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roads to remember

My Favourite Drive: Race driver Sean Doyle on hitting top speeds in the Austrian Alps

Last summer, race driver Sean was selected for the only Irish team at the European Le Mans Series.

Journeys, even everyday ones, can mean a lot. At 23, Sean Doyle is one of the most promising young drivers on the Irish racing scene, and a driver coach at Mondello Park. Last year he competed as part of the Murphy’s Prototypes Endurance Racing Team at the European Le Mans series, powering through races in the UK, Italy, Austria and France. 

As someone with a passion for motoring, Sean told about the drive that has meant the most to him in his career so far.

First up, describe the drive.

The entirety of last summer was full of memorable drives for me, going from the first round of the European Le Mans Series at Silverstone in April 2016 right up to late September. For me, the one that stuck out most was the second round race, which took place in Spielberg, Austria this week last year.

The four-hour route through the Red Bull Ring, in the shadow of the Alps, is one of six sessions that make up the full 24 Hours Of Le Mans series. Our team, Murphy’s Prototypes, is the sole Irish representative at that level of racing, so it felt very significant to get behind the wheel that morning.

Murphy_ELMS_Red_Bull_Ring_2016-52 Murphy's Prototypes Murphy's Prototypes

There were three drivers, and each of us took 90 minutes or less behind the wheel. I was the last up, and at that stage we were in a strong position in eighth place. My duty was to hold us steady and bring the car home for the team. Driving for that long in 25 or 30 degree heat is an endurance test in itself, and you need to be in top shape to get through it. I dropped a few kilos just from water loss alone.

Is there a particular view or moment that sums it all up?

IMG_5693 Murphy's Prototypes Murphy's Prototypes

It’s hard to describe the atmosphere on a day like that, with the sun blazing and over 15,000 spectators pouring into the grid. Before the race, all the drivers sit in front of the pit garages with autograph cards, greeting spectators and posing for photos. Once that’s done and the race begins, it’s back into the garage. There’s a tension hanging in the air for the full four hours, with everyone wondering how things will pan out.

As the last one behind the wheel, I had a massive sigh of relief when I finally finished, and it was really only then that I was able to take in the beauty of the course, and the mountains rearing up in the distance on that second corner at the end.

What made that day so special?

Murphy_ELMS_Red_Bull_Ring_2016-24 Murphy's Prototypes Murphy's Prototypes

There were a couple of things. Firstly, I was driving a very special car: a French-built Oreca 03R, that can hit speeds of over 200 miles per hour. It was the fastest car I’d ever been in, but having already driven it at Silverstone I felt fairly relaxed.

The other thing that made the day so special – and the whole Le Mans series – was the buzz that comes with being part of an Irish team. We did the whole racing season together last year, and you build some very solid friendships along the way.

More: My Favourite Drive: Chris Pratt on racing past Cavan’s lakes with his two boys

More: My Favourite Drive: Colin Delaney on exploring Wicklow with a car full of kids