A YOUNG rally driver from Keady is one of three being given the chance to break through into the big time in 2020 after it was announced they will drive Hyundai i20 R5 cars at domestic and international events.
James Wilson has previously won the internationally recognised Billy Coleman Award for being named Ireland’s Young Rally Driver of the Year.
He and co-driver Arthur Kierans will compete in the National Irish Forestry Championship and selected rounds of the Irish Tarmac Championship, providing him with invaluable experience on mixed surfaces which will be required as he progresses his career onto the international stage.
James Wilson said: “I have been very fortunate in that I had the opportunity last year to drive the R5 as part of the extended Billy Coleman Award programme and managed to secure a third place overall at my first loose surface event in the car.
“I am looking forward to running the car for a full campaign in 2020 and see this as a fantastic opportunity to further my career in Rallying.”
James Wilson won the opening round of the 2019 Junior British Rally Championship on the Cambrian Rally before making the step up to R5 machinery.
He took a top 10 finish on the Rally of the Lakes on his first drive in a Hyundai i20 R5 before going on to secure a podium finish on the Jim Walsh Cork Forest Rally and a fourth place on the final Round of the British Rally Championship (BRC) in Scotland.
Leo Hassett, CEO Motorsport Ireland, said: “It is a great testament to the work of the academy that we are in a position to announce this today.
“These young men and their co-drivers have the opportunity to compete at the highest level in the sport both at home and internationally.
“This unique opportunity is only possible because of the incredible support we have received from Sport Ireland, the Team Ireland Foundation, which is generously supported by, amongst others, John Coyne and John Campion.
“As important is the proven ability of the Billy Coleman Award process to identify talent and reward its participants with this type of experience that will be invaluable in their future careers as drivers representing Ireland on the international stage.”
Andrew Johns, Senior Sales Associate Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing , said: “We are excited by the prospect of these talented young drivers showcasing their skills in the Hyundai i20 R5, and delighted that the car can play a role in the development of these drivers’ careers.
“All three have already showed they are able to compete in the incredibly competitive R5 class, and I have no doubt that with a full season for each of them their skill behind the wheel will see podiums, and maybe even championships won this year.”
Sean McHugh, coordinator of the MI Rally Academy said: “We are delighted to see these three young Irish drivers moving forward in developing their careers. Having the winners of the Billy Coleman Award for each of the last three years progress to top flight cars contesting major championships at home and abroad demonstrates the significant impact of the Rally Academy initiative.”
“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.”