Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy member Aoife Raftery made an impressive British Rallycross debut at Lydden Hill over the weekend. The Galway woman was invited to race in the 2023 finale of the RX150 category that runs within the British Rallycross Championship at Lydden Hill after meeting the event’s promoters at a motorsport-themed charity event in Cork in September.
Raftery has been rallying for just over two years but the chance to compete in a new and very different discipline was too good to pass up.
The first female to be selected to join the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy added a new string to her bow by racing the regular RX150 contenders in the final weekend of the season of the Motorsport UK British Rallycross Championship.
The RX150 Rallycross Championship delivers some of the fastest and most competitive racing in the 5 Nations BRX package, the single-seater, single-specification RX150 machines weigh 430 kilograms, are powered by 200bhp 1000cc motorcycle engines, and are driven through the rear wheels by six-speed sequential gearboxes, ensuring tight and exciting racing,
Raftery has spent 2023 competing in the FIA European Rally Championship at the wheel of a Peugeot 208 Rally4. She has also driven various specification Ford Fiestas in Irish and British rallies but her RX150 debut was her first time driving a rear-wheel drive machine in any competition.
Having never seen an RX150 buggy in the flesh until Friday afternoon and only driving one for the first time on Saturday, the 22-year-old adapted quickly to her new surroundings.
Despite torrential rain and extremely muddy conditions on Saturday she consistently set top-four times in all her heats, with only drivers like former RX 150 title-holders Stephen Jones and Ben Hardy and multiple event-winner and newly crowned champion Nick Priddy finishing ahead of her.
Sunday’s improved weather conditions allowed her to get stuck into battles with the championship regulars.
The Galway Motor Club member duly qualified for the day’s final where she finished a creditable fifth overall despite her lack of wheel-to-wheel racing knowledge.
The Craughwell native said the experience will stand to her, the tricky conditions helped her expand her car control skills, but the chance to compete in a category completely alien to her past background in motorsport was valuable learning too.
“Just completed my first rallycross and I enjoyed every minute of it. The RX150 buggies are brilliant to drive, and fantastic for working on driving skills,” she said.
“It was a completely new discipline for me where I now had to consider what the others were doing around me as we were racing side-by-side and also driving rear-wheel-drive was new. It was great to bring the knowledge I had from rallying and apply it here.”
The two-day event meant she also had the chance to promote the work of the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy in front of a new audience.
“The opportunity to represent the Rally Academy at this event was especially important and I got to meet lots of great people involved in this new-for-me form of motorsport. Thanks to all the team at RX Racing for making it happen,” she added.
FIA Rally Star concludes this weekend
This coming weekend marks the final event in the FIA Rally Stars programme for 2023.
The German National Rally Championship-counting Lausitz Rally will take place on Friday and Saturday this week and is the final event on the Rally Star six-rally programme.
Based on gravel, the 26th running of the Lausitz Rallye follows on from the San Marino Rally, Rallye Weiz, Rally Nova Gorica, Saaremaa Rally and RallyRACC in giving the FIA Rally Star drivers an opportunity to learn and progress with the full support of motor sport’s world governing body.
FIA Rally Star, the first global talent detection programme was launched by the FIA with the ultimate objective to detect, train and develop drivers to become the future stars of the World Rally Championship.
The FIA Rally Star drivers compete in identical four-wheel-drive Ford Fiesta Rally3s equipped with Pirelli tyres and run by M-Sport Poland; the same package used in the FIA Junior WRC Championship.
This year, six drivers and co-drivers, including Motorsport Ireland Academy Member Ronan Comerford, took part in the series of pan-European national rallies and training days.
Out of the six candidates, the top four performing drivers will be selected at the end of the training season to continue their development and join the ranks of the FIA Junior WRC.
The top four co-drivers will also go through to the JWRC next season and not necessarily with the driver they were paired with this year.
Comerford has been paired with Oman’s Abdullah Al-Tawqi for 2023 and the pair showed massive improvements at the last round in Spain thanks to guidance from WRC2 frontrunner Gus Greensmith and Irish co-driver Chris Patterson.
“As we approach the final round of this project, it’s a good time to reflect on what the past months have brought,” said the County Armagh man.
“For me, it’s been a great privilege and my focus is now on the final event to ensure that I maximise it with all the tools I have been given and to perform to our best”
“Of course, it’s a big challenge as always as we hope to secure a spot in the 2024 FIA JWRC but as always, a big thanks to the team supporting me with various things within the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy and now the team of the FIA Rally Star.
Following the Lausitz Rallye, the FIA Rally Star drivers will assemble in Geneva for a final assessment day on November 13. The four drivers who will contest the FIA Junior WRC Championship in 2024 will be revealed later that week.
Text By Sean Moriarty // Photos by RX Racing Media/Hal Ridge