Fri 02 Feb 2024

ERC Take Five with Aoife Raftery

After impressing during her debut FIA Junior ERC campaign as part of the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy in 2023, Aoife Raftery is determined not to let that experience go to waste by embarking on a determined bid to return to the Hankook-equipped championship in 2024.

Before V Rally Hungary opens the new Junior ERC season from 12 - 14 April, Raftery, 23, has an important commitment closer to home from 3 - 4 February, as the Motorsport Ireland Women’s Commission member explains in this week’s ERC Take Five.  

You’re doing more than just competing this weekend, what’s your job exactly?
“Galway Motor Club, my local club, is putting a big emphasis on promoting women in motorsport and trying to get more women involved, whether it’s driving, co-driving, marshalling or just in organising events in general. I’ve been chosen as an ambassador for that and I want to thank Galway Motor Club for giving me the opportunity to promote women in motorsport to a wider audience. As Gary Leonard, the clerk of the course for the Corrib Oil Galway International Rally, has said, there are many women working behind the scenes at a rally that don’t get the recognition they deserve so this is about trying to get them that recognition. But it’s also about trying to get more women involved in the sport and showing the younger generation it’s something they can also do.”

Through your participation in Junior ERC you’ve been able to spread this important message outside Ireland, that must make you proud?
“It’s an honour for me to get the opportunity to do it and to represent Motorsport Ireland and women in motorsport across Europe, to show young girls you can go and compete outside Ireland if it’s really something you want to do. If you have the want for it and work hard enough you can make it happen. It’s great to be able to compete at such a high level, it’s an incredible experience and you learn so much. It’s a male dominated sport, that’s fair enough, that’s the way it is, but this sport is unique in that it’s not divided as women get to compete against men on equal terms.”

Of course, you’ll be competing this weekend, not just raising awareness of female involvement in motorsport. What’s your goal for the rally?
“I’m doing it in a Peugeot 208 Rally4, it will be my third time I’m doing the rally and I’m looking forward to it. The stages are based in a different location to before so they will be completely new stages for me so there won’t be any home advantage. Something that’s important to us is to be able to represent our local sponsors at our home event and try to get them some recognition. Being out on the stages will help with this, but we are also trying to have a good result and show what we’ve learned in the past year, especially in Junior ERC, and bring home some of that knowledge and experience.”

You mention Junior ERC, how close are you to finalising your return in 2024?
“It’s definitely the main focus for myself to try to get back out to do the European championship again. I found it to be the best experience I’ve had so far in rallying. The level of competition, the events, everything is just at another higher level. I am trying to do my best to put a programme together and to return to compete in the ERC again.”

In the hope you can return, the calendar is very exciting with a schedule that is made up of all-new events apart from one…
“It really is a new calendar but that’s a good thing. Everyone who’s competing is starting fresh and it will be a good challenge. The first year in Junior ERC was a complete learning curve for us, so for this year the aim is to take what we’ve learned in 2023, bring it into 2024 and bring it up another level by keeping improving the stage times. We don’t know what the competition will be like this year but we’re just going to focus on ourselves and make sure we keep progressing.”

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM