Southside People West - 27th May 1998

Neil Shanahan (18), from Churchtown, has extended his lead in the Ford of Ireland Formula Ford Zetec Championship after winning the sixth round of the series yesterday at Mondello Park.

The Bachelor Inn/Blaupunkt backed driver took the win on the new international circuit which was in use for the first time at last week’s Super Prix meeting.

Neil, who is currently doing his Leaving Certificate in St. Mary’s College, Rathmines, qualified on the second row of the grid in fourth spot. But we made a superb start to the nine-lap race, getting the jump on both the pole sitter Philip Kehoe, and third spot driver George McAlpin. This put him in second position behind Chris Paul.

The RIAC Dunlop Driver of the Year made a number of attempts to pass his championship rival Paul, but it wasn’t until lap 5 on the newest part of the circuit that he could pull off a certain move for the lead.

Once passed. Neil opened up a gap from Paul with the veteran driver unable to respond to the youngster’s charge.

Cheered on from the pit lane by his parents Liam and Mary, and the Mick Merrigan Motorsport team, Neil crossed the line two seconds ahead of Paul to take his third win of the season.

In setting the fastest lap of the race, Neil established the lap record for the fastest ever lap in Formula Ford Zetec, thereby getting a bonus championship point.

This result puts the talented youngster three points ahead of Chris Paul in the championship, with PhIlip Kehoe a distant third.

Commenting on the race Neil said: “The race was like a reverse of the last race in Pembroke, where I led, and Chris was on my gearbox all the way round. The only difference was that this time I managed to get passed Chris. lt’s great to win the first race on a new circuit and become it’s first lap record holder,” he added.

And fortunately for Neil his next race is not until June 21st, which means that he has plenty of time to do some studying for his upcoming exams.


by Mark Hayes - Irish Daily Star (Front page and Inside article) - 9th September 1998

If willpower and self-belief are a necessity for success. Neil Shanahan should be unbeatable.

He is not arrogant – he just knows he is the fastest driver in Ireland. And the teenager from the South Dublin suburb of Churchtown, who has dominated this year’s Ford of Ireland Formula Ford Zetec Championship believes he can go all the way to the top.

“Well, Formula One is the aim. It has to be, but obviously a career as a professional driver is what I see myself achieving. I have great support from my parents, so I know that I have some time to try and make it happen,” he said.

Shanahan who is presently the only driver to win more than one race in Formula Ford this season, earlier this month celebrated his fifth win out of nine races. He is on 87 points with his nearest rival, former champion Chris Paul, on 75.

Pleasantly easy going, Shanahan has taken Irish motor racing by storm in the last two seasons. His emergence has been so spectacular that those in the know believe he could be the next big name bound for international stardom.

Former Formula one driver and current RTE Grand Prix pundit David Kennedy is bowled over by Shanahan’s potential.

“I saw him display the most amazing composure in winning a race at Mondello Park this year,” said Kennedy. “He was following Chris Paul, a very fine driver, and the way he paced himself and probed for Paul’s weak spot throughout the race, before launching his attack at just the right moment, was masterful.”

His team manager Michael Merrigan, known in racing circles as a skillful talent spotter is another big fan.

“Neil is one of the best young racers I’ve seen for many a year. He has great car control, sensitivity and tactical awareness. He also has the right mental attitude to his racing and works as hard outside the car as he does in it.”

As well as having the talent on track the Leaving Cert student is remarkably committed for one of such tender years.

“As well as the fitness aspect I’ve taken part in a number of public speaking and presentation skills courses. This is an expensive sport and I want to impress the right people on my way to the top. I’m in the gym most days and I also do quite a bit of running and cycling in fact, if I wasn’t racing cars I’d love to compete in downhill mountain bike races. But I have to take that bit easier after writing off a bike last year in the Dublin mountains. I was lucky I didn’t write off myself in the process!” he said.

On excepting the prestigious Sexton Trophy for winning the 1997 Dunlop Driver of the Year, he amazed all present with the composure of his acceptance speech.

So what are Shanahan’s immediate plans?

“The plan is to go racing abroad full time next year, probably in England. I haven’t really had time to weigh up the pros and cons of the various championships, but I’ll be looking closely at Formula Palmer Audi, Formula Renault Sport and Formula Ford Zetec again. But first for the Ford of Ireland title!”


by Andrew Murphy - The Title - 18th October 1998

Nineteen-year-old Neil Shanahan set out for Brands Hatch last Wednesday morning on what will be the most important two weeks in is short and successful racing career. With six wins to his credit this year the teenager has won three times more races than his nearest rivals here and his success rate compares favourably with the best in Britain and Europe.

His parents, Liam and Mary, will be, urging him on from the trackside as they have done at all the races he has driven.

“The meetings I’m driving in at Brands are the two most important races so far in my career so I’ve been preparing mentally for them over the last few weeks,” said the redhaired teenager.

“I don’t really know what to expect of the other drivers as I’ve never raced against them but I believe that the Irish series was very competitive and that I will be able to mix it at the top with the other Formula Ford Zetec champions from around the world,” said the confident Shanahan.

“I’m very focused on winning both the Eurocup today and helping Ireland win the world finals next weekend. I learn tracks easily, so if I get on pace quickly can match the performance of top European and British drivers.

“Earlier this year I arranged sponsorship from Red Bull and their Irish representative, Daniel Schwalh, told me the company wants to establish a long-term association with me which could lead to me joining the Red Bull F3000 junior team,” said Shanahan.

He joins Philip Kehoe (New Ross) and Mark O’Connor (Naas) to represent Ireland in the Formula Ford World Finals next weekend.


by Linda Keen - Brands Hatch Official Programme - 24th – 25th October 1998

Win or lose the Irish have traditionally made an impression at Brands Hatch, during the Formula Ford Festival – If not on the track certainly in the Kentagon. An Irishman’s name has graced the magnificent trophy on several occasions. Derek Daly (1976), Michael Rowe (1978), Tommy Byme (1981), Eddie Irvine (1987)and Kevin McGarrity (1995).

Since Zetec started in Ireland last year, the Emerald isle has produced some talented young chargers and none more so than 19-year old Dubliner, Neil Shanahan, this year’s Ford of Ireland Formula Ford Champion and one of the Irish World Cup squad this weekend. Supported by PaIfinger. BIaupunkt and Stena Line.

Neil won six out of the 12 rounds in his Mick Merrigan-run Van DIemen RF98. Very much a thinking young driver, Shanahan dominated the DHL Star of Tomorrow FF1600 series last year and was also the Dunlop RIAC Sexton Driver of the Year. Intent on a season out of Ireland next year, Shanahan is expected to make a strong showing at Brands this weekend.


John Kenny - Irish Daily Star - 28th October 1998

Mick Merrigan, manager of Irish Formula Ford champion Neil Shanahan, is negotiating a new deal for his driver to move to a full season of international racing. Shanahan will more than likely avoid moving to the Irish Formula Opel series. Ireland’s only slicks and wings class, as he attempts to take his racing career up to another level in pursuit of a possible Formula One drive in the future.

The 19-year-old Dubliner suffered massive disappointment in last weekend’s Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch when his fuel pump failed while in a semi-final second place in his Van Diemen.

However he did enough over the weekend to impress many of the team owners present at the Kent circuit and Merrigan now has a list of opinions for Shanahan next year.

Two Formula Three teams are talking to Shanahan about testing with their team. Alan Docking Racing and the Rowan Motorsport team.

There is also talk that the ’98 Irish champion could move to the States to contest the US Formula Ford 2000 series which supports many of the Champ car races.

The thinking behind that is possibly the fact that getting a drive in Formula One is becoming more and more difficult and that a better option would be to aim for the Champ Car series won for the past two seasons by Alex Zinardi.

“At this moment in time the decision as to where Neil will race next year will have to wait as I work out with his family about were we want to go for ’99” said Merrigan. “I will think about getting him to run in Formula Ford 2000 in America. Irish American companies would hopefully come in to support him for next season. But Europe is the place to race and England especially is the place to go racing next year possibly with one of the Formula Ford teams. A drive in the International Formula 3000 series in two years time is also a possibility. Neil won six races in ’98 and the Irish Formula Ford series is a very competitive class. As a result of that I have every confidence that he can go all the way and race at the very top of international motorsport,” added Merrigan.

Eddie Irvine is the only Irish driver running in Formula One this year while Johnny Kane, Dino Morelli and Kevin McGarrity all ran in the F3000 in ’98 before budgetary problems cut short their seasons. Kane won the Irish Formula Ford Series in 1992.


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