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Jade O’Brien Gets Behind the Wheel at Mondello Park

Image from David Mc Lachlan (macs-snaps)

Last month, I was invited to participate in the recent Rallysport Association event in Mondello Park. Obviously I jumped at the opportunity!

As I arrived at Mondello Park, feeling excited but apprehensive, I saw the usual sea of a mix of cars, trailers, campers and race suits. As I made my way up to the tower for the drivers briefing, one thing in particular stood out to me- and for once it wasn’t a car that caught my attention first! There was a very strong noticeable female presence. No matter which way I looked, there was another woman standing within a couple of feet. Now, I know that there are a lot more women competing across various different forms of Motorsport. However, this was the most amount of female competitors I had seen participating at one event. There were definitely more than the usual one or two standing out from the crowd. There was a total of 9 of female competitors, with 4 taking home trophies.

There were two young women that I was lucky enough to accompany in their cars for some of their stages. Letisha Conn was the first driver I went out with. Letisha may only be 14 but she is a force to reckoned with. It is clear from the second that you meet her that her passion for the sport is unparalleled. As for her driving, well Letisha is confident, technical and quick. Very quick.

Molly Kerr, who is also only 14, finished 3rd in her class with her Fiesta due to her fearless approach and pure skill. There is no doubt you will be hearing plenty both of their names over the coming years. Chloe Kellett is another young driver who certainly drew my attention yesterday. Finishing first in her class, the 16 year old showed her natural ability and talent for the sport. I’m sure we will see her becoming more involved in motorsport competitively.

Ruth Nugent in her Fiesta Zetec

We also had Ruth Nugent (right) who took 2nd place behind Oisin Keane in Class 2 and expressed how much she enjoys competing with the Rallysport Association. Ruth also came out as a passenger with me and provided some great guidance. Also competing in a Mini was Irish dancing star Una Parr who is only 12 years old, showing that you can do it all! Some of the other women competing yesterday were, Leanne Carroll who took 1st in Class 3, Collette Rooney, Catriona Henry, who all put in some good times. The day ran from 9.45am until around 4.30pm and each sprint was just under 2 laps of the International circuit at Mondello park. It’s the best of 5 of 7 stages with your worst two being drop stages. There are 12 classes available to compete in. One of the classes available to compete in is The RSA Mini Cup which started in 2017 with the idea of opening the door to competitive motorsport for more people. Yesterday I got to drive the RSA Mini. Having driven a couple of different cars around Mondello it’s safe to safe to say that this was my favourite.

Una Parr dances round Mondello in her MINI Cup car!
Image from MACS-SNAPS

The Mini handles well around the track and is all round a pleasure to drive. For the first few stages I did find it slightly difficult coming back in, as each time I felt I was only getting going as I was done. However, there is a massive bonus to this. Each run is a fresh start to set a time. You aren’t back of the pack because of a mistake or a nudge. It comes down to pulling out what you can from each individual stage. Which makes it extremely competitive, as well as highly addictive! I might not have placed exactly where would have liked but I was pleased with some the times I put in for my last few rounds and it was my first time out for this type of event so…. Watch this space. I had Letisha as a passenger for most of my stages and she gave me great tips and advice.

Ruth, Molly, Letisha and Jade!

There were many experienced drivers out who compete in other forms of motorsport, showing the continuous and increasing draw that there is to The Rallysport Association events. Between the Mini Cup & Buggies, along with the mix of cars from M3s to Civics, and everything in between across the classes, the RSA provides for a high level of competition and entertainment from their events. This is a cost effective and incredibly enjoyable area of the sport to get involved in.

The Rallysport Association are an excellent organisation within Motorsport in Ireland. Welcoming entries from new starters and competitors from 12 years of age. As well as making a conscious effort to help increase the number of women who participate Motorsport in Ireland.

For all of the information you need check out follow the Rallysport Association on Facebook. A massive thank you to Stephen Conn, Michael Hyde and The Rallysport Association for having me. It is fairly safe to say they’ll be seeing me again sometime soon.

Jade O’Brien

Images with thanks to Mark McLachlan (MACS-SNAPS)

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