The finalists for Motorsport Ireland’s Billy Coleman Young Rally Driver of the Year Award have been announced. David Kelly (24), from Donegal Town, has been named alongside Derek Mackarel (23), from Clones, Co Monaghan, and Josh McErlean (20), from Kilrea, Co Derry.
All 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.
The three drivers were drawn from nine candidates who were nominated on the back of their performances this year. All the finalists faced a rigorous selection process which included interviews from a panel of judges comprising representatives from Irish motorsport, Sport Ireland and the media.
Kelly’s standout achievements during 2019 include winning the junior category of the Fastnet Rally. He also had wins on the Cavan and Midland Stages rally events, as well as claiming 2nd overall in the junior section of the Killarney Rally of the Lakes. The Donegal driver, who works as a purchasing manager in his family’s construction business, also competed outside Ireland, taking part in four rounds of the BTRDA Fiesta ST Trophy.
Mackarel won the 16A class in the 2019 Valvoline Motorsport Ireland National Forestry Rally Championship. In doing so, the 23-year-old claimed a hat-trick of wins, including when switching from his Vauxhall Nova to an Opel Adam R2 for the final round of the championship in Cork. Mackarel is also a multiple National Navigation Champion.
McErlean won the Junior British Rally Championship in his Peugeot 208 R2 following maximum scores on the West Cork, Pirelli International and Ulster Rallies. The 20-year-old Co Derry driver also took a class win on the opening round of the Valvoline National Forestry Championship in January in Carrick-On-Suir. Josh is in his second year studying Mechanical Engineering at Ulster University.
John Naylor, President of Motorsport Ireland, said: “All the nominees for the Billy Coleman Award were of an outstanding calibre this year – and David, Derek, and Josh are thoroughly deserving finalists. Importantly, all nine 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 2020. Coupled with Sport Ireland and Motorsport Ireland’s €50,000 investment, a further €50,000 has been pledged by the Team Ireland Foundation.
The award winner will also receive assistance from Billy Coleman co-ordinator Sean McHugh. 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 nine 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.
Last year’s Billy Coleman Award winner James Wilson won the opening round of the 2019 Junior British Rally Championship on the Cambrian Rally before making the step up to R5 machinery. He took a top 10 finish on the Rally of the Lakes on his first drive in a Hyundai i20 R5 before going on to secure a podium finish on the Jim Walsh Cork Forest Rally and a fourth place on the final round of the British Rally Championship (BRC) in Scotland.
The overall winner of the 2019 award will be announced at the MIS Motorsport Champions of Irish Motorsport Awards ceremony, which takes place on Tuesday, 10th December at the City West Hotel, Dublin. The award is presented annually and is supported by Sport Ireland and Motorsport Ireland.