MOTORSPORT: Devine named Young Rally Driver of Year 2017

The Billy Coleman Award for the Young Rally Driver of the Year, supported by Sport Ireland, was won by 23-year-old Callum Devine,(left) from Derry and The Sexton Trophy for Young Racing Driver of the Year was awarded to 17-year-old Jordan Dempsey, from Mullingar, Co. Westmeath.
The Billy Coleman Award for the Young Rally Driver of the Year, supported by Sport Ireland, was won by 23-year-old Callum Devine,(left) from Derry and The Sexton Trophy for Young Racing Driver of the Year was awarded to 17-year-old Jordan Dempsey, from Mullingar, Co. Westmeath.

Claudy star Callum Devine has claimed a €50,000 jackpot after lifting The Billy Coleman Award for the Young Rally Driver of the Year at  the Beta Tools Motorsport Ireland Awards Ceremony in Dublin.

The 23-years-old fended off a number of other great young drivers to take top spot in what has been described as one of the closest decisions in recent years.

Callum was nominated for the prestigious award on the back of some fantastic results this year, notably his remarkable victories at the Junior British Rally Championship and in his class at the Ypres Rally in Belgium.

The Co. Derry driver now joins a list of illustrious winners of the Billy Coleman Award, which includes the first ever driver from the Republic of Ireland to secure a World Rally Championship drive with Citroen, Craig Breen, and record breaking four-time British Rally champion Keith Cronin, who also secured this year’s Manley Trophy as International Driver of the Year.

The Beta Tools Motorsport Ireland Awards Ceremony was held in the Round Room at the Mansion House to celebrate the success of the most talented drivers in Irish Motorsport in 2017. The ceremony was attend by Mr. Brendan Griffin, Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Dr. Una May, Director of Participation & Ethics, Sport Ireland, Mr Martin McKenna, President of Motorsport Ireland, members of the media, award recipients and their guests.

More than 30 trophies were presented to Irish drivers competing both domestically and internationally but the highlight of the event was the presentation of the prestigious Billy Coleman Award, the Sexton Trophy and the International Driver of the Year award.

The Sexton Trophy for Young Racing Driver of the Year was awarded to 17-year-old Jordan Dempsey, from Mullingar, Co. Westmeath. Jordan was a previous runner up for the award and has shown a focus and determination that has seen him rise to the top this year.

Jordan spent the opening part of the 2017 season concentrating on his Leaving Certificate but returned to Formula Ford with gusto and hit form immediately, taking on five races over the two days at Kirkistown and securing several pole positions, lap records and victory in his first British Championship race at Castle Combe in Wiltshire, England.

As part of the award, Jordan will also receive support to the value of €50,000 for the 2018 season.

The Manley Memorial Trophy for the International Driver of the Year went to Keith Cronin, from Co. Cork, after he became the first driver from Ireland to win the British Rally Championship for an unprecedented fourth time.

The fight for the title went down to the wire, with Keith securing the honours by 0.1 of a second on the last stage of the last event of 2017 in his Ford Fiesta R5 at the Rally Isle of Man. Cronin equals rally legend Roger Clark with four championship wins, just one behind record title winner Jimmy McRae.

The winner of this award is selected by the motor sport media and is presented to an Irish competitor from the 32 counties who has not only proven to be a success in competition but also has acted as a positive role model and ambassador for the sport.

Keith joins luminaries such as Craig Breen, Le Mans series driver Matt Griffin, Rallying legend Austin MacHale, Formula 1 driver Eddie Irvine and multiple European Rallycross class champion Derek Tohill as a winner of the Manley Memorial Trophy.

The Neil Shanahan Memorial Trophy was awarded to the 13-year-old Sean McCormack, from Delgany, Co. Wicklow, who was crowned 2017 Motorsport Ireland National Junior Karting Champion at the final race of the season at Tynagh in Co. Galway. Sean went on to represent Ireland at the World Finals in Le Mans, France and is also the only driver in its history to have won Ireland’s karting Race of Champions three times.

The FIA Celtic Trophy was won overall by Sam Moffett/ Karl Atkinson. The competition is spread over five International rallies in the UK and Ireland. Moffett won one of the five rounds and placed high enough in the others to take the trophy ahead of nearest rival Alastair Fisher. The Co. Monaghan man also became the first ever driver to win all three major Irish rallying championships in the same season – The Triton National Championship, the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Championship, and the Valvoline National Forestry Rally Championship.

The Ivan Webb Memorial Award for the Most Outstanding Contribution to Irish Motorsport went to Kieran Ambrose, of Shanagolden, Co. Limerick, who has been an integral part of the Irish motorsport community for many years and a huge supporter of rallying as an organiser, club official and committee member.

The JC Millard Memorial Award for Clubman of the Year went to Ger O’Connor, originally Foynes, Co. Limerick but now living in Prosperous, Co. Kildare, for his contribution to the sport both as an organiser and competitor.

Speaking at the awards, Motorsport Ireland President Martin McKenna said: “I spoke with a few of the judges from the various panels this year. Some of those who have been involved for several years said that this was by far the most difficult year to pick winners, such is the talent emerging in the sport.

“Alongside our partners in Sport Ireland, we are excited about the future for the sport and believe that those that have won today will be able to fill the shoes of previous winners, many of whom have gone on to compete successfully on the international circuit.

“We continue to nurture driving talent through the Motorsport Team Ireland programme, which aims to help gifted drivers progress in the sport. Judging by the winners here today, the future of Irish Motorsport is very positive.”