The finalists for Motorsport Ireland’s Billy Coleman Young Rally Driver of the Year Award have been announced. Eamonn Kelly (23), has been named alongside Patrick O’Brien (25), from Omagh Co. Tyrone, and Kyle McBride (19), from Clonmany, Co. Donegal. 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 seven 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 achievement during 2022 season was winning the junior category of the British Rally Championship in a Ford Fiesta Rally4. The Dublin based Donegal native also produced a number of impressive showings in a VW Polo R5, including podium finishes in the Circuit of Munster Rally and the Cambrian Rally in Wales. 

Patrick O’Brien is a previous finalist for this award having been shortlisted back in 2015. The full time motorsport mechanic has gained a wealth of experience since that and has shone this season behind the wheel of a Skoda Fabia R5, winning the Motorsport Ireland National Forestry Rally Championship with a brace of wins and a brace of second place finishes. 

Like O’Brien, Kyle McBride is also a full time motorsport mechanic. Motorsport Junior Rally Series J1000 Champion in 2019, McBride made the step out of that class in 2021 to a Honda Civic and subsequently to a Ford Fiesta R2T which took the Donegal man to the Motorsport Ireland JR2 Dual Surface Rally Series crown as well as the British Rally Championship Academy Trophy.

Aiden Harper, President of Motorsport Ireland, said: “All the nominees for the Billy Coleman Award were of an outstanding calibre this year – and Eamonn, Patrick and Kyle are thoroughly deserving finalists. Importantly, all seven 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. I would like to recognise the efforts of Sean McHugh and John Coyne for all their work on developing the Academy. It is a fantastic platform for young drivers to aim for.”

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 2023. Coupled with Sport Ireland and Motorsport Ireland’s €50,000 investment, a further €50,000 has been pledged by the Team Ireland Foundation thanks to support from John Coyne. John, a long time competitor is passionate about giving the next generation of Irish talent an opportunity to succeed in the sport he has enjoyed throughout his life. 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 seven 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 and will receive assistance from Billy Coleman Award co-ordinator Sean McHugh. The last winner of the Billy Coleman Award, Josh McErlean, has gone on to establish himself in the second tier of the World Rally Championship through his Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy programme. The overall winner of the 2022 award will be announced at the Champions of Irish Motorsport Awards ceremony, which takes place on Wednesday, December 7th at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Santry, Dublin. The award is presented annually and is supported by Sport Ireland and Motorsport Ireland.

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