Eoin Harrington reporting from the Red Bull Racing Homerun in Milton Keynes with Conor Shanahan.
The future is bright for Irish motorsports, and Conor Shanahan and brother Jack are two of the main names being touted as having huge futures.
Jack has already won two British drifting championships, while younger brother Conor is pushing to emulate his sibling's success.
Drift racing involves kicking the back end of the car out through an overload of traction, leading to spectacular slides through corners as drivers attempt to use their slip to carry maximum speed. The front wheels are seen pointing in opposite lock to the rear wheels regularly.
Youngster Conor Shanahan from Cork is a Red Bull-backed athlete, and appeared as one of the racers at the Red Bull Racing Homerun in Milton Keynes. Excitingly for Irish fans, Shanahan will again appear at the show run in Dublin next month, which was announced on Monday afternoon.
The Red Bull Dublin Showrun will include three runs from ex-F1 driver David Coulthard in the 2011 Red Bull RB7 Formula 1 car, and three runs from Shanahan in his drift car, along the streets of Dublin's North Wall Quay. Incredibly, tickets for the event sold out within hours on Monday, showing the appetite for racing action in Ireland.
Balls.ie were onsite in Milton Keynes for the show run in celebration of Red Bull's double F1 championship win in 2022, and we got the chance to speak with Conor Shanahan.
Ahead of his show run appearance on home soil, Shanahan spoke of his excitement to start the 2023 Drift Masters Europe season in similar fashion with the first round at Mondello Park, and his hopes that he and brother Jack can push on and take the top prize in next year's championship.
Conor Shanahan hopes to push on in 2023
Conor Shanahan will be in action on home turf on January 15 2023, when he takes to the streets of Dublin at the Red Bull Racing Show Run in the capital. The Corkonian spoke at last weekend's Milton Keynes home run of his excitement to be involved on such a special occasion - excitement that will no doubt be amplified when the event comes to Dublin:
It's special to be involved on a day like this. It's not everyday you get to drive to the same crowd and put on a show in front of a Formula 1 team. I'm a huge Formula 1 fan myself so to be here and to be involved in such a unique event, is a real honour. I'm excited to put on a show in front of the crowd that came out here today.
Hopefully they go home knowing a little bit more about drifting, and knowing a little bit more about me. That's what the goal is today.
The favourite question from all my friends is 'oh, do you know Max Verstappen?!' Yeah, I meet him every day! Sometimes you don't realise what athletes are involved in until we're all in one place and you're walking around wearing the same hat as a person who you've looked up to for many years.
It's obviously quite a special feeling. Sebastien Loeb is obviously a multiple WRC champion - he was probably my childhood hero growing up.
To be involved with all these names, it's quite special to be a part of.
The Shanahan brothers put up a huge fight in the 2022 Drift Masters European Championship, pushing eventual title winner Piotr Wiecek of Poland close, before ultimately finishing in the runner up spots - Jack in 2nd, and Conor in 3rd.
Conor is still only 19 years old, with his 23-year-old brother Jack playing a pivotal role in Conor's development as a driver. Despite being competitors, the brothers work together on their car, and Conor says that their rivalry is a friendly one:
It's not really [tense]. We've always had the relationship where we help each other.
The company, when it comes to the team, is on two sides - he looks after the work side of things, and I look after all the marketing and financial side of things. We have a really good relationship when it comes to even just being with each other as brothers.
I know a lot of people have been in this position and it always ends in tears, so I hope that doesn't happen! When it comes to driving, I think it's important that we help each other. We were fighting each other for the championship in the last round this year, which wasn't the nicest thing. Obviously, the most important thing was for one of us to win - at the same time, if it comes down to it, I want my first European Championship, he wants it.
I think it's good that we have that rivalry, it keeps us sharp, and if anything I think it's made us better over the years. I hope it stays that way. Hopefully, down the line, it continues and even way further down the line we're together supporting our kids as well.
[His parents] have the same mindset. With me as the younger brother, Jack did everything to get me up to a competitive level, no matter what I was doing. Jack always played the father role for me, as well as dad. They're very similar people - they're literally the same people, if I'm honest, and that's hard work!
It is a remarkable story, with the two brothers co-running their entry into the Drift Masters European Championship. Motorsport runs in the family - Jack is a two-time British champion in drifting, while their parents both enjoyed successful careers in drifting in years gone by.
The cooperation of Shanahans Conor and Jack in operating their Drift Masters team is remarkable - and Conor gives a fascinating insight into the way in which they approach the championship:
We've been close now the last few years. It's quite difficult - we don't know what's going to turn up every time we go there.
For the most part, the sport isn't factory teams. My team is just me and my brother. You don't really know what you're facing every year, there's guys turning up with new cars and stuff and it's not a set bracket of rules.
Obviously being quite young, we've been quite close, and I think the most important thing mentally is to keep chasing and not to get caught up in that. You can worry so much about winning, and sport is not always about that.
All of his family have major titles to their name, and Conor is eager to join them at the winners' table. Shanahan says that, despite a brief flirtation with soccer, motorsport was "in his blood" and he was always destined to follow the family path.
He has already stunned audiences by taking race wins at both British and European level, and pushed hard for last year's championship. If he can win a European championship before he turns 21, it will mark him out as one of the hottest properties in Europe.
Shanahan is grounded, however, and says that the goal over the winter is simply to stay fresh, fit, and mentally focused ahead of next season's championship.
Fast agus Furious 🇮🇪
Conor Shanahan brought his new Toyota GT86 to life on the famous Ring of Kerry ahead of the 2022 Drift Masters European Championship!#RedBull #GivesYouWings #Ireland pic.twitter.com/kemKaoUhGe
— Red Bull Ireland (@redbullIRE) May 3, 2022
As it was in 2022, the opening round of the championship is expected to take place in Mondello Park outside of Naas, and Shanahan is excited to get in front of the Irish fans once again:
I think the first round of the European Championship is most likely going to be at Mondello again, so we want to hit the ground running there. That hurt us this year, we had a bit of a slow start. The preparation will be done properly this off-season.
It makes a big difference, it takes the stress off. You don't have to worry about the week travelling. Obviously the team is very family-ran, so even though we're drivers we're still behind the scenes. Jack will be rebuilding the cars the week before, I'll be on my laptop booking boats and stuff for the year. Everybody doesn't see that side of it, it's quite a stressful thing, making sure you have the right team members there.
Home makes that a bit more comfortable of a start, you can ease in to it, it doesn't come at you as serious. You can kind of take it a bit more stress-free. It also adds a little bit of pressure - you have 15,000 people there hoping that you're going to win a home event. That didn't happen for us this year - next year, for me, that's the last thing I want, to win in front of a home crowd, for sure.
Even with the excitement for a home race, Conor Shanahan is apprehensive about the attention given to motorsport in Ireland, and has issued a rallying cry for more coverage of the success of Irish drivers across the board from 2023 onwards:
The amount of people who have won things for Ireland internationally...even this weekend, there's three guys at the top of their game in the world from Ireland driving in an event in Cyprus. They met the president, and it's not even talked about.
It's quite hard to feel what way it will go. For sure, for me, since I got the Red Bull deal and people started to get involved like ye guys and stuff, it's made a massive difference. I think, for sure it should be supported more at home by the mainstream public.
The most important thing for me and Jack is that the sport is growing. The hope is that when we stop driving, the sport is bigger than it is now.
Conor and Jack Shanahan will no doubt be in strong contention come the end of the Drift Masters European Championship in 2023 - and will hope for a huge turnout when they visit Mondello - and when Conor struts his stuff in Dublin next month.
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