Conor Shanahan’s master plan this year was to succeed his older brother Jack as the winner of the Russian Drift Series Grand Prix.
Cork teenager Shanahan was even due to drive for a Ukrainian team in the FIA Intercontinental Drifting Cup in Sochi in June.
Then Russia invaded Ukraine, and the 19-year-old had to push back his panic and scramble to salvage his season.
He did and, after finishing second in the 2022 Drift Masters European Championship last year, the Red Bull athlete will be one of the main attractions for the crowd of 8-10,000 at Mondello for the start. of the new season on Sunday.
“Yes, we were supposed to go this route (to Russia) but things have changed drastically,” said Shanahan, whose Toyota GT86 bears the slogan “We Stand With Ukraine” on the side.
“To be honest, I don’t think as an athlete I would drive there (because of the war).
“We have a lot of friends (in the area) and the team we were supposed to drive for was a Ukrainian team. I won’t mention the team, but that’s not the point now.
“Obviously financially it’s not a cheap sport and we also have to earn money because that’s our job now, so obviously you have to sort everything out in a short time.
“Fortunately, with the support of the people we have had over the past two seasons, we can go back and decide that we are going to do the full European Championship.
“It really doesn’t change anything in terms of driving because both championships are as competitive as each other.
“Now we’re going to focus on Drift Masters and put that behind us, and let’s see, hopefully then we can have the conversation about going to America.
“We are happy to have the opportunity to race in Europe in a top-level championship.”
The Shanahan brothers will both compete in cars built by Jack, 23, and both hope to beat last season’s Masters winner Piotr Wiecek.
Conor managed to do just that in the final race of last season, but by then Wiecek had the title in the bag.
Like many in the peloton, the Corkmen are hoping that using the same tires as Wiecek this season will close the gap.
Conor’s Toyota has very similar specifications to a world rally car and he admits that in the future,
With the tire change – from Westlake to Felino – he thinks it gives the siblings a “chance to fight” against Wiecek.
The problem is that the peloton will only receive the new tires today and the Shanahans have had very little time to test them.
“That’s the biggest worry for a lot of riders who have switched to this tyre,” Conor said.
“It starts to become a problem where there’s almost too much grip, the car becomes almost impossible to drive and it starts to get a bit messy.
“Even thinking back to a lot of the races Piotr did last year, he’s an incredible driver and probably one of the strongest to win the championship, but he could struggle because he had too many adhesion.
“My brother and I are aiming for it, but there is a field of 40 riders and 15 of them have a chance to win this Sunday.
“It’s the best Drift event Ireland has ever seen. It’s going to be quite busy.
“It’s great for the Irish drivers to start at home and start the season here because we usually finish here.
“I haven’t won a Drift Masters event in front of a home crowd, so it would be nice to start Sunday with a bang.
“We have the local knowledge of the track – there’s a lot of pressure, though, because there are a lot of eyes watching you that you know.”