In the 19 short years he spent on this planet, Neil Shanahan from Churchtown in Dublin left an indelible mark on so many people. It is hard to believe that today, it is 16 years since he was taken from us at Oulton Park whilst driving for the works Van Diemen squad.
I remember him blitzing everyone in FF1600 and a group of us having a pint in Hayden’s in Naas discussing it afterwards. Johnny Whelan reckoned he could put manners on the young fella so the rest of us wound him up and made him dig out his FF1600 and enter the next Mondello. Johnny, as ever, back then, had issues on the day but as usual, Neil ran away and hid from the chasing pack.
“He can’t overtake” cried the begrudgers “He only wins from the front!” – Team Manager Mick Merrigan, once the FF1600 title was safe, put him into Mark Cullen’s Zetec Van Diemen. The results were spectacular- as he scythed through the grid with apparent ease. He graduated to the Zetec class the following year and unsurprisingly took his second title in as many years, also winning the Dunlop Sexton Young driver of the year for the second time too.
For 1999 he signed with the works Van Diemen squad to compete in the UK Formula Ford Zetec championship and when he briefly led his first race at Donington Park, heads began to turn. Neil was calm, confident and highly talented. Unfortunately, that fateful day at Oulton Park robbed us all of the chance to see an incredible talent fly the tricolour on the world stage. Where would he be today? We can only speculate.