Motorsport Ireland launched the Team Ireland Foundation today at the Mansion House in Dublin. This initiative, a national programme of support and development for talented drivers in the sports of rallying, racing and karting, was launched by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, President of Motorsport Ireland and the US based philanthropist and long time motorsport fan John Campion. Martin McKenna, President Motorsport Ireland, said: “I am honoured today to be part of the Team Ireland launch. The programme we have developed for our young gifted and elite drivers is designed to bring the best out of the participants both personally and competitively. The pool of talent we have available to us in Ireland is quite phenomenal and with the support of the foundation, we are confident that our young Team Ireland drivers will make great progress and become the best that they can be and will go on to represent Ireland on an international level.” The Team Ireland Foundation will focus on identifying, supporting and coaching Irish competitors who can succeed in all categories of competition both domestically and across the globe. The aim is to put Irish drivers at the forefront of international motorsport. One of Team Ireland Foundation’s main supporters, John Campion flew in from his base in USA to attend the launch. Having left Ireland as a young man with just IR£20 in his pocket, this former roadie to rock stars, now multimillionaire businessman and long time motorsport fan has committed to supporting the foundation from the beginning. Mr Campion is the co-founder and chief executive of APR Energy, a $1.2 billion company in the United States. Mr Campion said: “As a young boy in Cork I found myself struggling with school and at a loss as to what I would do with my life. But I always felt a bond with motorsport after witnessing Billy Coleman, a farmer who became a world rallying icon, competing near my home in Cork. After seeing Billy rallying I realised then that if you put your mind to it, you could achieve anything. “After I heard about the Team Ireland Foundation and how the winner of the Billy Coleman Award would be participating in the programme, I felt I had to return to Ireland to offer my support. I believe that every young person needs to be inspired like I was. If some of these young drivers reach their goals and become household names across the motorsport world then they too might inspire a child somewhere to go out and achieve their goals.” The initiative will be run by Declan Brennan Sports Management and entails specific programmes developed to address nutritional, physical and psychological improvements for the participants over the course of their involvement. The drivers will be chosen from the winners of many of the junior motorsport disciplines, such as rallying and racing, as well as the winners of the elite Billy Coleman and Sexton trophies. They will be offered every opportunity to benefit form a wide range of expertise on offer. Speaking at the launch, Lord Mayor of Dublin, Críona Ní Dhálaigh, highlighted how important it is to have a safe environment for young drivers to participate in. Críona Ní Dhálaigh said: “We are all aware that there is an issue in this country with young men taking unnecessary risks on our public roads. All too often you open a newspaper and read about tragic accidents claiming the lives of young drivers – particularly young males from the ages of 17 to 25. “Motorsport Ireland has been a force for good in promoting road safety through various programmes for many years and with this new initiative I hope that as a national sports governing body they will be recognised for the work they do to create a safe environment for young people to take part in an organised and regulated sport. “To see so many young people here today, determined to be the very best they can be and achieving their goals will, I have no doubt, inspire many of our disenfranchised youth today to try and better themselves.”
Murt Murphy reports
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