Limerick man steering Formula 1 team to viability

Donal O’Regan

Reporter:

Donal O’Regan

Henry Shinners, pictured below at Downing Street, remains hopeful that Caterham (car, above, driven by Kamui Kobayashi) will be competing in Formula 1 in 2015 and beyond
A LIMERICK man who left school after completing his Leaving Cert is now the joint administrator of Caterham Formula 1 team.

A LIMERICK man who left school after completing his Leaving Cert is now the joint administrator of Caterham Formula 1 team.

Henry Shinners, who was born in the city, left Ireland when he was 20 and started in a junior role at Smith & Williamson in London - one of the top ten largest firms of accountants in the UK.

Mr Shinners rose through the ranks to become a partner and put his talents to use when Caterham went into administration last year and he helped save it. Coincidentally the team’s racing colour is green like his native county.

“We remain hopeful that we can secure a buyer for the team that will see it competing in the 2015 season and beyond on a sound financial footing,” said Mr Shinners, whose business partner Finbarr O’Connell hails from Leitrim.

“Finbarr and I came up with the idea of crowdfunding the team to get us to the last Grand Prix of the season in Abu Dhabi – a unique and successful initiative that generated a lot of interest in what we are trying to achieve,” said Mr Shinners.

While he left Ireland at a young age Limerick remains close to his heart.

“I was born in 1967. My mother’s family - the Keanes - lived in Rathbane and my father’s family were from Ballynanty. We moved to Shannon in the early seventies when my father got a job working in EI Electronics and I went to St Senan’s primary school and St Patrick’s comprehensive in Shannon. I have a younger brother, Joseph.

“Because we left Limerick when I was very young, my childhood memories are mostly of Shannon but I do have very fond memories of twice-weekly visits to Limerick to see my grandparents on both sides of the family and also have strong memories of trips to the Limerick Show and seeing Santa at Todds every Christmas,” said Mr Shinners.

His family left Ireland in 1987. While his parents and brother headed for the sunnier climes of Spain, Mr Shinners went to London. “Although we are a small family by traditional Irish standards, we have experienced our own mini diaspora – mum is still in Spain, my brother is now in Amsterdam and my father lived in Essex until he passed last year.

“I left school after the Leaving Cert but despite the lack of a degree, I studied for my accountancy exams after starting in a junior role at Smith & Williamson, qualified in 1997 and worked my way through the ranks of the firm ultimately to partner,” said Mr Shinners.

Although he spells his surname differently, the artist John Shinnors is an uncle and “of course I was shocked to hear of his recent accident”.

“Although I grew up in Shannon, I regard Limerick as ‘home’ because I have close family there - whereas I have none remaining in Shannon - and Limerick is where I visit and stay whenever I come to Ireland.

“With my immediate family sprinkled around Europe, my opportunities to come home aren’t as frequent as I would like but I do have a couple of trips planned this year,” he says.

The Limerick links to Caterham could have run even deeper as Alice Powell was lined up to be Caterham’s reserve driver in Abu Dhabi. Her grandfather Jim Fraser, born in Barrington Street, emigrated to England in the 1950s but remains a proud Limerick man.

Alice has many relatives dotted around the county and sports the Union Jack and Tricolour on her helmet. Unfortunately she couldn’t use the helmet in Abu Dhabi as she couldn’t get her super licence in time for the race.

“It was a huge honour to be asked. Everything was in place but you have to have the super licence and they are not easy to get. Unfortunately all of the hard work didn’t pay off,” said Alice, who started karting at eight and won the same championship as Lewis Hamilton at a younger age than him.

She recently won the Formula Renault Asian Championship despite missing the first two races of the season. When she is not racing she can often be found driving a digger for her dad on construction sites. But her dream is to be behind the wheel of the fastest vehicles of all in Formula 1. The 21-year-old has many supporters, not least the Prime Minister, David Cameron.

Alice met him five years ago when she came second in Britain’s Young Woman Of The Future Awards.

“From then on he supported my efforts to get into Formula 1,” said Alice. She and Mr Shinners attended a function in Downing Street before Christmas and Alice remains one to watch into the future as she aims to become the first successful female in Formula 1 history.

“That would be incredible. You just never know, Formula 1 is changing all the time with drivers coming in and out. You just never know what may happen,” said Alice.