Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy established
- Elite high-performance academy launched
- Former National and Tarmac Rally Champion John Coyne providing support for future rally stars
The Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy is being established to provide promising young drivers with a pathway from the junior rallying ranks through to competing at World Rally Championship (WRC) level.
Those eligible to enter the high-performance academy will initially be chosen from the Billy Coleman Award nominees, and will be joined by Winners of the J1000, J1600 and R2 Junior classes of rallying. Drivers and navigators who are selected will undergo a rigorous training programme to develop their skills and discipline and move them up through the various competitive classes in Irish rallying through to the highest levels of the sport internationally.
Leo Hassett, the CEO of Motorsport Ireland, said: “This new initiative is focused on creating a structured development programme for young Irish rally drivers and co-drivers and is designed to prepare them to compete on the world stage. It also adds value to the current Billy Coleman award system, which recognises our junior drivers competing in all classes of rally vehicles. All academy drivers and co-drivers will participate in a series of coaching events throughout the year which will include driving and co-driving theory, and practice on both sealed and loose surfaces, as well as fitness and media training.”
Initial funding for this initiative has come through the Team Ireland Foundation as a result of support from John Coyne.
John, now resident in California, is a former Irish National (1977) and Irish Tarmac (1982) rally champion. He also has championship wins to his name in Malaysia (Group N-1999) and California (Open-2016). A mechanical engineering graduate of UCD, John retired in 2013 from the CEO position at Western Digital, one of the world’s top digital storage companies, having worked for the company for some 30 years. Since his retirement, John has returned to rally in Ireland and abroad using both his 1982 Irish Tarmac Championship winning Talbot Sunbeam Lotus and a Porsche 997 R-GT, which has proved to be a real crowd favourite.
Speaking about the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy, John said: “The Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy is a great opportunity for me to give back to a sport that has provided me with so many great experiences over the years. I’m delighted to be involved with supporting this initiative to identify and nurture our young motorsport talent and help them progress and represent Ireland competitively on the world stage. I look forward to watching some of them competing in the WRC in the years ahead! I’d particularly like to thank Sean McHugh, Motorsport Ireland Billy Coleman Award Co-Ordinator for his leadership, enthusiasm and hard work in proposing and developing the details of the new Rally Academy program.”
The Team Ireland Motorsport initiative is now in its third year and this new rally-focused program will enhance its ability to recognise and support a larger group of talented young Irish drivers and co-drivers in the coming years.
John Naylor, President of Motorsport Ireland, said: “This is an exciting time for up and coming rally talent in Ireland. With this additional funding, we can do so much more for our young drivers. Team Ireland has been funded up to now by John Campion of CJJ Holdings in the USA and it is great to welcome John Coyne on board as a major contributor. It is encouraging to see people such as John Campion and John Coyne giving back so much to our sport and hopefully it will encourage others to come on board as well.”
Claremorris native Sean McHugh, Co-Ordinator of the Billy Coleman Award, said: “This donation will allow us to build on the success of the award over the last 20 years and facilitate an expansion of the project to get talented drivers into a training programme at a much younger age. We now can expand the level of support to the overall winner and runners up.”