by Declan Quigley - Irish Independent - 29th October 1998

Rising star Neil Shanahan thrust himself into contention for a top drive in Britain next season with a scintillating drive in last weekend’s Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch. Dubliner Shanahan, the new Ford of Ireland Formula Ford Zetec champion, travelled to the Kent circuit for the annual festival of international single seater racing with high hopes of a top ten finish. However, while fate intervened to snatch away the chance of a top finish, Shanahan had already done enough to get his name in all the top team managers’ notebooks.

The 19-year-old from Churchtown qualified third for his semi-final of the 100-car knock out event, an impressive result for the privately entered Bachelor Inn Van Diemen RF98. Neil then quickly wowed the racing establishment by forcing his way into second place as the race got under way.

A place on the front row of the prestigious final beckoned as he challenged the leader, Robert Collard, but it was not to be. A fuel pump failure on the normally reliable Michael Merrigan Motorsport machine forced his retirement.

Afterwards, Neil was not too despondent with the outcome, secure as he was in the knowledge that he had made the right impression with the professional racing team managers present.

“Initially I was gutted,” admitted Shanahan, “but the reaction to the weekend has been amazing and I have to say that although I’m sure victory was possible, I’m reasonably pleased with the way it turned out. The Swift and Mygale works teams have each offered me a test and the Van Diemen factory are interested in talking to me, so there’s a very strong chance of me driving with a top team in Formula Ford next year. There;s even been interest from F2000 in the US,” he added.

Top Irish finisher in the festival was Mark McKenna in eighth place, while Shanahan’s Republic of Ireland World Cup team-mates Mark O’Connor and Philip Kehoe were both out of luck. O’Connor spun out of his semi-final after qualifying third while Kehoe crashed out of his heat while lying fifth in treacherous conditions.


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