A young Cork driver will compete in the prestigious Red Bull racing colours when cars are permitted to return to the track.
Despite barely being of age to obtain a full driving licence, Conor Shanahan (17), from Mallow, is a rising star on the world drifting scene. Drift racing sees cars steered sideways around corners at high speed, with drivers controlling the car despite the loss of traction.
Conor has been marked out as a prodigious Irish motorsport talent since starting off, aged 9, competing in the Irish Amateur Drift Championship. Conor, aged 13, featured on an episode of Amazon TV series The Grand Tour, taking on host Richard Hammond.
He went on to become the youngest driver to win European, British, and Irish professional drift events, sensationally beating European and Irish champion James Deane on his Drift Masters European Championship debut in 2018 at the Polish round of the championship.
Conor's family are immersed in motorsport. His older brother, Jack (20), is a back-to-back British drift champion, while their father, John, won multiple rally titles, and their mother, Valerie, was the only Irishwoman to win a national Autoglass championship.
Conor joins Formula 1 star Max Verstappen, PSG footballer Neymar Jr, and Irish sportspeople Thomas Barr (athletics), Greg Callaghan (mountain biking), and Conor Maguire (surfing) as a Red Bull athlete.
“It’s been a crazy journey to here,” said Conor. “I’ve never dealt with something as big as this, so trying to adapt to all of this has been awesome, but also challenging at times.
“The car is looking unbelievable and it’s been a dream come true to see it finished. It is a real proud moment for myself and my whole family, to have the car looking like it does.
“It has a brand new engine, new gearbox, and an awesome livery with the Red Bull branding on there. Hopefully, we can challenge for wins this season and regularly be among the top three.”
His preparations for the 2020 season continue at home, keeping his skills sharp by spending time on his racing simulator.
“I’ve been virtual drifting for six years, and even for my first event, I learned the track and based the car set-up on what I learned from the sim, so it is a great background to have.
“If you can use a simulator, you can drive the car - and sometimes the sim is harder to master than the actual car. For me, the sim is a massive part of my career and always has been.
“We have the VDC, the virtual drift championship, and I finished second, so we were quite happy with that - there are a lot of good drivers competing.”