The finalists for Motorsport Ireland’s Billy Coleman Young Rally Driver of the Year award have been officially announced – with Callum Devine (Co Derry) Gary McNamee (Co Meath) and Josh Moffett (Co Monaghan) in the running to take home Irish rallying’s most prestigious award.
The three drivers were chosen from a shortlist of eight candidates who were nominated for the award on the merits of their performances during the year. All eight faced a rigorous selection process which included interviews from a panel of five judges comprising members of the media, an official from Sport Ireland (formerly the Irish Sports Council), a current driver and a representative of Irish Motorsport clubs.
The Billy Coleman Award is internationally-recognised as the most prestigious accolade that any young driver on the island of Ireland can aspire to. It comes with a prize valued at €50,000 in supports to help the winner boost their career.
All three finalists will be included in the Team Ireland development programme, run by Motorsport Ireland, to nurture and support young drivers.
Past winners have included many drivers who have gone on to compete at the highest level, winning multiple British Rally championships and flying the flag at European and World Rally Championship level.
Craig Breen, the winner in 2009, became the first ever Republic of Ireland driver to secure a Works seat in the World Rally Championship. Breen will drive for Citroën next season in their newly developed C3 WRC.
Craig Breen said: “Seems hard to believe that it is now seven years since my trip to Dublin for my Billy Coleman Award interviews. I was nervous, overdressed, but incredibly motivated. I had been given a lot of stick during the year, as I had got my nomination through what was known then as the National Junior Rally Championship, where a lot of my competitors were driving budget cars, where as I was in a far superior R2 car. That didn’t bother me though, I had my ticket in the door, and I was going to sell myself as best I could, as this was the next step on the way to my dream.
“I remember the interview well, and we had a very clear and focused plan if we should win the award, and I did everything in my power to prove to the panel that I had what it took to go all the way. Unlike recent times, the award was announced before the awards lunch, and I can still remember getting the call, sitting at my desk in work saying that I had won, and that was the day that my career really lifted off the ground. We used the award to help buy a S2000 car in which we did the BRC and Irish Tarmac Championship in 2010. During that season we were nominated for the Pirelli Star Driver Shootout, which we won. That then gave us a prize of a year in the WRC Academy in 2011, which we went on to win also. This then gave us €500,000 in which we used to win the SWRC World Title in 2012. This then caught the eye of Peugeot which I drove for 3 seasons. Then this year I got my big break in the WRC with the Abu Dhabi World Rally Team, and of course now a two-year contract with Citroen.
“So as you can see, these past seven years all evolve from that day in Dawson Street in 2009. The plan was always to make it to where we are today, and even if the journey hasn’t been how we expected, I am hugely grateful of the opportunity that was given to me by Motorsport Ireland and the Irish Sports Council, I wouldn’t be where I am today was it not for their support.”
A spokesman for the Motorsport Ireland judging panel said: “Drivers who win the Billy Coleman Award frequently go on to achieve great things in their careers. With Craig securing a works drive for the 2017 World Rally Championship all our young drivers can see that there is an opportunity to succeed at the top of their sport.
“There is a wealth of driving talent in the country and an incredible standard was set by all the drivers that were interviewed. Every one of them deserved their opportunity but unfortunately only three can be chosen as finalists.”
The three finalists for the Billy Coleman Young Rally Driver of the Year are (listed alphabetically):
The overall winner of the 2016 award will be announced at the Irish Motorsport awards ceremony which will take place on Tuesday, December 13th. The winner will be expected to represent the sport at home and abroad over the time that they hold the title of Young Rally Driver of the Year. Motorsport Ireland’s Billy Coleman Young Rally Driver of the Year award is presented annually and is supported by Sport Ireland, affiliated motor clubs and Motorsport Ireland.