5 December 2017

Outstanding Motorsport Achievement Awards presented

The winners of the Sexton Trophy, the prestigious Billy Coleman Award, and the International Driver of the Year, were announced at the Beta Tools Motorsport Ireland Awards Ceremony in Dublin today, writes Richard Burke. 

The ceremony was held in the Mansion House earlier today to celebrate the success of the most talented drivers in Irish Motorsport in 2017.

More than 30 trophies were presented to Irish drivers competing both domestically and internationally.

The Billy Coleman Award for the young Rally Driver of the Year was won by 23-year-old Callum Devine from Derry. Callum had many standout performances particularly while winning the Junior British Rally Championship and when claiming victory in his class at the Ypres Rally in Belgium.

He now joins a list of illustrious winners of this award which includes the first ever driver from the Republic of Ireland to secure a World Rally Championship drive with Citroen, Craig Breen, and the record breaking four-time British Rally champion Keith Cronin, who also secured this year’s Manley Trophy as International Driver of the year. As part of the award, Callum will receive support to the value of €50,000 for the 2018 season.

The Sexton Trophy for Young Racing driver of the Year went to 17-year-old Jordan Dempsey from Mullingar, Co Westmeath who was a previous runner up for the award. He spent the opening part of the 2017 season concentrating on his Leaving Cert and was the highest achiever in his school in the exams. He then returned to Formula Ford and took on five races over the two days at Kirkistown and secured several pole positions, lap records and victory in his first British Championship race at Castle Combe in Wiltshire, England. He will also receive support to the value of €50,000 for the 2018 season.

The Manley Memorial Trophy for the International driver of the Year went to Keith Cronin from Co Cork after he became the first driver from Ireland to win the British Rally Championship for an unprecedented fourth time. The fight for the title went down to the wire with Keith securing the honours by 0.1 of a second on the last stage of the last event of 2017 in his Ford Fiesta R5 at the Rally Isle of Man. Cronin equals rally legend Roger Clark with four championship wins, just one behind record title winner Jimmy McRae.

The winner of this award is selected by the motor sport media and is presented to an Irish competitor from the 32 counties who has not only proven to be a success in competition, but also has acted as a positive role model and ambassador for the sport. Keith joins luminaries such as Craig Breen, Le Mans series driver Matt Griffin, Rallying legend Austin MacHale, Formula 1 driver Eddie Irvine and multiple European Rallycross class champion Derek Tohill as a winner of this trophy.

The Neil Shanahan Memorial Trophy went to 13-year-old Sean McCormack from Delgany, Co Wicklow who was crowned 2017 Motorsport Ireland National Junior Karting Champion in the final race of the season at Tynagh in Co Galway. He went on to represent Ireland at the World Finals in Le Mans, France and is also the only driver in its history to have won Ireland’s karting Race of Champions three times.

The Ivan Webb Memorial Award for the Most Outstanding Contribution to Irish Motorsport went to Kieran Ambrose of Shangolden Co Limerick while the JC Millard Memorial Award for Clubman of the Year went to Ger O’Connor, originally from Foynes, Co Limerick but who now lives in Prosperous, Co Kildare.

Speaking at the awards, Motorsport Ireland President Martin McKenna said he had spoken with some of the judges from the various panels this year and some had said that this was by far the most difficult year to pick winners, such is the talent emerging in the sport. “Alongside our partners in Sport Ireland, we are excited about the future for the sport and believe that those that have won today will be able to fill the shoes of previous winners, many of whom have gone on to compete successfully on the international circuit. Judging by the winners here today, the future of Irish Motorsport is very positive.”