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Motorsport Ireland’s Rally Academy’s Jack Brennan and Aoife Raftery to contest the 2024 FIA Junior European Rally Championship



The Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy will field a two-car team in this year’s FIA Junior European Rally Championship.


Aoife Raftery will return for a second season at European-level and will be joined for the first time by 2023 Billy Coleman Award winner Jack Brennan. They will compete in a pair of Peugeot 208 Rally4 cars with on-event support provided by Irish rally team PCRS Rallysport.


The two Rally Academy members will begin their campaign on the April 12-14 Rally Hungary, the opening round for the 2024 European Rally Championship.


Following in the wheel tracks of one of her motor racing idols, the late Rosemary Smith, Raftery recorded impressive results in the Czech Republic and Italy last year. Raftery is the first, and so far, only, female driver to be selected by the Rally Academy since its inception in 2020. 



“I am delighted to announce that we will be competing in the European Rally Championship again this year,” she said.

“It is a fantastic opportunity and a massive thank you to everyone behind me, the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy, and my sponsors for making this happen. It is going to be a really exciting year.”



However, only one rally, the BAUHAUS Royal Rally of Scandinavia in Sweden carries over from her 2023 itinerary. Instead, Raftery will visit a host of new countries including next week’s Hungarian event and the Canary Islands this season.


“We aim to bring everything that we learned in 2023 into this season and keep improving from last year. There is only one event that carries into this year – Sweden. I think that is going to be really exciting and a good thing that all drivers will be starting off on a clean sheet in the juniors.”

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Raftery regularly featured amongst the top female drivers in last season’s European Rally Championship. In July she finished second to Italian championship frontrunner Rachele Somaschini in Coppa Femminile on the Rally di Roma Capitale. Somaschini was driving a far more powerful Citroen C3 Rally2 car compared to Raftery’s Peugeot 208 Rally4.



In August, Raftery was the top female driver in a two-wheel drive car on the Barum Rally Zlin in the Czech Republic after coming out on top in a rally-long battle with Hungarian Adrienn Vogel.


“Hopefully, we will see some more females registered in the championship this year. It would be great to see a few more, especially in the junior section. We will have to wait and find out but it would be great to see some more female drivers registered,” added the Craughwell native.


She has also recorded an impressive tally of international rally experience and results outside of the European Rally Championship including outings in Britain, Spain, Italy, and San Marino over the last two years.



Raftery will be co-driven by County Antrim’s Hannah McKillop in Hungary.

Both Irish women previously worked together on two events in Spain last year where they were regularly among the Rally4 class frontrunners.


JACK BRENNAN TO MAKE EUROPEAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP  DEBUT


Brennan, from Kilkenny, will make his FIA European Rally Championship debut in Hungary but he does have international experience too having contested the Rally Terra Sarda in Italy in 2022 and two rounds of last season’s British Rally Championship.


“Our hope for our first year in the Junior European Rally Championship is to finish every rally. Maybe towards the end of the year come home with some good results and also gain experience of all the different conditions and surfaces of these rallies and learn how to approach these rallies,” he said.


His Peugeot 208 Rally4 will be prepared locally by NCRS Motorsport Service before being transported to Hungary ahead of his ERC bow. For Brennan, after growing up watching his father Peter compete in the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, it is a childhood dream come true.


“I am really excited to be heading to the Junior European Rally Championship and take on the demanding championship and its events,” he added.


“It is a dream come true to be competing in the European Rally Championship. It is fantastic to be competing against some of the best in the world and something I have wanted since I was young watching my dad navigate in the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship.”

John McGrath from Enniscorthy will co-drive for Brennan.


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John Coyne founder, and patron of the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy is looking forward to watching the progress of the two junior team members throughout the 2024 season.

“I’m delighted to see Aoife return to the Junior ERC Championship to build on the impressive performance improvement she achieved during the 2023 season,” he said.


“It will be interesting to watch Jack’s progress as he builds on a very strong national season in Rally5 and an outstanding initial performance as he stepped up to Rally4 towards year-end.


“The Academy and PCRS have solid experience of the Junior ERC and will provide support and guidance to help both drivers progress rapidly in their emerging careers.”

 



The junior team announcement is in addition to Jon Armstrong and Eoin Treacy’s previous revelation that they are contesting the full FIA European Rally Championship in a Rally Academy-supported M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally2.

 

V-Híd Rally Hungary will be based in the city of Veszprém, 120km south of the capital Budapest.


Text By Sean Moriarty / Photos by Sean Moriarty & Michael Chester/Motorsport Ireland


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