Quirke living the American dream

A West Kerry man is set to make his American rally debut later this month.

Camp native Kenneth Quirke, who has been living in New York for the last four years, is well known on the local rally scene having contested several Kerry and Irish rallies, as both a driver and a co-driver, since his local debut in 2009.

He sprang to prominence last season when he made an unannounced trip back home, his first visit to Kerry,in three years, to drive in the Circuit of Kerry Rally at the wheel of his father Martin’s Talbot Sunbeam.

A month later he was back on home soil for the second time when he navigated Tralee-based driver Darren Young in a Honda Civic in the Rally of the Lakes.

Kenneth Quirke, with his co-driver for last year’s Circuit of Kerry, Daniel Cronin outside the Rose Hotel. Photo Ray Corkery

The rally scene in America is dominated by Irish drivers and co-drivers and there is a particularly strong ex-pat involvement in the sport in New York, a city that Quirke now calls home.

Like everywhere else in the world, the sport, Stateside, was shut down as a result of coronavirus restrictions but the American Rally Association has given the green light for the sport to resume.  

The first major event on the revised American calendar is the Southern Ohio Forrest Rally which is scheduled for July 18 and Quirke is set to contest this event, his first US rally alongside former Indy Car racer Ryan Booth.

The South Carolina-based driver switched from single-seater racing to rallying two years ago and has competed up to and including World Rally Championship level.  

The pair have secured the use of one of New York-based Irishman Barry McKenna’s Ford Fiesta R5s for the event. McKenna is a frontrunner on East Coast rallies and is no stranger to Irish events having commuted on many occasions to compete on rounds of the Irish Forestry Rally Championship.

He is the current leader of the American National Rally Championship but, so far, only January’s Sno* Drift Rally has taken place.

The Southern Ohio Forest Rally is the second round of the new American national series and has attracted all of the championship’s frontrunners.

Drivers entered include McKenna, Donegal native and rally legend Seamus Burke, his Atlanta-born son Joseph and motorsport stuntman Ken Block.

The rally is based in the town of Lucasville, which is about 160km east of Cincinnati and is unique in the sense that it starts around 3pm on Saturday and runs until the early hours of Sunday morning.  

Quirke was due to make his American Rally debut in March but the Missouri-based 100 Acre Wood Rally was postponed until October because of the pandemic.

Since then McKenna approached him and offered him the drive with Booth for the Ohio event.

“I’m confident it will work out just fine and that I am in for a good spin with Ryan Booth. Ryan is known in the States for his past in Indy Car Racing,” said Quirke who was, last year named as the Club Person of the Year by the Kerry GAA Club in New York, “He is a talented young driver and I’m sure I’m in for a fast spin. Hopefully, we will get a day’s testing with McKenna Motorsport leading up to the rally to freshen up. I am really excited and looking forward to the Southern Ohio Forest Rally on July 18.”

Quirke is not the first Kerry rally competitor to compete in America.

Boston-based Fenit man Dan Brosnan is a former East Coast Rally Championship class champion while his brother Brendan has contested American events in the family Nissan Sentra in the mid-noughties.

The Kearney brothers, Cyril and John, who are originally from Cloghane, were also frontrunners in New York-based events in the early part of this century while Glenflesk co-driver Brian Doherty is a regular commuter to US rallies.

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Versions of this article were previously published in The Kerryman. Kerry Motorsport News is the motorsport content provider to The Kerryman.

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