Paul Nagle has called time on his World Rally Championship career.
The Aghadoe man has been contemplating his departure from the sport for some time.
After finishing second, alongside Craig Breen on Rally Sardina in June, he started thinking about his future in the sport.
All through the summer, he weighed up the pros and cons.
He finally made his decision ahead of last weekend’s Rally New Zealand and confided in those closest to him that he would confirm his future plans once he returned to Ireland.
He has decided that next week’s Rally RACC Catalunya will be his last outing in the World Rally Championship as a factory co-driver.
After 18 years in topflight rallying, the 44-year-old has chosen to bow out on a rally that means so much to him.
He made his WRC debut at the Spanish event in 2004, alongside his friend and neighbour Donie O’Sullivan in a Ford Focus WRC.
It was this adventure that cemented his desire to compete full-time at the sport’s highest level and he went on to achieve that dream.
A long partnership with Kris Meeke netted several European Championship event wins but the pair really rose to prominence on the World stage between 2014 and 2018.
Together they won five rounds of the World Rally Championship, the last time when they were victorious on Rally RACC Catalunya in 2017 and another reason Nagle chose the Salou-based rally to hang up his helmet.
Another special Rally RACC Catalunya memory came in 2011 when he and Meeke won their first WRC stage together after topping the time sheets on the event’s PowerStage in front of a live television audience.
This season he is sharing a Ford Puma Rally1 car with Waterford’s Craig Breen and made history in January when they finished third overall on Rallye Monte Carlo, sharing the honours with multiple World Rally Champions Sebastien Loeb and Sebastien Ogier.
The Monte Carlo success came on the back of a brilliant streak when Breen and Nagle took three podiums on the bounce in Finland, Belgium and Estonia while on a part-time 2021 campaign with Hyundai.
Highlights this year include briefly leading Rally Estonia in July and making his Safari Rally debut in June.
Breen and Nagle also finished second on Rally Sardinia this year, the 18th time that the Killarney and District Motor Club member stood on a WRC podium making him the most successful Motorsport Ireland licence holder ever.
During that time he worked as a factory co-driver for Peugeot, Citroen, Mini Volkswagen, Hyundai and now Ford. As well as Breen and Meeke he has co-driven in the WRC for Norwegian star Andreas Mikkelsen and Irish champion Gareth MacHale.
It was the latter who gave Nagle his first WRC points, on Rally Mexico in 2006, an event where he and Meeke scored a famous victory in 2017.
Meeke and Nagle won a total of five WRC events, the first being Argentina in 2015 and double success in Finland and Portugal in 2016 and of course Spain in 2017.
He rates Finland as his greatest win, taking on and beating the sport’s biggest names in their own backyard.
“The time is right,” he said. “I have thought about it long and hard, I just know its time to go.”
It has been a huge privilege, the highs outweigh the lows and I have been very lucky to get where I am. I have to give a special mention to Kris Meeke and Craig Breen who shared that journey with me.”
Nagle praised a loyal bunch of family, friends and supporters who have been with him through thick and thin over the last 18 years.
His parents Angela and the late father Maurice instilled in him a passion for motorsport.
Maurice, a coach tour driver, famously pulled into Inch Beach one Sunday afternoon. He told his guests to go for “a fine long walk” so he could watch Paul take one of his five wins in peace.
His wife Cathy is his biggest supporter, and she will take their two sons, Fitz and Leon, to Rally RACC Catalunya next week so they can see Paul in action at a World Championship event for the first and last time.
He also thanked the loyal Kerry followers who have hoisted the tricolour over his rally car at the majority of his 101 WRC starts over the last 18 years.
He also thanked his personal sponsor Steve from Mallow Road Motors who has been by his side for a large portion of his career too.
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