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Aoife Raftery represented the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy at a special event to mark International Woman’s Day in Portlaoise on Saturday.

Hosted by the Motorsport Ireland Women in Motorsport Commission the networking event brought women from all disciplines of motorsport together.

Raftery and Rally Academy representative Kathleen Kennedy were interviewed on stage by Motorsport Ireland Women in Motorsport Commission secretary Noelle Horan in front of around 130 guests.

“It was great to attend the  Motorsport Ireland Women in Motorsport Commission event on Saturday. I got to meet lots of wonderful ladies and hear all their stories,” said Raftery.

“Hopefully, we can see more women getting involved in motorsport. It was great to explain to everybody in the room how the Academy works, the idea behind it and the great work it is doing with Irish rally drivers by getting more young drivers into the European and World stage. It was fantastic to be able to share my own story and also to hear Kathleen explaining how it all works and what goes on behind the scenes.”

Later in the evening, the Galway-based rally driver hosted a panel discussion with junior and entry-level participants , with a particular emphasis on Junior 1000 Rallying with several teenage girls who attended the networking event.

“It was great to be able to highlight the girls on the stage and hear their stories of how they got involved and their plans for the future,” added the Craughwell native.

“They all spoke excellently and it's really exciting to see what lies ahead in the future for them.”


It is a busy time for Motorsport Ireland Academy driver Josh McErlean.

Late last week he announced that he will join Creighton in WRC 2.

The 24-year-old ace will start his third season in the coveted World Rally Championship, but following three years with the Hyundai brand, he will switch to Škoda, run by reigning WRC2 champions Toksport World Rally Team.

Joined by James Fulton for his reinvigorated campaign, McErlean will begin his season at the WRC Vodafone Rally de Portugal in early May.

“I`m super excited that not only will I be back in the WRC in 2024, but I`ll be joining Toksport in a Škoda Fabia RS Rally2” said McErlean.

“This has given me a new level of energy and fresh motivation, which in turn brings a wealth of optimism to both me and the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy team.”

Before that McErlean will head to America for the Rally of the 100 Acre Wood in Potosi, Missouri on March 15 and 16. There he will co-drive for Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy founder and patron, John Coyne.

After a two-year break, while he focused on building up the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy,  Coyne will return to competition in the American Rally Association National Championship 2024.

The 73-year-old, who resides in California, has been competing in rallying for some 55 years and will start his fourth season in the ARA National Championship in a Hyundai i20N Rally2 which will be run by PCRS Rallysport. John will be accompanied throughout the season by Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy co-driver Eoin Treacy.

As Eoin had a prior commitment to co-driving for his father in the Rally Costa Brava in Spain the same weekend,  McErlean will stand in for this initial event.

Meanwhile, Fulton has been named a brand ambassador for Skoda Carlow for the year ahead thanks to fellow rally driver James  Boland.

Elsewhere in Northern Ireland over the weekend, Billy Coleman Award winner Jack Brennan and co-driver John McGrath tackled the second round of the Northern Ireland Rally Championship at Bishopscourt.

They were in the mix for Class 2 honours but were forced to retire on the penultimate test.

Rally Academy co-driver Conor Mohan, better known for his exploits in the Junior World Rally Championship alongside Eamonn Kelly won his home Navigation Trial on Saturday night.

Text by Sean Moriarty



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