There are not many fifteen year olds who can claim to have over a season of rally driving behind them, but Marcus McElwee from Magherafelt is one of those select few. The St. Pius College pupil finished a fine fourth in this year’s ANICC Junior 1000 Rally Challenge Ireland series, despite being up against more modern machinery in his Nissan Micra.
“We had a good season, but I’m hoping for better in 2018 with improvements in the car, and having more experience of the events now” said Marcus. Indeed on Friday 29th December at Shackleton, near Ballykelly the 2018 series gets underway, as the 14-17 year old rally drivers fight it out in the one litre machines. It was at this venue in August 2016 that Marcus made his official rally debut, instantly recording an excellent third position.
Marcus had contested some Rally-Sport Association events before, with success including a class win at the Bluestone venue, but the Junior 1000 Challenge provided a really tough challenge. “It’s very competitive and hard to keep up with the Peugeot 107s, Citroen C1s and Skoda Citigos, but it’s a great series and with a new prize fund for 2018 it’s set to bring even more competition. It takes us to quite a few venues and is well promoted so I can’t wait until the first round.”
Co-driver has been John Henderson from Portadown, who has plenty of experience and also assists in preparation. It’s a low budget affair and the Nissan Micra is by far the least expensive machine in the field, the team also running on a tight budget. That didn’t stop Marcus’s skills taking him to some great results including fourth on the New Year Stages, Bishopscourt and Dogleap rallies in 2017, and a magnificent second place on the Pacenotes Stages at Kirkistown.
The 2018 National Construction Skills Academy Junior 1000 series will feature seven rounds, the final one taking place on the Dundrennan Military range in Scotland where the N.I., English and Scottish Junior’s go head to head.
Now the race is on to find sponsorship to enable the Magherafelt teenager to fully demonstrate his skills for the 2018 season, and if the right backer could be found a move up in machinery would enable Marcus to see if he can match the front-runners.