31 October 2023
~4 minutes read
Craughwell’s Aoife Raftery competes in Cambrian Rally in Wales
Galway rally driver Aoife Raftery created her own piece of motorsport history on Saturday in Wales. The first female to be selected to join the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy, contested the final round of the British Rally Championship – the Llandudno-based The Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally – in her PM Rally Hire Ford Fiesta Rally 4. The all-gravel event covered just under 90 kilometres on iconic rally roads previously used in Wales Rally GB.
The event was notable as the British Junior Rally Championship title-deciding finale which was a straight fight between two Irish drivers, Kyle White (County Down) and Kyle McBride (County Donegal). While the title was decided in favour of White, the Craughwell native put herself into the thick of the action by setting the fastest time on the event’s opening stage, the 14-km run through Elsi Forest. As a result, she became the first woman driver ever to lead a round of the Junior British Rally Championship.
Unfortunately, her car developed brake problems ahead of the second test and she was forced to complete the opening loop with just front brakes only. However, Raftery and her co-driver Damien Connolly showed their ingenuity effecting temporary repairs which allowed them to continue safely. The delay in fixing the issue dropped them down the running order, meaning they started the last stage later than anticipated and under the cover of darkness which deprived the Galway/Monaghan crew of a deserved top result.
She said: “I was really happy to get to the finish in the Cambrian Rally and it was great to be leading the Junior British Rally Championship after stage one. Unfortunately, we had brake issues. We managed to get that temporarily fixed heading into stages two and three but it caused us to lose a lot of time.”
Her efforts in Wales were supported by Gerry Broderick Motorsport and Gary McNamee of MCN Motorsport. “Thanks to Gerry and Gary and the lads in service that helped us get going again and sort of the problem,” she added. “It was nice to be able to show our pace in the PM Rally Hire Ford Fiesta Rally 4 Car,” “Thanks to Damien on the notes, the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy, and my sponsors. It was cool that I was the first woman to lead a round of the Junior BRC.”
Raftery will switch disciplines this weekend as she prepares for her rallycross debut in England on Saturday. The 22-year-old will contest the final round of the British Rallycross Championship at Lydden Hill in Kent in the RX 150 category on November 4 and 5. She will step into the TSL-backed single-specification RX150 machine just days after competing in the Cambrian Rally. She will add a new string to her bow while posing a threat to both the regular RX150 contenders and other new drivers in the category. This is the final weekend for the Motorsport UK British Rallycross Championship 5 Nations Trophy support category, which includes a heat race taking place after dark under floodlights on Saturday evening, as she also makes her competitive rallycross and rear-wheel-drive debut. The RX150 Rallycross Championship delivers some of the fastest and most competitive racing in the 5 Nations BRX package, the single-seater, single-specification RX150 machines weighing 430 kilograms, powered by a 200bhp 1000cc motorcycle engines, driven through the rear wheels by six-speed sequential gearboxes.
“I cannot wait to compete in my first RX150 race at Lydden Hill. I have been rallying over the last two years, but this will be completely new for me,” she said. “There are a lot of new challenges but I am ready to take them on and I am really looking forward to it. This is a great place for me to both have fun and to also work on my car control in something very different to what I’m used to, especially at a historic rallycross track like Lydden Hill.”
Aoife Raftery Rallying is supported by O’Neill O’Malley Architects and Project Managers / Loughrea Auto Parts Ltd / Craughwell Tyre Centre / Sean Fleming Motors / Aertec Vacuum and Ventilation / Des Lyons Plant / Quinn’s Hardware.
Pictured above is Aoife Raftery with fellow competitor Kyle McBride from Donegal.