Kerry people who will shape world motorsport in 2021
By Sean Moriarty
Kerry motorsport traditions run deep, and it is no surprise that people from this part of the world are some of the most influential in the sport – at home and abroad.
The Kerryman has compiled this list of the top ten people from the county or people with Kerry connections who are likely to shape world motorsport in the 12 months ahead.
Often such lists are controversial, equally for those left out against those who made the list, but after careful consideration, here are the ten Kerry people who will set the news agenda in world motorsport, for the year ahead.
10: Transition year students at St Brigid’s Secondary school
Motorsport in Kerry is nearly 120 years old – almost as old as the car itself – but the past is useless unless it provides a clear path to the future.
Eight transition years students from St Brigid’s School in Killarney have signed up for the prestigious Formula One in Schools Ireland engineering competition.
They are the first students from County Kerry to participate in the nationwide competition which encourages STEM education through the design and build of a real-life scale-model racing car.
Four of the students, Ilona Sheehan, Kayla Byrne, Grace Daly and Ella Galvin represent Team Vroom Racing while a second team is called Team Mario Cart and is made up of students Alanna Brady, Kate Donoghue, Meadhbh Bennett and Abbie Daly
9: Samantha Martin
Until very recently, Kerry was never considered a hotbed for young motorcycle racing talent.
Apart from the efforts of Limerick-born Tralee man John O’Grady the sport was, without doubt, a minority, in Kerry.
That is changing and this year the county could be represented by over 20 racers, on the track and on closed road events.
Chief among them will be Kerry’s only female motorcycle racer, Samantha Martin from Tarbert.
While she has contested a few races in 2019 and several track days last season, she is preparing to take on the big names this year.
An announcement is expected in the coming weeks but it is certain that Martin will contest the entire Dunlop Masters Irish National Championship in Mondello Park and will also take in a few extra events in Northern Ireland.
The programme mirrors her partner, Andy Murphy’s, so she will have plenty of advice in the season ahead.
A trailblazer for women in motorsport and deserves to be on the list for that reason alone.
8 Mick Smith
The London Irish Motor Club is unique in the sense that it is the only motor club to be recognised by both Motorsport Ireland and Motorsport UK.
No one yet knows the full implications of Brexit and how it will affect motorsport competitors crossing the Irish Sea in any direction. Will competition be licences valid, what about rules regarding the temporary importation and exportation of a competition car and a host of other, so far, unknowns?
The chairman of the London Irish Motor Club is Killarney man Mick Smith and his expertise, on both sides, will be sought, as the two national governing bodies work out the full implications (in motorsport terms) of the UK’s departure from the EU.
Smith is helped by club secretary John F O’Mahony (Muckross) and membership officer Shane Buckley (Rockfield) on the committee of LIMC ensuring that Kerry motorsport officials will play a key role in Brexit dealings over the next few months.
7 Dermot Hanafin
The Yorkshire-based Tralee man is one of the most respected motorsport insurance brokers in the world. Dermot Hanafin is the CEO of MIS Motorsport, the company that provides insurance for some of the biggest names in the sport from Formula One to karting and from the World Rally Championship to local club events.
MIS Motorsport originated from a small desk within a local brokerage, near Leeds and has grown to become the leading provider of Motorsport Insurance Solutions around the world.
A keen supporter of Irish rallying, Dermot has contested the Rally of the Lakes in the past but now concentrates on supporting his son Lorcan’s Porsche Carrera Cup GB ambitions.
6 Eoin Duffin
The Kilflynn based Wexford man has made a name for himself as the straight-talking and competitor orientated clerk of the course for the Circuit of Kerry.
In the year ahead he will take a chair at the table of Motorsport Ireland’s Rallies Commission ensuring Kerry rallying has a voice in all aspects of the decision-making processes by the governing body.
Crucially, as a competitor first and as an event official second, he will not allow anything that will not be of benefit to drivers or navigators get passed the committee stage. Duffin will be a strong voice for Kerry and indeed national rallying at the sport’s top table.
5 Sósanna Ní Dhubháin
The Aston Martin Formula One Team is the new name for the BWT Racing Point Formula One team for the season ahead.
Sósanna Ní Dhubháin is the Senior Composite Designer engineer with the Silverstone-based team that began life as Jordan F1 in the early 1990s. She can trace her roots to Smerwick Harbour in the west of the county.
The new team’s 2021 driver line-up includes four-time Formula 1 World Champion, Sebastian Vettel and multiple Grand Prix podium-finisher, Lance Stroll.
4 Michael O’Mahoney
Everyone says they have a book in them but not everyone has the courage to put pen to paper.
Michael O’Mahoney’s ‘Icons of Irish Rallying’ which hit the bookshops just before the end of last year has been met with some great reviews.
But it is not just for his publishing skills alone that O’Mahoney has made this list.
Through his firm Rentokil-Initial Ireland, he is one of the greatest supporters of Irish rallying ever. He has sponsored the Killarney Historic Rally for years and has put his hand in his pocket to fund the likes of Craig Breen, Paul Nagle, Rob Duggan and a host of other local drivers. He has also funded the appearances of star drivers on Killarney events, Scottish legend Jim McRae and Belgian star Paul Lietaer have all benefited from the Headford man’s generosity over the years.
When the sport resumes in County Kerry – hopefully, sooner rather than later – he will be one of the first to lend his support.
3 Paul Nagle
Paul Nagle’s inclusion in this list of influential Kerry people is not based on his record five World Rally Championship victories. He richly deserves all of the accolades after a lifetime of hard work got him to the top of the sport.
The people he works with every day of the week, from Hyundai Motorsport team bosses, Andrea Adamo and Alain Penasse will take guidance from the Aghadoe man, especially in these COVID-19 times.
Nagle and his driver Craig Breen contested two rounds of last year’s WRC, one before and one after the pandemic hit and severely disrupted their plans. The experience gathered last year will help his team make post-COVID-19 decisions.
More importantly, as one of the few Irish competitors to actually race last year, his experience will be even more valuable to local organisers.
As a side note, Penasse’s second job is the chair of the organising committee of the Ypres Rally in Belgium. Nagle won this rally in 2019 and you can be sure both the Belgian and the Kerry man are angling for the inclusion of the Ypres Rally next summer.
2 Richard Browne
While the Firies man’s future is far from certain, following Volkswagen’s departure from motorsport, as announced last month, he will be a valuable asset to any team in the season ahead.
At least Volkswagen did not make any of the department’s staff redundant when it closed shop and instead transferred them to other operations within the group.
Browne will have his eye firmly on Audi’s hopes of contesting next year’s Dakar Rally and the world-famous 24 Hours of Le Mans – roles he would richly deserve and is more than capable of leading.
After all, he is a world champion, after engineering Johan Kristofferson’s FIA World Rallycross success last season. In the past, he was the lead engineer on Andreas Mikkelsen’s Volkswagen Polo when the Norwegian won three sounds of the WRC. Mikkelsen is set to contest this year’s WRC 2 championship in a Skoda Fabia. The Czech brand is another part of the colossal VW group and it would be nice to see the pair reunited on the world stage too.
1 Dr Paul Rea
Dr Paul Rea is set to replace Dr Pau Mota as the FIA’s Head of Medical and Rescue, Motorsport.
Paul’s father Bernard was reared in Fenit but spent his working life in Dublin and is well-known in the locality. Dr Rea spends a lot of time in the area where the family have a holiday home.
His grandmother and her two sisters ran the landmark O’Sullivan’s Pub in the village.
After 20 years working across all areas of Irish motorsport, Dr Rea will take up this new position in February and will be based in Geneva, Switzerland.
An experienced Doctor with a special interest in musculoskeletal injury, motorsport medicine, medical devices and occupational medicine, Paul is a sitting member of the Motorsport Ireland Medical Sub Commission and previously served on the Motorsport Ireland Safety Advisory Group.
Over the years he has been heavily involved in motorsport rescue training and delivering medical briefings to rescue crews. Paul is also an experienced Chief Medical Officer having fulfilled the role on many rally events across the island of Ireland. Last year he was instrumental in creating the Motorsport Ireland Return to Sport document concerning the COVID-19 pandemic.