With five dominant performances this season, Headford’s Kieran Reen (26) arrived back into Bantry after completing last Sunday’s Fastnet Rally to celebrate the capturing of the 2019 PlasticBags.ie Southern 4 Junior Rally Championship.
Such a series of results that have had people really taking notice of the young Kerry man. The Championship title also comes with a prize fund worth €5,000, one of the largest offered in Irish Grassroots Motorsport.
Reen, co-driven for much of the year by Knocknagree’s Mark O’Leary (24), demonstrated incredible car control and pace over some of the fastest Stages in Irish Rallying, often putting other competitors in ‘bigger cars’ to shame. The Honda Civic that Kieran campaigns is built to a set of regulations designed to reduce cost and provide a perfect entry point into the sport of Rallying without the expense that was becoming rampant.
The Class 16 spec of car was first introduced by the Southern 4 Championship in 2016 with the inception of the Junior Trophy, a championship designed to support the grassroots Junior drivers who were competing against other cars often two to three times the power and cost of theirs. The Championship, as well as a number of sponsors such as Sean O’Carroll (PlasticBags.ie), Donal Healy (Healy Motorsport) and Paul Casey (P&J Engineering), holds the prospect of supporting young talent as a guiding principle, and so a year prizefund was also started for drivers who competed in Trophy-Spec cars.
This season, the Southern 4 decided to offer its Junior Championship exclusively to the more cost-efficient car class, and the Irish Tarmac Championship, the premier series in Ireland, will follow suit next year. By winning the title, Kieran Reen follows 2018 champion Chris Brady in receiving a prize to the value of full Junior entry to all six of the 2020 Southern 4 events, a €400 tyre voucher and car prep and support session with Healy Motorsport.
The championship season kicked off in Clonakilty in March with the West Cork International Rally, and continued through Killarney’s Rally of The Lakes, the Dungarvan-based Ravens Rock, Imokilly Mini-Stages, the Cork 20 International and finally finishing in Bantry with the Fastnet Rally. With the best four scores counting, Reen knew that laying down a marker early would be key, but he never took the foot off the pedal right from the word go.
With five events and 32 stages competed, the Killarney man was dominant.
Reen claimed 12 outright stage wins, and quite spectacularly won the Cork 20 Junior Rally by just under three minutes.
Speaking on the finish ramp outside the Westlodge Hotel on Sunday, Reen reflected on a season of utter domination in his typically reserved and quiet way, a world away from the all-action high-speed in car persona seen in videos of him on events this year that have amassed over 30,000 views.
“Ya we had a good year. The car worked perfectly, and the few incidents we had (two punctures alone that afternoon) we just dealt with them without getting stressed,” he said.
Speaking afterwards, Chairperson of the Southern 4 Rally Championship Liam Hayes was delighted to see the success of this rising star, as well as taking time to focus on making sure others are aware of the name Kieran Reen.
“What a year Kieran has had. He has been an incredible ambassador for the championship, as have Chris and Jenny, (2018 winner Brady and Navigator Jenny Warren, herself the top Junior Navigator once more in 2019) and it’s the energy these youngsters have for the sport that’s incredible to see,” he said. “All year Kieran has been setting stunning stage times, and in a car that is the perfect blueprint of what an affordable entry-level rally car should be”
“He goes into 2020 with a great helping hand from us in the Southern 4, but I sincerely hope that those in the Billy Coleman awards are looking at Kieran, as to me he is the epitome of the rising star that deserves their backing. The Motorsport Academy scheme is an incredible opportunity for young drivers and navigators, and I sincerely hope that Kieran gets the nomination that he deserves. His drive in Cork (Cork 20 Junior rally) where he blew the field away was of a level rarely seen in Junior Rallying!”
What the 2020 season holds for Reen is, as yet,unknown, but now is the time to reflect on a season that has seen the young Killarney man really prove himself as a rising star of the sport. Should a Billy Coleman award nomination come or not, Kieran can look back incredibly fondly on the 2019 season!