One to watch
PUBLISHED: 06:35 14 July 2014
They say patience is a virtue, and that all good things come to those that wait. Stefan Donnelly, eldest son of ex Formula One driver, Martin Donnelly, knows all about waiting. He grew up like most boys with a desire to emulate his father.
Yet despite being born into a world of motorsport, gifted a racing kart for his fourth birthday and from the age of eight racing his Honda Cadet in Club 2000 races at the nearby Red Lodge circuit, the brakes were firmly applied to Stefan’s driving dreams when he was enrolled as a border at Wymondham College aged 11.
“I found it very hard and frustrating when I was growing up not being allowed to race,” admits Stefan. “But now I am a bit older I can appreciate my parent’s attitude towards putting my education first so I have it to fall back on if the racing doesn’t work out.”
He did find time to play at Wymondham Rugby Club from the age of six to 18. “It was a massive part of my life growing up and I like to go back there in the holidays, when I’m home from university, and catch up with old friends,” he says.
Stefan is now coming to the end of his degree, Geography, Sport and Exercise Science BSc, but while studying at Loughborough the opportunity to take part in the Redbull-backed British Universities Karting Championship (BUKC), a competitive national championship with more than 44 universities and 700 students competing within it, presented itself. “We won the championship at our first attempt.”
Evidently, all the years of coaching from his father, who is now chief driving instructor at Lotus, had paid off.
Two years on, Stefan’s dream is finally coming true in the form of the newly formed Team IDSystems, which will see him compete alongside his father, in the Lotus Cup UK Championship 2014 season, in a Mark One Lotus Elise.
Stefan made his competitive racing debut at his home circuit of Snetterton in April, just eight days shy of his 21st birthday. “It was a bit surreal to be honest. Pulling the helmet on and getting strapped in to go out for free practice on Saturday morning I had to take a bit of a reality check and ask myself if it was actually happening! The weekend turned out to be a bit of a baptism of fire as we suffered engine trouble in qualifying so were not able to take the start of the race, which hurt after qualifying P5 in class. It was obviously disappointing for my first race weekend, with it being my home race lots of people had come to support me, including my grandparents from Belfast, but these things happen, unfortunately.”
The highs and lows of motorsport . . . Stefan’s racing education continues, and hopefully he will have better luck when the Championship returns to Snetterton in September