by Declan Quigley - Irish Independent - 10th December 1998

Neil Shanahan, the RIAC Dunlop ‘Driver of the Year’, has confirmed that he will contest both the British and the Irish Formula Ford Zetec Championships next season.

The Churchtown teenager is gearing himself up for a full-time assault on the two prestigious series for up and coming racers after bearing of the challenges of five other nominees to scoop the prestigious ‘Driver of the Year’ award for the second year in a row. Shanahan impressed the judging panel by winning six of the 12 rounds in this year’s Ford of Ireland Formula Zetec series. And following a stunning international debut in the end of year Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch, he is now ready to take his talents overseas on a permanent basis.

The factory Van Diemen Formula Ford team is favourite to land the Bachelor Inn/Palfinger Ireland backed driver who is close to signing a major sponsorship deal with a leading soft drink manufacturer.

The works Van Diemen is the most coveted drive in British Formula Ford racing and, after watching Shanahan startle the British regulars by challenging for a front row position in the Brands Hatch event, Van Diemen boss Ralph Firman is set to give Shanahan the chance to follow Irishmen Michael Roe and Eddie Irvine into the works Van Diemen outfit.

To that end, Firman invited the red haired Dubliner to be a guest at the test session at Le Mans last week, through there was no opportunity for him to drive the car after another driver crashed and rain interrupted the following days running.

At the reception in the Plaza Hotel, Tallaght, to announce the winner of the RIAC Dunlop Driver of the Year, Shanahan was circumspect about where he would be driving in ’99 but he made it clear that he would be focussing on the British and European Formula Ford titles during the coming season.

“I looked at a number of championships including, Formula Palmer , Audi, Formula EFDA and Formula Three, but I think I can make an impact in Formula Ford next year,” he said.

Shanahan will have a cheque for £2,000 form Dunlop and free travel from Stena Line to put towards his budget for next season after scooping the RIAC Dunlop Driver of the Year award for the Walter Sexton Trophy for the second year in succession.

The other nominees for the award were Ray Moore (Formula Vee), Gavin Smith (Fiat Uno), Mark Kershaw (Formula Opel), Matthew Gilmore (Formula Ford), and Brian Hearty (Formula Vee).


Leave a Comment