JOHN Greaney's plans for emigration have been put on hold after the racing novice won a fully financed season in the Irish Touring Car Championship in the inaugural Race2Race competition.
The 20-year-old race fan, who is from Brittas, Co Dublin, won a nationwide search for new driving talent and went from competition hopeful to fully sponsored racing driver after beating the winners of four provincial indoor-karting competitions in the final at Mondello Park last Sunday.
Until the weekend, Mr Greaney had been toying with a move away from Ireland. But then, to the great delight of his watching mother, he was selected ahead of the 13 other regional heat winners.
Mr Greaney works in a Limerick cement factory during the week and travels home at weekends. Now, he has another reason to hit the road on Friday evenings, after winning 14 race entries for the 2012 Irish Touring Car Series and 10 test days in a fully prepared Honda touring car.
The prize includes all racewear, safety equipment and his Motorsport Ireland licence, as well as professional driver tuition from top ITCC racer Barry Rabbitt.
It's a dream come true for Mr Greaney, who sank to his knees when his name was called out at the end of the reality-TV-style conclusion to the competition on Sunday.
"I'm still in shock, to be honest," he said. "In less than 48 hours, I went from a guy thinking of moving to the UK to look for a better lifestyle to a fully funded racing driver.
"It's literally life-changing. I'd highly recommend to everyone to try it out. I've always loved karting and racing but have never competed -- so if I can do it, anyone can!"
Mr Greaney's mount is a 220bhp Honda Integra DC2, run by multi-saloon champions Murray Motorsport. He will compete in the touring class of ITCC, with his first outing scheduled for Mondello Park in three weeks' time.
National Rally Championship
Meanwhile, local star Thomas Fitzmaurice ( Subaru) heads up the entry for Sunday's Carlton Hotel Circuit of Kerry, the third round of the Dunlop National Rally Championship.
The eight-stage rally is always one of the most exciting events in the Dunlop series and has ended in a tiebreak on at least four times in the past. Three of those involved the current Dunlop series leader, Niall Maguire.
On home ground, Mr Fitzmaurice will start as favourite after winning in Abbeyleix and recovering to fifth in Claremorris.
However, he faces stiff opposition from Mr Maguire, Kevin Barrett and Brian O'Mahony, along with Derek McGarrity, who has won the Circuit of Ireland five times and will be driving a MINI WRC.
"Going back over the last five years, I never had any luck in the Circuit of Kerry. On the last two occasions, I didn't even finish," said Mr Fitzmaurice.
He added: "Consistency is what wins the Dunlop championship. I'd like to do well in Kerry but it is not going to come at the risk of the championship. You've just got to be wise and smart."
After tarmac and snow events, the Waterford driver faces gravel roads this weekend and he will be favoured to take maximum points in the absence of his closest rival and Swedish event winner PG Andersson ( Proton).
The Swede has selected Portugal as his round to drop, so Mr Breen will be hoping to add to the maximum score that he notched up in the first round of the series in Monte Carlo when Mr Andersson retired.
Meanwhile, the local motor-racing season starts at Kirkistown on Saturday, where the Formula Ford 1600 and Formula Vee top the bill. Formula Vee champion Lee Newsome is defending his title but the Sheane-mounted racer faces tough opposition from the Leastone supplied former multi-champion Ray Moore and many people's favourite for honours, Kevin O'Hara.