Raftery Targets WRC Glory After Winning Billy Coleman Young Driver Of The Year Award

The winners of the International Driver of the Year, the Dunlop Sexton Trophy and the prestigious Billy Coleman Award were announced at the Dunlop Motorsport Ireland Awards Ceremony this week.

The Billy Coleman Award for the Young Rally Driver of the Year went to 23 year old Galway Native, Dean Raftery, who narrowly beat runners up Josh Moffett and Kevin Eves to the title. Dean started his motorsport career at the age of eight in Kart Racing, progressing to Junior Rallycross events before taking up rally driving in 2011. The former Junior National Forestry Champion competed very successfully this year in the British Rally Championship beating many seasoned professionals.

Raftery also had an outstanding run out at the British round of the World Rally Championship where he finished on the podium. As the winner he will now receive €50,000 worth of support for the 2015 season when he intends to compete in the Fiesta Trophy in the World Rally Championship

Dean commented " I am incredibly honoured and I have to admit very relieved to have won this prestigious award. The international recognition that goes with winning the Billy Coleman cannot be underestimated. My success today has all but ensured that I will be extended an invite to take part in the Fiesta Trophy in the World Rally Championship.

"I want to be one of the best professional rally drivers to come from Ireland and I can now see a clearer path to achieving my ultimate goal of succeeding at a World recognised level. I look forward to receiving the mentoring that is synonymous with the award that has helped the likes of previous winners Craig Breen, Keith Cronin and Daniel McKenna make their mark on the world and European stages."

Matt Griffin, European Le Mans Series Champion in 2013 and close runner up in 2014 was selected by Members of the Irish Motor Sport Media as the International Driver of the Year and recipient of the prestigious Manley Memorial Trophy. The award is presented to an Irish competitor, from the 32 counties who has not only proven to be a success on the track but also has acted as a positive role model and ambassador for the sport. Matt joins a long list of previous winners that include luminaries in the motorsport world such as Austin Mac Hale, Eddie Irvine and Derek Tohill to name but a few.

Matt Griffin stated, "This award carries with it a great responsibility and is as big an incentive as I have ever had to continue to strive to win more in the future. I have been competing on the international stage for several years and the Irish fans that turn up to the tracks across Europe, America and elsewhere have always been a great motivator to win. Now I have something else to add to the pot. It is an honour to be recognised amongst some of the greats of Irish Motorsport and I intend to acknowledge this by continuing to be the best I can. I can't wait for the next season to start."

Jonny McMullan, from Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim was awarded the Dunlop Sexton Trophy for Young Racing Driver of the Year ahead of runners up Jake Byrne and Sean Doyle. 22 year old McMullan began his motorsport career in kart racing at the age of 10, and transferred to racing cars in 2009. This year he was runner-up in the final of the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch and finished third in the Leinster Trophy feature race at Mondello Park,

Motorsport Ireland continued to honour all their National Champions at the lunch as well as individuals that have contributed to the sport throughout the year.

The Ivan Webb Memorial award for Most Outstanding Contribution to Irish Motorsport went to Pat O'Dowd from Wexford Motor Club who has been an integral part of the Irish motorsport community for many years. The JC Millard Memorial Award for Clubman of the Year went to Seamus Anderson from Mullinavat, Co. Kilkenny for his contribution to the sport.

Commenting at the awards, Joe Corcoran, President, Motorsport Ireland, said, "The announcement of the winners of the Young Driver Award Schemes provides great excitement for the motorsport community, as the package gives the winners the opportunity to greatly enhance their careers. We at Motorsport Ireland, together with our partners in the Irish Sports Council and Dunlop are delighted to provide this fantastic platform to our budding young competitors.

The Manley Trophy is also such an important vehicle to show our support for drivers competing on the international circuit. Sometimes these drivers' successes go unrecognised at home yet they can be household names amongst the motorsport faithful across the world. Matt's success over the last few years has been an inspiration for many drivers who can see that it is possible to make a career from their chosen sport. I hope that we will see more like him emerging in the future."