Donna revs up for rally return - then revelations in new book!

ONE day, Donna McElherron will write a book about her experiences as a woman driving instructor - warts and all, "good and bad."
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Her driving school 'It's a Mini Thing' has become something of an institution in the district, the iconic car a familiar sight on local roads since Donna moved to Banbridge from her native Scotland almost 20 years ago.

But it's not been all plain sailing. She tells Chronicle Woman: "I encounter plenty of issues, none of which are my making, unfortunately being a 'woman driver' is still a thing.

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"I could go on and on about this, but one day I’ll write a book about teaching driving and all I’ve encountered over the years - good and bad.

Enjoying a sunshine family holiday with Sean and Seonaid.Enjoying a sunshine family holiday with Sean and Seonaid.
Enjoying a sunshine family holiday with Sean and Seonaid.

"Recently someone said to me: ‘Oh, you just sit there and look round you’ - this person hasn’t a clue!"

Donna - also a rally driver - won't be putting pen to paper this weekend though as she'll be rather busy competing in the Circuit of Ireland.

It's a dramatic return to top class competitive rally action for the local lady, shortly set to celebrate "a big birthday" - 10 years after her 40th!

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She thought the time had come to get back into the driving seat and will have an all-female crew in the Circuit, along with her up-and-coming co-pilot, Ciara Duggan.

With buddies Emma and Rachel on the run on St. Patrick’s Day.With buddies Emma and Rachel on the run on St. Patrick’s Day.
With buddies Emma and Rachel on the run on St. Patrick’s Day.

It was actually Donna's love of motorsport that brought her to town…She takes up the story: "I came to Banbridge 19 and a half years ago.

"I am originally from The Isle of Mull - one of Scotland’s inner Hebrides - and not to be mistaken with the Mull of Kintyre.

"I was brought here by my now husband, Sean. We met when we were rallying on Mull. We together have one son Seonaidh - pronounced Seanie, it’s Scottish Gaelic.

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"I have a classic Mini, all rally-prepared, and used to rally a lot back in the day." (Mini photo below by Paul Donnell, A Biker with a Camera).

Her most recent Mull Rally was 2014, with her sister as co-driver. Now, she's got the bug again and is back in business.

Donna says she would "thoroughly recommend" both her passions to other women.

She adds: "I would encourage anyone interested in both rallying and teaching/coaching to go for it.

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"I love driving. So after a brief career in the hospitality industry I decided to train in Glasgow and teach the skill I love. And I’ve now been doing this for 22-plus years.

"I really am passionate about my job and this motivates me to give the best coaching and teaching I can.

"Rallying is definitely male-dominated, so is driving instruction, although lots more females are taking up both. When I trained, out of 100 instructors, only five were female - now it’s way more.

"I have over the years met some amazing people; some I stay in touch with."

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It's life in the fast lane, but Donna does know how to slow down too.

She says: "I work flat out, I’m not work-shy, but - when it gets to Friday - I’m shattered.

"Then before I know it, it’s Sunday morning and off I go rain or shine, snow or ice for a run!

"A run with my buddies Emma and Rachel, it is my me-time.

"We are not fast or ever first, but we are out there putting one foot in front of the other.

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"Finish lines not finish times, I probably will use this mantra for the Circuit too."

Donna's last race was on foot, the Spar Craic 10k in Belfast on St. Patrick's Day.

She's stepping it up a few gears on the roads this weekend, with the Circuit stages being held in the Dungannon area.

Another chapter is about to be written in that book...

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