Mark Donnelly has won this year’s prestigious Pirelli UK Star Driver shootout after impressing a panel of four judges during a two-day showdown based at the iconic motorsport complex of Sweet Lamb in mid Wales.
Donnelly, who won the opening round of this year’s Pirelli-supported British Rally Championship, beat off stiff competition from six other finalists to claim one of the most coveted prizes in British motorsport. The 21-year-old from Omagh in Northern Ireland wins a once in a lifetime opportunity to take part in a full British Rally Championship campaign courtesy of the series’ official tyre supplier, Pirelli. Next year he will compete on all seven British rounds at the wheel of a Citroen DS3 R3 from David Greer Motorsport.
Due to run for its sixth consecutive year, the Pirelli Star Driver programme has helped a number of promising drivers in their quest to become an international rally star. Previous winners include recently-crowned WRC Academy champion Elfyn Evans who is a perfect example of a driver who has used the support and guidance of Pirelli in order to compete on the world stage.
Tom Cave, Matthew Cathcart, Mark Donnelly, Desi Henry, Jussi Kumpumaki, Osian Pryce and recently-crowned British Junior Rally Champion Garry Pearson were all competing for the ultimate prize.
The finalists were assessed on their abilities to drive a Citroen DS3 R3 on a two-mile stage at Sweet Lamb: the same complex that is used as a rally stage in the FIA World Rally Championship. The drivers were also tested on their driving skills, media awareness, event strategy, technical ability and future potential.
A panel of four judges including World Rally Championship co-driver Chris Patterson, renowned motoring journalist Jerry Williams, Finland’s Risto Laine and Citroen Racing’s Jean Francois Lienere assessed the finalists. The panel reached a unanimous decision that Donnelly deserved to win this year’s shootout based on his speed, technical knowledge and overall potential.
“I’m over the moon to have won here today, I really didn’t expect it,” said newly-crowned Pirelli UK Star Driver, Donnelly. “It’s been a really tough couple of days with some very slippery conditions and I honestly think that it could have gone any way. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Pirelli, the British Rally Championship, Citroen and David Greer Motorsport for this fantastic opportunity. If you look at some of the people who have won with Pirelli before, it is a real honour to be chosen as this year’s Pirelli Star Driver.”
Pirelli UK Motorsport Operations Manager Matthew Corby commented: “On behalf of Pirelli, I would like to congratulate Mark on being crowned the new Pirelli Star Driver. We feel he is a very worthy winner and we’re looking forward to working with him over the next 12 months. The level of competition at this year’s shootout was extremely high and none of our finalists should leave Wales feeling disappointed: any one of them would genuinely have been fit for winning the prize. Unfortunately there can be only one winner and Mark impressed the panel of judges due to his skill behind the wheel, motivation and overall ability. The Pirelli Star Driver prize has proved itself as an excellent stepping stone for promising drivers to further their rally career and I am in no doubt that Mark will be in with a strong chance of winning next year’s British Rally Championship.”