The three final Billy Coleman award nominees for 2023 have been announced. Craig Rahill, Ryan Caldwell and Ryan McHugh now join Keelan Grogan, Jack Brennan, Cian Caldwell and Jack McKenna in the running for the prestigious award.
Craig Rahill, 19, from Co.Cavan is the June - October nominee for the Billy Coleman Award. After a dominant year in his Class 11R MKII Escort, Craig has acquired a Rally4 Fiesta for the 2024 Season and used the car on a number of events in the latter half of this year. A second year mechatronic engineering student, Craig's plans for the remainder of 2023 are to take part in the Kilarney Historic Rally on December 2nd and to take part in multiple test days in his Ford Fiesta Rally4. Craig notes winning his class in the National, Border and West Coast Rally championships this year as his career highlight to date. He would like to thank all his sponsors, his co-drivers Conor Smith, Domhnall Lennon and Stephen Reynolds and CMC motorsport for all their work throughout the year.
21-year-old Ryan Caldwell is a Tyrone native and the first of our wildcards for the 2023 Billy Coleman award. A Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy member, Caldwell claimed the Motorsport Ireland Sligo Pallets National Forestry Championship title this season behind the wheel of a Skoda Fabia R5 and notes that championship win and a hard fought victory on this year’s Moonraker Forestry Rally as his season high points. Now his sights set are firmly on 2024, Ryan would like to thank his family and friends for their continued support as well as R317 Motorsport and the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy for their work throughout the year.
The second wildcard nominee is Donegal's Ryan McHugh. The 25-year-old works day to day as a OEM Engineer Apprentice with Moffett Automated Storage and competes in a Ford Fiesta Rally4. McHugh plans to take part in a number of events over the winter months coupled with some loose surface testing. A former Junior Irish Tarmac Rally Champion, Ryan cites Winning 2022 Junior Donegal International Rally and 2023 Class 2 Irish National Championship as his career highlights to date. Ryan would like to thank his sponsors, his co driver Declan Doyle and his Brother Neil McHugh at NMH Motorsport for all they have done for him in 2023.
About the Billy Coleman Award:
This year’s Billy Coleman Award will see 2 qualifiers selected from the following monthly groupings; January-May (Keelan Grogan), June-October (Craig Rahill). These nominees will be joined by the highest placed eligible drivers from the Junior sections in the Motorsport Ireland National Rally Championship and the Motorsport Ireland National Forestry Championship, the highest placed eligible drivers in the dual surface Motorsport Ireland J1600 (Jack McKenna) and JR2/Rally4 (Cian Caldwell) and Rally5 (Jack Brennan) Junior Rally Series as well as wildcard selections (Ryan Caldwell & Ryan Machugh), meaning that up to 7 drivers may be nominated for the award in 2023.
The winner of the Motorsport Ireland Billy Coleman Young Rally Driver of the Year Award will receive €100,000 worth of support to contest rallies nationally and internationally in 2024. Coupled with Sport Ireland and Motorsport Ireland’s €50,000 investment, a further €50,000 has been pledged by the Team Ireland Foundation.
The award winner will also receive assistance from Billy Coleman co-ordinator Sean McHugh. Additional support from the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy as part of a training and development plan to progress the winners’ career will also be available, and the winner may apply for funding for a second year of support upon satisfactory performances in their award-winning year. Both award runners up will receive support to compete in stage rallies at home and abroad up to an amount of €15,000 each.
Text by Larry O'Shea / Pics by Cian Donnellan