19-year-old Irish racing driver dies in Cheshire crash

 

One of Ireland's most promising racing drivers, Mr Neil Shanahan, was killed yesterday while competing in a round of the British Formula Ford Zetec championship at Oulton Park circuit in Cheshire. The 19-year-old driver from Churchtown, Dublin began cart-racing in 1993, graduating to Formula Ford 1600 in 1997. He won the Irish championship in a year that also included a race win at Phoenix Park and was awarded the Dunlop Sexton trophy.

Mr Oisin O Briain, Mr Shanahan's press spokesman, said: "Neil was seen as one of the most impressive young drivers coming through the ranks. He was seen as the best, an absolute natural. His manager, Mick Merrigan, is totally distraught. It still hasn't hit me. I was just talking to him three minutes before the incident happened. We were taking pictures and having a laugh."

Mr O Briain said the cars were coming around the second lap when Mr Shanahan's car failed to make the bend.

"It seems three cars collided and Neil hit the barrier. An air ambulance came down and took him to hospital but he was dead on arrival."

A past pupil of St Mary's College, Rathmines, he was awarded the Barney Manley Driver of the Year trophy for the most outstanding achievement in Irish motor sport last year.

He was also voted Irish Motor Sports Driver of 1998 by motoring correspondents. He had signed with Van Diemen for a works drive in the British and European Formula Ford championships and had finished fourth in the first of the British races at Brands Hatch. His father owns a number of public houses in Dublin, including the Bachelor's Inn. He is survived by his parents and his sister Clare.