Rising Kerry rally driver Kieran Reen got his first real taste of the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy recently.
The Headford-based driver was nominated for the Young Rally Driver of Year -Billy Coleman Award last year following his Southern 4 Junior Rally Championship win.
While the Honda Civic driver did not win the coveted overall award, he was selected as a member of the academy, a special mentoring and training programme set up by the Irish governing body, to help drivers and navigators under 26 years of age make their next steps in the sport.
In normal circumstances, academy members would meet several times a year and members would be given tuition in essential career-orientated skills like fitness, media training and driver coaching as part of their year-long membership of the programme.
A fitness programme did go ahead in January but the main activities of the academy were put on hold as a result of the national shutdown until July 3.
Nine drivers and a similar number of co-drivers attended the briefing at Mondello Park in County Kildare.
Candidates were given the opportunity to drive a Hyundai i20 R5 as part of the training course. Reen is the only Kerry competitor in this year’s academy and follows Killarney driver Colin O’Donoghue who was a member of the inaugural academy last season.
“It was my first time in a left-hand drive or four-wheel drive rally car with a sequential gearbox,” Reen said. “The whole day was a great experience, I never thought I would get a chance to drive one of these cars, in all I got around 12 laps around Mondello, before the closest I got to these cars was standing on the ditch watching them pass on local rallies.”
The programme is funded by the Team Ireland Foundation through support by philanthropist and rally driver John Coyne.
“The MI Rally Academy, now entering its second year, is designed to develop, support and promote young Irish rally drivers as they climb the ladder to success at the sport’s highest level, representing the best of Irish talent on the world stage,” said Sean McHugh, coordinator of the MI Rally Academy.
Versions. of this article originally appeared in the Kerryman and the Killarney Advertiser. Kerry Motorsport News is the motorsport content provider to both local news titles