Alan Bannon, the founder of the Cannonball Ireland Rally, says that he first came up with the event idea in 2007 to raise money for Barretstown, the charity set up by legendary Hollywood actor and petrolhead Paul Newman. It wasn’t until 2009, however, Alan explained to Paddock Eye that the idea took off when they held the very first Cannonball event in Ireland.

Alan says that they were expecting between 30 and 50 vehicles when they arranged the first event. He explained that he had a Porsche 911 996, his friend had a Ferrari 360, and his other friend had a Porsche 997, and they knew someone with a BMW M3 and someone with an M5, and it was like that. He says that anybody who is into cars liked the idea of it, and they said that they would come and support it.

Bannon explains that before they knew it, the event got momentum in Ireland, and it was on a radio show for two months every Tuesday, sometimes for three minutes, other times for something like 23 minutes.

The first year exceeded Alan’s expectations as he says they had 137 cars, which was huge and significant. They also had two McLaren SLR cars at the event, a first for Ireland.

It was a two-day event that had just evolved and a learning curve for him. Cannonball brought together an outstanding community of people, and they raised a lot of money for Barretstown. Fast forward 14 years later, Cannonball is now a company that has raised just over 1.5 million euro for various children’s charities, and this year, they have teamed up with the Jack and Jill Foundation.

The event brings a big group of car enthusiasts together. It is organized very well, with Cannonball working very closely with the Gardai, who look after traffic, shut down towns, and they also work closely with the local town councils, who shut down their cities to accommodate the rally.

It has become a really big event, and they get many families out to see the cars, which Alan says is lovely. Alan says that he didn’t realize how much time the event planning would take, and in the first year, he says they got away with a lot. a

Alan says that while initially, it was a hobby, the event has grown so much that they had to take on a part-time person and learn about PR and the media side.

The company does other events throughout the year, such as a retro rally with classic cars, which is much smaller. They have just finished a European trip which took the Cannonball to Spain and Portugal. They have also done two fly-and-drive events in the U.S.

As for what the future holds? Alan says that he would love to create a supercar track day. The 2023 Cannonball Rally starts at Malahide Castle in Dublin on Friday, 15th September, and Alan says that they try to vary the route each year and go to different cities every three years.

The 2023 Cannonball takes place from September 15-17. For more information, click here.


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