Final eight drivers revealed as 2012 Billy Coleman Award decision nears

The full complement of nominees for the 2012 Billy Coleman Award, the top award in Irish motorsport, has been completed with the addition of two bi-monthly winners along with championship nominees and a wildcard selection.

Monaghan pair, Shane Maguire and Stephen Wright are the respective bi-monthly winners for July/August and September/October. Meanwhile, Cork’s Bernard Foley has qualified after winning the Dunlop Junior National Rally Championship, while Monaghan’s Vincent McAree joins the group as the highest placed driver in the Valvoline National Forest Rally Championship that satisfied the criteria.

The final nominee is Galway’s Dean Raftery, who has been added as the wildcard. The five will be joined by the bi-monthly nominees from earlier in the season — Daniel McKenna (Monaghan), Kevin O’Connor (Limerick) and Damien McCarthy (Cork). Remarkably, four of the eight nominees hail from Monaghan with Cork providing two nominees. The eight drivers will be interviewed on Tuesday for the prestigious award which carries a top prize of €50,000.

Maguire, from Ballinode, Monaghan town, drove his Group N Subaru to outright victory in the Sligo Rally at the beginning of July and in mid-August, finished seventh overall and second in Group N on the Tipperary Stonethrowers Rally.

The son of triple Irish National Rally champion, Niall, he won the Top Part West Coast Championship in 2010 and was runner-up in 2011. In both seasons he has also notched up Class 4 wins in the popular Dunlop National Rally Championship, all in a Group N Subaru. Three years ago, he won Class 10 in the National Rally Championship in a Peugeot 205.

A transport manager in the family-run business, he is delighted with his nomination: “It’s a great opportunity, the Coleman award is very prestigious. The €50,000 prize is a very significant sum of money, but the competition is very tough.”

Meanwhile, Wight, from Newbliss, is the final bi-monthly winner of the season, he was selected as September/October nominee for his performances in the closing rounds of the Irish Forest series where he finished fourth overall.

Following next week’s interviews, the group will be shortlisted to three from which the overall winner will be announced at next month’s Motorsport Ireland/Dunlop Champions of Irish Motorsport Awards ceremony in Dublin.

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