Motorsport Ireland’s Award winners were announced today at their annual ceremony, with young drivers from Donegal, Dublin and Offaly landing three of the sport’s most prestigious honours.
Eamonn Kelly (23) was named Young Rally Driver of the Year, while 23-year-old Alex Denning was named Young Racing Driver of the Year award, at today’s ceremony in the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Dublin. Both drivers will receive €50,000 in funding and support for the development of their careers during the 2022 season, with Kelly receiving additional support from the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy. The International Driver of the Year award went to Alex Dunne from Clonbulloge, Co. Offaly.
The event, to celebrate the success of the most talented drivers in Irish Motorsport in 2022, was attended by Mr. Aiden Harper, President of Motorsport Ireland, Mr. Brian Staunton, Sport Ireland, members of the media, award recipients and their guests. More than 30 trophies were presented at the ceremony to Irish drivers competing both domestically and internationally. The highlight of the event was the presentation of the prestigious Billy Coleman Award, the Sexton Trophy and the International Driver of the Year award.
The Billy Coleman Award for the Young Rally Driver of the Year was won by 23-year-old Eamonn Kelly, who hails from Co. Donegal but now lives in Dublin. He was nominated for his performances in the first third of this year and went on to further successes throughout the season, securing the 2022 Junior British Rally Championship title behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta Rally4. Eamonn faced stiff competition during the selection process for the award as he fended off a number of other great young drivers to take top spot in what has been described as one of the closest decisions in recent years. He now joins a list of illustrious winners of the Billy Coleman Award, which includes World Rally Championship driver, Craig Breen, and four-time British Rally champion Keith Cronin. As part of the award, Eamonn will receive support to the value of €50,000 from Sport Ireland and Motorsport Ireland for the 2023 season as well as a further €50,000 has been pledged by the Team Ireland Foundation thanks to support from John Coyne.
The Sexton Trophy for Young Racing Driver of the Year was awarded to 23-year-old Alex Denning, from Rathfarnham. Denning was the 2020 Fiesta ST Champion before heading to the UK to race to the front of the Mini JCW Championship Rookie Cup against 30 other competitors and is planning a move to sportscars for 2023. As part of the award, Denning will also receive support to the value of €50,000 for the 2023 season.
The Manley Memorial Trophy for the International Driver of the Year went to Alex Dunne, from Clonbullogue, Co. Offaly. Dunne, who won the Sexton Trophy in 2021, has lived up to the expectations that the sport has of a recipient of the award. Competing at top international level for the first time he has joined a very exclusive club, becoming one of only a small number of Irish competitors to win an FIA Championship, having secured outright honours in the FIA British F4 Championship in his debut year. Throughout the 2022 season he was rarely off the front row of the grid or the podium and despite and such was his dominance that he secured the championship with a race meeting to spare and with a record total of wins. Dunne also finished second in the Italian F4 Championship this year.
The Neil Shanahan Memorial Trophy was awarded to the 12-year-old Daniel Kelleher, from Castlemartyr, Co. Cork, who was crowned 2022 Motorsport Ireland National Cadet Karting Champion.
The Ivan Webb Memorial Award for the Most Outstanding Contribution to Irish Motorsport went to Roy Stewart, of Churchtown, Dublin 16, who has been an integral part of the Irish motorsport community for many years and a huge supporter of all forms of motorsport as an organiser, club official and committee member with the Motor Enthusiasts Club while also chairing Motorsport Ireland’s Rules Commission.
The JC Millard Memorial Award went to John Coyne, for his contribution to the sport, both as a competitor and a supporter of the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy.
Speaking at the awards, Motorsport Ireland President Aiden Harper said: “Congratulations are due to all the winners at this year’s Motorsport Ireland Awards. The standards that they, and the other nominees, set during the course of this year show that the future of motorsport in Ireland is very bright indeed. The depth of talent among our young drivers is continuously growing and, alongside our partners in Sport Ireland, Motorsport Ireland is committed to supporting and developing drivers and providing them with every opportunity to succeed at the highest level.”
Images from Michael Chester