Revved up for success
Geraldine Herbert speaks to four of Ireland's most exciting young motorsport talents to keep your eyes on next year
Alyx Coby: At just 13 years old, Alyx Coby has already made a name for herself in the world of karting. The youngster from Newbridge, Co. Kildare, is one of the fastest rising stars in the sport.
"I've been around motorsport since I was a baby. A lot of my memories involve karting, but my earliest memories are of sitting outside the family race awning when I was about four years old with my Mam, watching the buzz and activity of the drivers and mechanics around the paddock," she recalls.
She started kart racing before many children learned how to ride a bicycle and from the age of only seven, Alyx showed a great aptitude and natural talent. It was not long before she started entering competitions, where she has demonstrated plenty of promise.
Alyx impressed everyone in 2017 when she finished in third place in the Motorsport Ireland Karting Championship, her best season to date, and achieved seven podiums with one race win - plus she also set the fastest lap six times, including setting the lap record on the new Mondello Park Junior Karting circuit.
She ended this season in style by earning a place at the IAME International Final at Le Mans, one of the world's largest and most prestigious professional karting races, where she competed against more than 130 of the best drivers in the world,
"After my trip to compete at Le Mans, nothing comes close. It is a fantastic circuit and is by far the most exciting racing experience I've had," Alyx says.
The junior speedster has ambitions to build on her success in 2018,
"After finishing in third place in this year's championship the goal is to win it next season. I also hope to qualify to race at Le Mans again," she says.
This 19-year-old is forging a reputation as one of Irish motorsport's most exciting emerging talents since he first competed in the 2014 Ginetta Junior Ireland Championship, where he finished on pole three times with one race win. The Kildare driver celebrated his 19th birthday last month and since he began his racing career, James has contested 66 races and has achieved an incredible 43 podiums and 17 race wins.
Motorsport is in James's genes; his uncle, Michael Roe, a former British Formula Ford Festival champion and the only Irishman to win the Can Am Championship, has been instrumental in getting his nephew to this point in his career.
"My biggest inspiration so far to me has been my uncle Michael. He has spent all his life racing and knows exactly what it takes to succeeded. He has been with me since day one at every track I have driven on," says James.
James has improved upon his previous seasons, making him closer to achieving his ultimate dream of driving in the Indianapolis 500. And for 2018 the young racer is not resting on his laurels; instead, he's already eyeing race opportunities in America next year where he plans to compete in the USF2000 series, a series that has launched the careers of many of today's top drivers.
Now James's driving successes have landed him a nomination for Young Racing Driver of the Year 2017. The winner will be announced on December 5 in the Mansion House, Dublin.
"Growing up, I was around racing all the time and there were only one or two women competing, and I thought to myself, 'I could do that, I could be fast'," says motorbike racer Nicole Lynch. Riding her Medlar Racing Suzuki SV650, she was the first Irish female rider to compete in the World Superbike Championship.
Dublin-born Nicole has been riding bikes from the age of four and racing since 2014, with numerous podium finishes under her belt. In 2016, she competed in the European Junior Cup.
Nicole comes from a family of keen bikers. "When I was nine my brother started racing sidecars, so we used to go to Mondello at the weekends and watch him race. I remember sitting in his sidecar holding onto the handlebars, pretending I was the one going racing."
Being the only woman on the grid doesn't bother Nicole and she quickly discovered there are no barriers out on the track.
"The guys don't treat me different, or race any easier against me. If I beat them it's fair and square, and if I don't it just motivates me more," she says, and in some ways it has worked to her advantage. "My sponsors and supporters are all very interested in promoting female inclusion and participation in sport."
In between competitions, Nicole is committed to not only raising her profile but also those of other female competitors and writes a monthly column in both Bike Buyers Guide and wheelsforwomen.ie. "It is so important right now to show that women can compete in what are usually described as male-dominated sports. Women can do it too, and as more women get involved, the sport can only continue to improve."
This has been a year to remember for Wicklow racer Sean Doyle, who competed in the FIA Master Endurance championship in Spa Francorchamps in Belgium. It was Doyle's second time at the 7km circuit, and his first venture back to the Oreca 03 Nissan-powered LMP2 car since the European Le Mans Series round at Spa in 2016. Following a hard-fought battle, Sean secured a win at Spa - his highlight of the 2017 racing season.
"It was a great feeling to cross the line the winner. Indeed, it was a little bit emotional to win at such an amazing and famous circuit. I had a great race and actually enjoyed the tricky wet conditions; all that racing in the wet in Ireland really paid off."
As young boy he dreamed of becoming a top racing driver and his motorsport career started at a young age racing Nitro Racing Cars. He later learned his craft competing in Junior Rally Cross.
And on a steep learning curve, Doyle has progressed to racing in Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2). It was the feeling of speed was what drew him to the high-octane sport.
"I love the thrill and buzz of driving on track," says Doyle. It is not the easiest sport to get started in but a job in Mondello Park and the support of his parents has helped him immensely. "I couldn't have done it without my parents, they helped and pushed me so far, they're amazing."