by John Kenny – Irish Daily Star- 2nd June 1999

I knew Neil Shanahan. I’m glad I knew him.

Motorsport is a dangerous sport and it was doing what he loved that ultimately cost him his life. Neil Shanahan was destined for big things. Last Monday his passion and spirit were snuffed out, the candle of the best prospect in Irish motor-racing since Eddie Irvine flickered and died.

This year his first season with the Van Diemen works team in the British Formula Ford championship, the 19-year-old Dubliner was playing catch up.

Most of the other drivers had a season or two behind them in the series, Neil was still learning the tracks and it was taking time in an uncompetitive car.


A 4th place in the 4th round at Brands Hatch was a sign that he was getting on the pace. It didn’t follow on the 5th round at Oulton Park in Cheshire last Monday., the Van Diemen just wasn’t up to the speed of the faster Rays and Mygaels.

He was 10th on the grid for the Bank Holiday race, there was work to be done. It happened on lap 2, a tangle and a crash. Most drivers walk away, bruised, battered egos, recriminations in the bar.

Neil never climbed from the wreckage. The sport that he adored took his life and for those of us who knew him it has robbed us of one of the best drivers ever to leave these shores.

I was glad to call him my friend. I met him for the first time at the Formula Ford Festival and world cup at Brands Hatch in 1997. He was with Mick Merrigan who was to become his manager, all the positivity of youth, smiling happy, mouth full of braces, taking it all in, looking to get on the next rung of the motorsport ladder.


He started racing in Ireland in 1993 in junior karting and by 1996 had risen to Formula A where he was second overall in the National Championship. In 1997 Shanahan, helped in no small way by his adoring parents, decided that Neil had the talent to go further and he raced in the Stars of Tomorrow Formula Ford 1600 championship.

It wasn’t the most competitive of classes further down the field but he had some memorable races at the head of affairs with Michael Keohane. His championship success also gave Shanahan the distinction of being chosen as the 1997 Dunlop Driver of the Year. In 1998 Neil earned yet again the Dunlop Driver of the Year accolade.

Neil Shanahan is no longer with us and the world is a sadder place. Neil Shanahan R.I.P.


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