Today is a tough day for the young men and lady who have been nominated for the Motorsport Ireland Irish Sports Council/Dunlop supported Young Driver of The Year Award (now that’s a mouthful!)
November the third is the day they must get suited and booted and arrive into 34 Dawson Street all on their own to face a secret panel and explain why they should be the one to replace Jonny McMullan at the helm of the Bernard Dolan run Van Diemen FF1600.
Lots of people are of the opinion that FF1600 is possible too old hat for a career driver, and that very few (possibly just Button?) of the current F1 grid have even driven a Formula Ford before. I’m not so sure. In the Uk at least, you can measure yourself against the very best, young and old, at the trophy events and the MI car, as all of its previous occupants have shown us, is capable of winning anywhere! Remember that up until a few years ago, the prize was a substantial sum of money. The story goes that a driver won the money, hung up the overalls and bought himself a house- hence the change in plan! Whether it is true or not, I am not sure- makes good telling though!
Let’s have a quick look at the runners and riders then:
Jake Byrne: A Mechanical engineering student at Trinity college Dublin, Jake was a finalist last year. This year, he will be even more confident, having dominated proceedings en route to becoming NI FF1600 champion with strong showings elsewhere too. Worked hard on his PR this year and seemed to be on his local radio station more than some of the DJs!
Jordan Dempsey: Dempsey was strong all year in Ginetta Junior Ireland, indeed he was dominant in the closing stages. He competes in the UK Ginetta Junior series this weekend, as part of his prize for winning the Irish Series too. Comes from a racing background and has already successfully tested a FF1600.
James Roe: Roe was quick in 2014 in Ginettas, if slightly erratic. This year he showed flashes of absolute brilliance, comprehensively beating Dempsey in a straight fight on a number of occasions. He suffered with tyre issues towards the end of the season though and lost pace as a result. James will also contest the Ginetta Junior Winter Series in the UK this weekend. Very confident and should interview well.
Cian Carey: Carey’s plan in 2015 almost came to naught when the Monoposto class decided his newer model Formula Renault was not eligible for their series. The fact that they only announced this after he had trounced the supposedly quicker F3 cars in practise just strengthened the Meathman’s resolve. wins at Kirkistown, Mondello and an impressive double at Silverstone ensured he stayed on everyone’s radar for the year.
Nicole Drought: In her first season of Motor Racing, 6 ITCC podiums and a few impressive performances behind the wheel of other vehicles were enough to give the Roscrea native the first female nomination in the history of the award. A blend of honest pace with female marketability is not something we have seen for a long time- and gives her an edge.
Jack Byrne: There may have only been a couple of cars in Fiesta Juniors this year but Jack Byrne emerged as champion, and was unbeaten too. He also prepared his car immaculately, mentioned his sponsors on social media each time, and refused to be drawn into any on track drama.
So all in all, a pretty impressive bunch of nominees this year. Only three, of course, get through to the final and they will have to sit through the Motorsport Ireland Awards lunch, trying to look relaxed, until the winner is announced. That will be another tough day for them- but who said forging a career in motorsport was easy?!
The very best of luck to all of the nominees both today and going foward with their respective careers.