Monday 19 February 2018

A Drive to Succeed

Having discovered a natural talent for motorsport, Sean Doyle is working hard to turn his dream of becoming a professional driver into a reality

Circuit commentator Leo Nulty interviews formula ford driver Sean Doyle after qualifying during the Irish Championship Car Races. Photo: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE
Circuit commentator Leo Nulty interviews formula ford driver Sean Doyle after qualifying during the Irish Championship Car Races. Photo: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE
Sean Doyle competing in his Van Dieman at the Champion of Mondello Formula Ford race. Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

Tanya Sweeney

It's no small irony that racing driver Sean Doyle (20) has signed on to be an ambassador of a Nissan campaign that champions leading lights in sport, business, food and film. After all, he is roundly regarded as one of Irish motorsport's next big things.

Sponsored by the car company, it was a natural progression for the young Wicklow native to get involved in the campaign, which will gift a customised car to young, ambitious people trying to make a name for themselves.

It's an exciting time in Sean's career: he plans to challenge for the Irish FF1600 Championship this year in his Van Diemen, along with the two hotly contested end-of-season races in Britain – the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch and the Walter Hayes Trophy race at Silverstone.

So far, so interesting: after beginning his motorsport career in Junior Rallycross in 2009, he quickly progressed to circuit racing in 2010. Sean soon outgrew the junior leagues and took on bigger events in what he describes as a "huge learning curve". He finished as runner-up in the 2011 Ginetta Junior Ireland Championship and went on to take second place in the Global Lights series in 2012.

Thanks in part to the likes of Eddie Jordan, Eddie Irvine and Damon Hill (who previously lived in the Dublin suburb of Dalkey), Ireland is already pretty well represented on the global stage when it comes to motorsports.

Yet the life of a race car driver is nowhere near as glamorous as we've been led to believe.

"I do remember thinking when I watched the movie Rush, I wouldn't mind being like James Hunt," laughs Sean. "But in reality it's tough work, looking for sponsorship and stuff like that."

While much has been made of the notion that race car and Formula One drivers are not technically athletes, it's much more complicated than first meets the eye. Racing in a car might look simple, but racing takes plenty of athletic skill.

A recent ESPN report shed light on just what race car driver Denny Hamlin went through in the course of a typical race. He sweated 3.5 pints of perspiration an hour, lost 13 pounds of water weight during the event and his neck supported g-forces of 40 pounds in the turns – in a 400-lap race, that's 800 40-pound reps with his neck. His heart rate was 130 for the event, which is comparable to an endurance runner.

Quite apart from anything else, being focused and staying on top of one's game is an athlete's primary requirement, and racing drivers are no different. One mistake, after all, can end in injury or death. Needless to say, being conditioned, focused and fit is of paramount importance, not least to Sean.

"I was reading Ayrton Senna's biography, and he used to run 8k a day, and could do a mile in under four minutes," says Sean.

"It's important that the mind is as fit as the body is, so I'll go for a run a few times a week, and do weights and neck exercises. I have a treadmill at home and I like to eat healthily, too. Plus, I don't drink or smoke."

It's an interesting trajectory for the young man who, only a few short years ago, was racing remote-control cars after a visit to the Toys 4 Big Boys gadget convention.

"I did some work experience in Mondello, and someone asked me to come watch them race," he recalls. "I fell madly in love with it. Racing gave me a great buzz . . . I'd never driven a car before that, but I clicked with it and it turns out I was good at it naturally."

And so far, Sean has avoided serious injury. "Because you're in a six-point safety harness, with head and neck restraints, you're probably safer on a race track than driving on the road to work," he smiles.

Currently, Sean works as an instructor at his 'spiritual home' of Mondello, and the dream is to become a paid, full-time racing driver.

"For me, it's an expensive hobby right now, but it's a hobby I happen to be good at," he says. "For a lot of people it will only ever just be a hobby. I'd love to become professional, but with racing it's all about how much money you have. In Formula One, drivers [can require] millions just to get their careers going . . . Obviously Formula One is the pinnacle, but sports car (racing) is probably my best chance of being a professional driver and getting a chance to prove myself."

Sean's website: More info on the Nissan Generation Next campaign can be found at

Irish Independent

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