Motorsport Ireland has announced the finalists for the Young Racing Driver and Young Rally Driver of the Year Awards ahead of next month’s Dunlop Champions of Irish Motorsport Awards in Dublin.
The top three finalists for the Billy Coleman Young Rally Driver of the Year are Monaghan drivers, Daniel McKenna and Sam Moffett, along with Dubliner Douglas Stewart.
Sam Moffett showed his class as one of Ireland’s up-and-coming young rally drivers in 2011. The 21-year-old from Clontibret in Monaghan won the Group N section of the Dunlop National Rally Championship, finishing second overall, and also finished third in Group N of the Irish Tarmac Championship.
Daniel McKenna, who also hails from Monaghan, was one of the fastest on the roads in 2011. McKenna’s best performance this year came at the Carlow Stages Rally, where he finished third overall behind Championship winner Tim McNulty and Robert Barrable, while also winning the Escort Mark 2 Challenge at the event. The 24-year-old also set the second fastest time on the first stage of the Donegal International Rally during the summer.
Finally Douglas Stewart from Dublin completes the line-up for the finalists for Young Rally Driver of the Year. Stewart spent most of his season competing on gravel across Ireland. The 26-year-old’s best result came at the Moonraker Forestry Rally in April where he finished 17th overall and first in his class.
The top three finalists for the Dunlop Sexton Trophy for the Young Racing Driver of the Year are a Dublin trio of Niall Murray, Andy O’Brien and Aron Smith, who have all had an excellent year on the track.
Aron Smith, who won Young Racing Driver of the Month for April, had all of his success in the UK in 2011, as he competed in the Air Asia Clio Cup. The 22-year-old competed in all rounds, with three wins and nine podium finishes to his name as he finished runner-up in the Championship. He also competed in a round of the British Touring Car Championship at Knockhill, where he scored a point on his debut.
Niall Murray, Young Racing Driver of the Month for June, made big strides in the UK Ginetta Junior Championship in 2011. The 16-year-old, who won the Irish Championship last year, competed in the UK version this year securing two wins along with eight podium finishes, including a victory at Brands Hatch.
The last finalist for Dunlop Sexton Trophy is Andy O’Brien, who won the Young Racing Driver of the Month for July. O’Brien only started competing in motorsport in 2010 when he finished second in the Irish Ginetta Junior Championship in his debut season. This year he went one better, winning the Ginetta Junior Championship with 10 podium finishes, eight fastest laps and five pole positions.
Joe Corcoran, President of Motorsport Ireland, is delighted with the standard of driving this year. “This year we have seen some great results both nationally and internationally by Irish competitors and our Dunlop Champions of Irish Motorsport Awards will look to honour these performances. We had 13 excellent contenders for the Billy Coleman and the Dunlop Sexton Awards, who all had great seasons, so congratulations to them all and to the 6 drivers across the two categories who have now been selected as finalists. It’s safe to say the future of Irish motorsport is extremely bright,” he said.
The Dunlop Champions of Irish Motorsport Awards will take place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Dublin on the 6th December with over 20 awards to be handed out on the day, including a Hall of Fame Award. For more information on the Billy Coleman Award and Dunlop Sexton Trophy log on to www.motorsportireland.com