The finalists for Motorsport Ireland’s Billy Coleman Young Rally Driver of the Year Award have been announced. Jack Brennan (19, Co. Kilkenny), Keelan Grogan (22, Co. Leitrim), and Craig Rahill (19, Co. Cavan) will represent the best of the best of young Irish rally drivers in this year's shortlist . These three drivers are in the running for the prestigious Motorsport Ireland Billy Coleman Young Rally Driver Award, which has a prize fund of €100,000. All seven nominees faced a rigorous selection process which included interviews from a panel of judges comprising representatives from Irish motorsport and the media.
Brennan hails from Kilkenny and despite his young age, is a former Billy Coleman Award finalist. After a successful Motorsport Ireland Junior Rally Series (MIJRS) campaign taking top honours in the Rally5 class, he has already made the switch to a Peugeot 208 Rally4 for the 2024 season. It was in this Peugeot 208 Rally4 that Brennan had the highlight of his year by winning the Rally4 category at the recent Cambrian Rally in just his second rally at the level.
23-year-old Grogan has been contesting the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship in a Peugeot 208 Rally4 alongside his long-time navigator Ayrton Sherlock. As a previous Class 2 National Champion, he has impressed this year with numerous class wins on gravel and tarmac including the Midland Stages Rally, West Cork Rally, and Carrick-On-Suir Willie Loughman Forestry Rally with the West Cork result being a particular highlight as it was his first class victory in an International event.
After a dominant year in his Class 11R MKII Escort, Rahill has acquired a Rally4 Fiesta and used the car on a number of events in the latter half of this year to impressive effect. A second year mechatronic engineering student, his plans for the remainder of 2023 are to take part in the Killarney Historic Rally on December 2nd and to take part in multiple test days in his Ford Fiesta Rally4.
Aiden Harper, President of Motorsport Ireland, said:
All the nominees for the Billy Coleman Award were of an outstanding calibre this year – and Jack, Keelan, and Craig, are thoroughly deserving finalists. Importantly, all seven nominees will get the opportunity to further develop their talent as part of the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy, which bodes well for the future of Irish rallying on domestic and international fronts.
The winner of the Motorsport Ireland Billy Coleman Young Rally Driver of the Year Award will receive €100,000 worth of support to contest rallies nationally and internationally in 2023. Coupled with Sport Ireland and Motorsport Ireland’s €50,000 investment, a further €50,000 has been pledged by the Team Ireland Foundation thanks to support from John Coyne. John, a long time competitor is passionate about giving the next generation of Irish talent an opportunity to succeed in the sport he has enjoyed throughout his life. Additional support from the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy as part of a training and development plan to progress the winners’ career will also be available, and the winner may apply for funding for a second year of support upon satisfactory performances in their award-winning year. Both award runners up will receive support to compete in stage rallies at home and abroad up to an amount of €15,000 each. All seven nominees who completed the selection process for this year’s Billy Coleman Award will be included in the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy programme to nurture and support young drivers and will receive assistance from Billy Coleman Award co-ordinator Sean McHugh. The last winner of the Billy Coleman Award, Eamonn Kelly, has gone on to establish himself in the Junior World Rally Championship through his Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy programme. The overall winner of the 2023 award will be announced at the Champions of Irish Motorsport Awards ceremony, which takes place on Wednesday, December 6th at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Santry, Dublin. The award is presented annually and is supported by Sport Ireland and Motorsport Ireland.