My passion for motorsport stemmed from my father. It’s a sport that I essentially grew up in because he was a very active member of our local club, Carlow Car Club, and within the sport in general. We would be at an event almost every weekend, from Rallying to car racing, Hillclimbs, autocross, autotests, there was nearly something every weekend. In 2003, I took part in my first event, thanks to the help of a couple of local people who helped me get a car (a Fiat Uno) and loaned me the necessary safety equipment (fireproof suit, boots, gloves, helmet etc) required to compete in a Sprint in Galway. I’ll never forget the sick feeling before I took to the track for my first run – if you asked me to get out of the car for any reason, I probably never would have gotten back in! Thankfully, nobody asked me to get out, and from there, the adventure began!
My name is Paul Grogan, and I’m a Senior Helpdesk Support Engineer at Fenergo, an industry leading Fintech company established and based in Ireland with offices in over 12 different countries. I’ve always had a passion for IT. Most things in my life have stemmed from my involvement in Motorsport through my father, and helping out at events when I was young with timing and results was where I got my initial exposure to having and using computers. The need to further my knowledge so I could become more involved has ultimately fuelled my passion for IT and to choose this career path.
Regarding my early influences in Motorsport, Formula 1 driver Michael Schumacher was someone I really looked up too; in rallying, Petter Solberg was my favourite. I loved Subaru, one of the popular World Rally teams whom he drove for, and he was brilliant both on and off the stages. On a more local level, Dermot Carnegie, multiple Irish & British Rallycross champion was another person I really looked up too. His cars were always fantastic, and his presence at the track always looked so impressive. Michael Morris was the one that handed me the huge opportunity, pretty much out of nowhere, to join his team and race his Rallycross Supercar, a Subaru! That event in 2006 certainly changed my direction and began a very enjoyable chapter of my racing career.
When it comes to prepping for a race, a lot of the events I took part in didn’t have any facility for testing pre-event. Sprint’s, Hillclimbs, and Rallycross only afforded 1 practice session in the morning to familiarise yourself with the track or route for the day. So I had to make the most of these sessions to get up to speed. Motorsport is definitely a sport where natural ability is crucial. Lots of people looking at the sport from the outside, see themselves driving to the shops and think, ‘but race car driving, that’s easy! I drive every day, how hard can it be!’ It’s true, in part, but getting those last few tenths of a second is where the ability comes in, and being brave enough, or having the skill to brake later, get on the power earlier, preserve your tyres, follow the racing line – all these factors are crucial to success, and that’s where the ability comes in.
The 2007/2008 Irish Rallycross Championship is the period I look back on with the most fondness. It was my first season with a new team competing in the top class in the National Championship. Each weekend was enjoyable – we were always getting faster and as the championship progressed the picture was starting to emerge that we were in with an outside chance of winning the championship. That year, I finished 2nd in that championship and went on to take part in my first proper car races (rallycross was a mix of tarmac and gravel track). These races were in a proper factory built Renault Clio Cup Car, the same type of car that many stars use during their early careers in the UK, and two races in a Global GT Light sports car. All these outings culminated in my nomination for Irish Motorsport’s biggest prize, Young Racing Driver of the Year. Supported then by Dunlop and the Irish Sports Council, this award carried a prize fund of €50,000 – the other nominees were of a significant calibre. While I didn’t make it past the interview stage and into the final 3, I wasn’t disappointed, as the final 3 drivers were amongst Ireland’s best racing talent at the time, and the eventual winner went on to race in America in Indy Lights. But for someone on a shoestring budget, maximising every cent and working every minute I could to get the budget together and keep the dream alive, even to be one of 6 nominees is something I’m hugely proud of.
My team, Bunclody Motors Rallycross Team, were super at this Championship. I don’t think any of us expected the season to unfold the way it did. Regularly finishing in the top 3 overall was something new for them, and every weekend we all worked harder and harder and it just always seemed to click. My car owner, Michael, was a great support, and his brother Andrew was superb at driver coaching, while their other brother Myles ensured the car was fit to compete far beyond the financial resources we had available to put into it. The other element I loved was the camaraderie. My rivals, George Tracey, Tommy Graham, and Dermot Carnegie were all hugely experienced. Dermot was, at that point, 9 times Irish Champion and a multiple British Champion, and their operating budget on a single weekend almost equated to what I was going to spend on half of my season! So the odds really were stacked against me. My key skill, however, was staying out of trouble, and always consistently picking up points. I had to stay out of trouble; I couldn’t afford not to, such were the constraints on my budget!
At the final round in March 2008, I went into the Super Final. A stern briefing from Andrew beforehand would see me get the best start I’ve ever had in that car – heaven knows, I needed it. By the end of lap 1 (of 6), I was third – we had dispatched the other misplaced cars and it was now Dermot, George and me. Such was their intense battle for position, I was able to stay much closer than normal. Their larger budget directly translated into superior speed and performance in their cars, so normally I wouldn’t be so close. Without going into the dramatics of a lap by lap analysis, George encountered a problem and retired on the last lap. I passed him exiting the last corner and sailed down the straight to secure 2nd overall on the event and 2nd overall in the championship, behind my hero Dermot. I can still remember every second of that day and it was amazing. Do I look back with any disappointment on not winning? No, actually. I finished 2nd overall to my hero, in what would become his 10th Irish title, but in my first season in the top flight. Dermot is someone whom I looked up to as one of the greats. I even had his autograph at home.
Further to my passion for Motorsport, I also have three professional Motorsport ventures outside of my normal day job. I am the Team Principal of P1 : Racing, the Owner of P1 : Digital, and the Co-Owner of Timing.ie.
P1 : Racing: Since I was very young, team ownership was always one of the things I wanted to do. In 2013, I got that chance. During 2012, my then girlfriend (now wife) was doing the odd race here and there before we managed to secure goldenpages.ie as a title sponsor when she was invited to be the only woman to take part in the Bavaria Formula 1 City Race in Dublin City. From there, she took part in 2 or 3 races after that June weekend and goldenpages.ie were really drawn by the approach we took to our racing and the exposure they were getting from it. Such was their interest, following some discussion, we came up with a plan to establish a 2 car team for increased exposure, and this was now my chance to run my own team. In 2013, I established P1 : Racing, secured 2 cars, 1 for Jennifer and 1 for Barry Rabbitt, whom we invited in to be our supported driver. Out of the challenges of running a team came one of the ultimate prizes in Irish Motorsport, winning the Leinster Trophy. A superb drive by Barry against some tough competition secured this fantastic prize, a trophy that has been won in the past, by Formula 1 World Champions including the late, great, Ayrton Senna. Since then, we’ve moved over to Formula Ford 1600, the pinnacle of entry-level single-seater racing, and formed a unique and amazing partnership with an Australian Family team called Ecurie Australie. This partnership has seen us run a car in Australia for Jennifer on two occasions, and run our own Van Diemen RF89 in Ireland and the UK for her on this side of the globe.
P1 : Digital is my sports PR & Marketing Company that I established in 2012. Over the years, we have worked with some fantastic clients, including most of the recent Motorsport Ireland Young Racing Driver of the Year winners. We have managed to capture clients from around the world including America, Norway, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, racing in all the major championships including the European Le Mans Series, the British Touring Car Championship, British GT Championship, FIA World Endurance Championship and most recently, the Formula 1 World Championship. This business has allowed me to help drivers and teams with their marketing activities, hospitality management, sponsorship acquisition, and activation. There have been many highlights over the years, but being part of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2014 has to be one of the best, this is one of the biggest and hardest events in Motorsport, but it’s a time I look back on very fondly. This company helps drivers with the off-track side of motorsport which is becoming more and more important every day. Ensuring you have a smart, polished and up to date online presence, keep your sponsors up to date and generally having a good image is crucial. I feel it’s very important for my clients not to sound like everything is automated. So I work closely with a lot of my clients to help them create content and ensure that it’s unique to them and comes out with their own personal touch and edge.
Timing.ie is my newest venture, but actually builds on something I’ve been involved with for years. In 2004, I was approached by Mondello Park to work at the circuit on race weekends as one of their timekeepers. I jumped at the chance, and have never left since. What I have done, however, is build the service offering year on year, before eventually we privatised the service in 2015 and are now contracted back into Mondello as Timing.ie. Initially covering events in Mondello, we have gone on to become an Official Partner for MyLaps, the world’s leading company for sports timing hardware and software products. We are also now the official timekeepers for the Irish Rallycross Championship, Irish Karting Championship, and multiple National Car Racing Championships in Ireland. Covering over 30 events every year, quite often at multiple venues simultaneously, we are using the very latest in International timing hardware and software products. With live timing across a range of platforms, results available online via our website to competitors within minutes of the race finishing. This company is probably where I get to use my IT knowledge the most to ensure we have a solid infrastructure at all times.
Over the years, the advances in technology in Motorsport have definitely been significant. At Timing.ie, speed is now everything. Over the last number of years, we have introduced live timing as part of our service offering along with building out our website to offer results and times within minutes after the race. Such is the demand and the reliance on these services now, that if they are offline or down at all, we get loads of calls about it! Competitors want more and more data faster to analyse every element possible. Looking towards my race team, when I raced, data analysis was for the big teams! Now, however, on our Formula Ford, we have a full data logger with over five sensors giving us a range of information from speed, RPM, brake pressure, oil pressure, and water temperature. From there, the associated software then offers us a range of tools and graphs to analyse this information. Working with this data makes me realise how much faster I could have gone with some of the information now available so readily after each session.
Overall, Motorsport is a great environment to meet a vast range of different people, with different experiences and backgrounds to learn from. Also, as I mentioned earlier, with data analysis so broadly available now, this is a great way to learn new skills in understanding data and the metrics involved. In timing, we are always working with evolving hardware and software, so ways of doing things in the main day to day workplace can be applied to the sport, and vice versa.
Motorsport can be a cruel sport, but it does reward those who try very hard. Aside from the hard times when you run out of budget, or when the budget for the next step is beyond your reach, you get to meet some fantastic people and doors will open that can help you in life. Plus, if and when you stop competing, there are lots of other great ways to get involved beyond driving itself that are very rewarding, such as being a trackside marshal or timekeeper! My advice to aspiring racers would be to just go for it and give it your all. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.