Ciaran Haggerty

Money is ever an obstacle, but the Scottish racing community is getting behind one of its own. Simon Arron met him

It was Scottish sage and author Graham Gauld who drew my attention to one of the core reasons for his country’s remarkable record of motor sport success, given its relatively meagre human resources. South of the border, from the pioneering days of automotive combat, Brooklands cultured its ethos of ‘the right crowd, and no crowding’, but attitudes would in future be different elsewhere. “When there was a significant push to create a racing circuit in post-war Scotland,” Graham said, “it didn’t much matter whether you were a barman or an aristocrat, everybody pitched in together for the common good and helped wherever and however they could.”

This healthily inclusive approach survives to this day – and Ciaran Haggerty is racing proof.

In 2014 Haggerty became Scotland’s youngest Formula Ford champion, at 18, and did so in convincing style. He won 11 of the 15 championship rounds (all at Knockhill) and failed to appear on the podium only once, when he finished fourth. That he was competing at all owed much to others’ largesse.

Haggerty does not come from a racing-obsessed family, but became hooked on the sport after trying a rental kart. He started racing at 10, but didn’t have the means to compete in anything as exotic as the British championship and so focused on local and regional events, picking up a few titles along the way.

He switched to cars in 2013, competing in the Scottish FF1600 series and taking one victory en route to finishing as best rookie, in fourth place overall. At the end of that season, the Scottish Motor Racing Club awarded him the Hartley Whyte Trophy, presented annually to a promising newcomer. With the cup came a cheque for £750… and he immediately donated that to fellow racer Ryan Dalziel’s charity, which raises money for Rett syndrome (Dalziel’s niece Dionne is a sufferer – the disease affects brain development, predominantly in young girls).

“Ryan had offered me a huge amount of support,” Haggerty said, “taking me out to Daytona and then giving me help that enabled me to get started in Formula Ford, so donating the money to his charity seemed like the right thing to do. Once I’d announced my intentions, everybody in the room came to chat to me. I think it turned out to be the best £750 I never actually had.”

Dario Franchitti agreed to buy Haggerty a Ray chassis that Graham Brunton Racing would run throughout the 2014 season and a number of other established Scottish racing institutions – including Ecurie Ecosse – pitched in to support his campaign. As well as his endeavours at home, he was also able to compete farther afield, racing at Oulton Park, Brands Hatch (he was running in the lead pack in the Formula Ford Festival final, until sliding wide at Graham Hill Bend and slipping to 10th) and Silverstone (where he scored a heat win in the Walter Hayes Trophy, before a collision sidelined him at the semi-final stage).

“I want to make a career out of racing,” he says, “and if I can do that it would be amazing. Right now I’m looking at options in America. The Mazda Road to Indy scheme looks like a really great option, because if you win a championship at one level you win serious prize money that enables you to progress to the next. It’s a good way to move up the ladder; Europe doesn’t have anything like it. Without finding a major sponsor – or winning the lottery – I can’t see myself getting too many opportunities closer to home. The States seems like a good place to go, perhaps even as early as next season.”

Career in brief
Born: 13/8/1996, Johnstone, Scotland
2006-2012 karting, picking up race victories and titles in local and regional events
2013 Scottish FF1600 Championship. Awarded Hartley Whyte Trophy as most promising newcomer and donated £750 prize to charity
2014 Scottish FF1600 champion, winning the last 11 of 15 races