Billy Coleman Award winner Eamonn Kelly set for busy rally season

Billy Coleman Award winner Eamonn Kelly set for busy rally season 

The festive season is set to continue for Billy Coleman Award winner Eamonn Kelly. 

The Donegal driver will get his season underway next weekend with a trip to the legendary Arctic Rally in Finland. 

The January 12-14 rally is based in the town of Rovaniemi – the official home of Santa Claus – in Lapland. 

The Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy member is using the event as a “training rally” ahead of full participation in the Junior World Rally Championship which gets underway in Sweden in just over three weeks’ time. 

The 245-kilometre event will be his first time to rally on snow and marks his debut behind the wheel of M-Sport Poland’s Ford Fiesta Rally3 – the same car he will use on the five-round J-WRC later in the year. 

Triple British Rally Champion, Matt Edwards, will act as Kelly’s co-driver inside the Arctic Circle. The pair will work together to develop Kelly’s skills on the snow. 

“I have never driven on snow, this is pure preparation for a snow rally, making pace notes on snow, driving in the dark on snow. I spoke to several people, and they all said that the Arctic Rally is the best representation of a Word Rally Championship event on snow,” he said. 

“It will be a week-long preparation, just like a WRC event, Matt does a lot of ice driving coaching in Rovaniemi at this time of year and having him on board will fast-track my training on snow.” 

The Arctic Rally is Kelly’s first event in what will be a busy season. 

The five-round J-WRC will take him to places like Croatia, Sardinia, Estonia, and Greece in addition to Rally Sweden. 

He will also contest Rally Finland in a PCRS-prepared Hyundai i20 RC2 as part of his prize for winning the Junior element of the British Rally Championship last year. 

“We hope to do a few small rallies in each of these countries too as preparation,” he added. 

“Estonia is a high-speed rally, but you won’t get gravel roads like that around here. “ 

If that is not enough Kelly will also contest the top tier of the British Rally Championship in a Volkswagen Polo RC2. 

Monaghan-based co-driver Conor Mohan will continue to work with Kelly for the year ahead. 

The young duo have competed together since 2018, starting in a front-wheel-drive Honda Civic on national rallies in Ireland. 

“Winning the 2022 Billy Coleman Award and the support that comes with it through the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy has put me in the perfect position to take on a challenge like Junior WRC,” he added. 

“Conor and I have been on a big journey over the past four years. We have built up a really good relationship and I know we will give everything towards our latest challenge. 

“We will be up against the best young rally drivers in the world, we want to benchmark ourselves against them, and hopefully bring our performances up to the top level.” 

2023 Junior WRC calendar: 

1 Rally Sweden – 09-12 February 

2 Croatia Rally – 20-23 April 

3 Rally Italy – 01-04 June 

4 Rally Estonia – 20-23 July 

5 Rally Greece – 07-10 September 

This article was produced by Kerry Motorsport News for Motorsport Ireland

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