The Academy was established in 2019 to provide promising young drivers with a pathway from the junior rallying ranks through to competing at World Rally Championship (WRC) level.
Those eligible to enter the high-performance academy were chosen from the Billy Coleman Award nominees.
In September 2109 following a large selection process, Co-Drivers/navigators
were included in the umbrella of the MI Rally Academy.
Drivers and navigators who are part of the Academy will undergo a rigorous training programme to develop their skills and discipline and move them up through the various competitive classes in Irish rallying through to the highest levels of the sport internationally.
Initial funding to support the Academy has come from former Irish Rally Champion,
John Coyne, (through the Team Ireland Foundation). John retired as CEO
of Western Digital,a major digital storage company based in California in 2013.
“With intimate knowledge of the difficulties faced by young drivers I felt I should give something back to my country and my sport by supporting our developing young drivers both materially and with my experience in both sport and business” says Coyne.
Having being involved in establishing the Billy Coleman Award in 2000, in 2018,
Sean McHugh, took on the role of Award co-ordinator to oversee the competition
and continue its upward trajectory thus leading to the formation of the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy and also the role of Academy co-ordinator.
"The Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy has no greater ambition than to see a clear path made so that drivers and co-drivers can take up the sport at a young age
and realise that if they meet what's required of them, they can go all the way to the top"
says Mc Hugh.
Meet The Team
What is the Billy Coleman Award?
The Billy Coleman Award was conceived in 2000 by Motorsport Ireland (Motorsport Ireland, the governing body of Irish motorsport). The aim of the award is to motivate young Irish rally drivers to step up into the international arena and rival the achievements of the young Billy Coleman. The internationally-recognised Billy Coleman Award is one of the most prestigious accolades that any young driver on the island of Ireland can aspire to. To qualify for the award, drivers (who must be under 26 years of age on 1st January in the year of the award) are nominated for their performances throughout the year and interviews by a judging panel; determine a winner at the end of each year. Each year there are also 2 runner up drivers who also benefit from financial support. To date there have been 21 Billy Coleman Award winners.
Eamon Kelly is the current Billy Coleman award winner
Who is Billy Coleman?
Billy Coleman is an Irish motorsport rally driver. He is Ireland's most successful motorsport rally driver—in twenty years of racing he has claimed 29 victories, and won British Rally Championship and Irish Tarmac Rally Championship titles. Billy studied commerce in University College Cork, but preferred farming as his occupation, and undertook it full time after finishing up his racing career. Billy became famous for his rallying skills all over Ireland as well as Britain, dominating the rallies in the 70s and 80s. He has also competed in the international arena, as far as Corsica and Monte Carlo. In 2006 Billy Coleman was awarded RTÉ Sports Hall of Fame Award for his outstanding achievements in rallying.
What is Team Ireland Foundation?
In 2016 Motorsport Ireland launched the Team Ireland Foundation. This initiative is a national programme of support and development for talented drivers in the sports of rallying, racing and karting. The Team Ireland Foundation focus on identifying, supporting and coaching Irish competitors who can succeed in all categories of competition, both domestically and across the globe. The aim is to put Irish drivers at the forefront of international motorsport. The foundation is made up of directors whose responsibility also includes managing funding.
Who is PCRS?
The Academy works closely with Philip Case and PCRS, who provide the vehicles for the development days and for when the drivers are competing. Case runs a number of Hyundai i20 N Rally2 cars, which led to building a relationship with Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing.
What are Development Days?
Development days are a big part of the Rally Academy. It’s when the members get driver tuition, as well as other aspect of being a sportsperson – such as working with the media, fitness, nutrition, social media and sim-racing. It’s hoped all those elements together can help the drivers improve themselves as more rounded individuals. Development days are great way to meet the group face to face and conduct group work.