 Rally4 on a loose surface for the first time in 2024. Brennan prepared for the Kerry rally by attending a Wexford Motor Club Youth Academy workshop in the week leading up to the event.
The aim of the Wexford Motor Club Youth Academy is to get young people involved in motorsport, through safe and fun workshops which encourage learning and teamwork and focuses on participation and enjoyment of the sport. The first one of the year took place on the Wednesday night after the Galway International Rally. Killarney and District Motor Club ran a similar workshop on Friday, February 9 where motorsport engineer Richard Browne gave a fascinating two-hour presentation on his life at the sport’s sharp end to members of the KDMC2 Youth Programme. “The students of the youth academy were delighted that we were joined by MI Rally Academy member and Billy Coleman Award winner Jack Brennan and to hear of his knowledge and experience, ably assisted by his much-experienced co-driver, John McGrath,” said Garry Bradley who is one of the Wexford Motor Club’s Youth Academy leaders.
Donegal man Kyle McBride, a frontrunner in last year’s Junior British Rally Championship and his co-driver Liam McIntyre will make their first appearance of the season in their newly acquired 208 Rally4. They won the highly competitive Class 2 in Killarney this time last year, in a Ford Fiesta, and are really looking forward to getting their season off the ground on Sunday. “I'm super excited to get the year started at the Killarney Forestry. I have lot of learning to do which I am really looking forward to and getting my head into the new car and getting a feel for it.,” said McBride. “There is so very strong entry and I would like to thank all my sponsors and the Academy for helping me. it is a good event to get the year started and stages are looking really nice.”
Breaking the Peugeot stronghold is the Cavan-based crew of Craig Rahill and Conor Smith in a Ford Fiesta Rally4. This is Rahill’s first year as an Academy member and he too is marking his first competitive outing of the season. County Meath’s Cian Caldwell was another driver unlucky not to finish the Galway International Rally. A late power-steering pump issue cost him a certain podium position on the opening rally of the season. He will be reunited with his Galway co-driver Liam Egan in their 208 Rally4.
Ryan McHugh was undoubtedly one of the stars of the Rally4 class in Galway. The Donegal-based Ford Fiesta Rally4 driver will make his gravel rally debut in Kerry on Sunday. McHugh’s chief rival in Galway, Leitrim’s Keelan Grogan and his Galway navigator Ayrton Sherlock will start just their third-ever gravel rally on Sunday in another 208 Rally4. Aoife Raftery was another Rally Academy driver who did make the finish of her home event at the start of the month but has also placed an entry for the Killarney and District Motor Club-organised rally in her Peugeot.
Other drivers receiving Motorsport Ireland Junior Rally Series support in the six-stage rally include locals Mossie Costello / Megan Costello (Ford Fiesta Rally 4); Jack Harris (Donegal)/ Aaron O'Regan (Cork) in a Ford Fiesta R2 and Tommy Moffett (Armagh) / Domhnall Lennon (Louth) in a Rally4 Fiesta. Top Junior 1000 seed, Peugeot 107 driver Ross Ryan and his co-driver Peter Keohane (Cork) are also getting support. All four crews are receiving support as a result of their performances in the Junior 1000 Rally Series over the last few seasons.