Thanks to Red Bull Ireland, we recently received an invitation to sit down and chat with Irish Drifting star Conor Shanahan ahead of the opening round of the Driftmasters European Championships this weekend at Mondello Park. Sophie from Red Bull had recently sent us some incredible footage of the young Corkman tackling the famous Moll’s Gap rally stage – in his drift car, so obviously, that’s what we spoke about first.
“I’ve always wanted to do it” he grinned, “and we heard a rumour someone else had a similar idea so we got the wheels in motion! I’ve always been a rally fan so I was delighted to be able to do it. The weather was horrendous and taking that into account, the footage is brilliant!”
Conor explained that he didn’t always want to go drifting. Like many young Cork lads, he started off karting in Watergrasshill and assumed the path he would take would lead him into circuit racing. Obviously, that didn’t transpire and his Drifting career has since blossomed to the extent that he is practically a household name these days. He hasn’t completely forgotten other disciplines though, and a recent foray into the Irish Rallycross Championship showed that he is as adaptable as they come, threatening the regulars all day with stunning pace, only a bent hub stopping him from challenging for the win in the Final. “I’ll do Moll’s Gap again” he says, “but this time in a 2 wheel drive rally car. After that, I might try an R5 and ultimately I would love to have ago at the Junior World Rally Championship” Just 18 years old, he describes himself as being very competitive, and speaks with an air of confidence that suggests he will follow these plans- now that will be worth watching!
Back to this weekend though and its a big one as the Driftmasters European Championships kick off right here at Mondello Park and Shanahan is keen for a good start to his 2022 campaign. His GT86 Toyota is freshly rebuilt and looks ready for action in the Mondello Park pitlane, the only possible issue being a change of tyre on the young drivers’s mind ahead of the big event. As he explains, the new tyre has more ultimate grip, which is great for traction off the line and for the battles, but this also brings a new problem. More rear end grip induces the dreaded understeer, meaning that the car setup needs to be altered to counteract this. When asked if he had done much testing, he calmly replied that the tyres were only due to arrive today (Friday) so he had a bit of work to do. “We will know by the end of practise whether the tyre change was a good decision or a bad one!”
” I haven’t won an Irish Driftmasters event in front of my home crowd, and it would be nice to start the year with a bang and hopefully land the win on Sunday. It’s cool to have the crowd there, but it adds a bit of pressure, but I’ll definitely be gunning for the win on Sunday!”
60 drivers from 28 countries will compete for the opening round of the 2022 series at the Kildare venue this weekend, with nine Wild Card entries, all Irish, getting the opportunity to tackle some of the best drifters in the world!
Asked if there is a home advantage being at Mondello, he replied “Yes I think so. Especially seeing as we are using the original layout, and I’ve driven it loads of times. The first corner comes over a crest and is blind, so it will maybe take a bit of getting used to for the others. It’s the same for us, when we go abroad though- you have to learn the layouts quickly! It’s an incredible opportunity, there are a lot of drivers in Driftmasters who don’t get the opportunity to do a home event.”
Conor is fully aware of the quality of his oppostion this weekend, both International and Irish, but he is a highly confident young man. We will be keeping an eye on his progress this weekend, and in the future, regardless of which discipline he competes in.