A 17-year-old Mayo girl with sight loss, who will take to the rally tracks later this month, is believed to be the first visually impaired rally navigator in the country.
Sara McFadden, who has Albinism, a congenital condition characterised by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes, has gone through a protracted series of medical safety checks and was granted her licence by Motor Sport Ireland in the past week.
Her mother Sandra, herself a former rally driver, says the family, who live in Castlebar, is over the moon.
“From the outset we treated Sara like any other child. We told her she could do anything she wanted to do in life. We were adamant that having a disability should not prevent her from living out her dreams.
“As a result Sara has excelled in the sporting field so far; she is a qualified GAA coach and has a silver All-Ireland camogie medal,” she said.
“Sara went to her first rally at the tender age of six weeks old and we believe she has petrol running through her veins! It was a huge blow to her that she couldn’t actually drive so my husband Keith built her a track on our own land and we bought her a car to allow her drive off road.
“There are ways around everything in life, you have to be imaginative and grasp them.”
She continued: “Obviously, once safety considerations are totally satisfied, the sporting world is her oyster.
“We have always received great support from the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) who believe in backing people to achieve their absolute best potential. Their help, support and advice has always given us additional confidence”.
Sports development officer with Motor Sport Ireland Art McCarrick said: “As the governing body for motorsports in Ireland we strive to be fully inclusive. We are delighted that Sara passed all the medical tests and was deemed fit and ready to go.
“We are delighted for her as we know how much it means to her and it is great to be in a position to support a person’s goals and aspirations.”
Sara will take to the tracks on July 22 in Cork for her first rally.