Proving that his driving skills are not just limited to a front wheel drive rally car, Billy Coleman Young Driver of the Year Dean Raftery guided his MINI WRC to a fantastic sixth overall at last weekend’s Colm Quinn BMW Galway International Rally. In his first ever outing in a world rally car, the 23 year old from Co. Galway made a mature drive way beyond his years to round off the top six after a time zapping penalty meant he dropped to 18th at one point during the opening day.
Backed by event sponsor Colm Quinn BMW, Raftery enlisted the help of co-driver Mark Kane for his inaugural four-wheel drive event and immediately hit the ground running with a top 10 time on the opening stage of the rally. Just a handful of seconds behind MINI team mate and five times Irish Champion Eugene Donnelly, Raftery showed he got to grips with the MINI straight away, showing as fastest through the opener at the mid stage split. But the MINI dropped onto limp home mode as a water pipe came loose in the stage and he dropped over two minutes trying to rectify the issue, incurring a chunk of time penalties prior to the second stage.
Back at service, the McGeehan Motorsport run MINI was soon righted again and Raftery set about clawing some time back in the tricky conditions. Heading into the overnight halt, Raftery had driven with an outstanding turn of pace, making it back to the Gort service area in sixth overall. “It was a real shame we had the penalties this morning but tried not to dwell on it too much during the rest of the day” explained Raftery. “Of course, the MINI took a lot of getting used to and we didn’t test the car prior to the event due to the snow so every stage is a learning curve. It’s good to compare our times with Eugene (Donnelly) to see how we are doing”.
Sunday emerged with a thick blanket of fog over the region and would provide an added challenge for the youngster. A small trip into a field on the morning’s opener didn’t help matters but Raftery soon settled down as he continued to learn the car. The number six seed would issue a wakeup call to the men in front as he set a ground breaking second fastest time overall on stage 11, showing the pace was no fluke. A string of top 5 times followed and the Craughwell talent took a sensible approach to the remainder of the rally, crossing the event finish ramp in a fine sixth overall.
“It has certainly been a fantastic experience and the MINI WRC is an amazing car to drive” he said. “Hopefully this proves that my skills are not just limited to front wheel drive and I’m pleased how I adapted to the car throughout the rally. I have to say a huge thanks to Motorsport Ireland, the Irish Motorsports Council, McGeehan Motorsport and all my sponsors for making this happen. I really hope we can do it again this year but now my attentions turn to furthering my career and the season ahead.”
Raftery is supported by Bluebird Care, Colm Quinn BMW, Modern Tyre Service, EARS Motorsport, Kumho, King Car Parts, Quinns Hardware Labane, VP Racing Fuels, Mike Kelly Commercials and Raftery’s Bar. For more information on Dean, updates from the event and his rallying career, visit www.deanraftery.com