A Donegal man who grew up watching his heroes compete in the Donegal International Rally has gone on to pursue a dream career in motorsport. Born and raised in Kerrykeel, Bryan Gallagher is now a Senior Design Engineer with Ferrari in Maranello, Italy.

As a child, Bryan was always interested in rallying: “The Donegal International was the sporting highlight of the year in our house. My brother Ciaran competed in the event several times and I sat alongside him in 2010, but unfortunately the car declined the challenge!”

Upon leaving school, Bryan studied at Letterkenny Institute of Technology (LYIT) for three years, gaining a Diploma in Mechanical Engineering: “LYIT didn’t just offer me a solid understanding of the theoretical side of engineering, it provided me with an invaluable understanding of practical engineering through hands-on learning with projects, in the labs and in the machine shops. From LYIT, I continued my studies in Queens University in Belfast and then went to Chalmers University in Sweden to complete a Masters in Mechanical Engineering.”

 Whilst at Queens and Chalmers, Bryan was involved in a project called Formula Student. This involved groups of students from many universities all over the world designing, manufacturing and competing in a low-cost single-seater race-car series.

Bryan began his career in motorsport with Midland F1, based in Silverstone: “When I joined in September 2006, Midland has just taken the team over from Eddie Jordan. My job involved designing some of the simpler carbon fiber parts for the F1 car. Being a small team, resources were limited, and the car would have only one major performance upgrade per season. During the design phase of this upgrade, I was expected to be fully committed to having the design finalised for the planned upgrade race which usually involved very long working days.”

It was during this busy period that Bryan received a phone call from McLaren Racing asking him to come for an interview: “Reluctantly I told them that I was too busy. Fortunately, they understood where I was coming from, and we agreed to take a raincheck. A few weeks later I went for an interview and was offered the position of Composite Design Engineer.”

Bryan started at McLaren Racing in Woking in 2008. Under the leadership of Ron Dennis, McLaren had a reputation of being very clinical and Bryan recalls pristine glass elevators, white corridors and  glass-fronted boulevard hovering above the lake: “It was an amazing building to work in. The first time I saw the McLaren racecar, I could see that attention to detail was universal in McLaren. In that first year, Lewis Hamilton won the drivers’ championship; every Monday morning after a race win, we would gather on the boulevard in our team clothing and toast our success with champagne. They were great days.”

Bryan worked at McLaren for almost seven years, working his way to the position of Senior Design Engineer.  In 2015 he was offered an opportunity to join Ferrari F1 as a Senior Design Engineer, but the pull of home was never far away: “Even though I was a Ferrari fan from a very young age, I had to think long and hard about whether I should accept their offer. When I left home in 2006 to move to the UK, I told myself that I would return home after five years. Nine years later I was considering moving even further from Ireland; but as we say in Donegal “never die wondering” and so off to Italy I went.”

Ferrari is located in a town called Maranello – about the size of Donegal Town – two hours south of Milan: “The attention to detail on the design of the car is on another level. Ferrari has so much of the production facilities onsite, which allows the designers to work closely with the production department to further improve the design of the parts. People here are similar to people at home: their passion is either for football or racing. This passion runs through the company and everyone who works at Ferrari feels proud to work for Ferrari.”

“Since moving to Italy, I got married, have had a son and we’re expecting another child” Bryan adds. “Ireland has had a pull on me since I left home 15 years ago, that pull is even stronger now since “I” has become “we”. I know what a great childhood in Ireland is like and I want my children to experience that. So, in the summer of 2023 we will return home to Donegal, in time for our eldest child to begin school in September. We know it will take some time to adjust to the Irish weather, but believe it or not, sunshine and blue skies for eight months of the year can become boring!”