McKenna on the up! With John Kenny/The Irish Daily Star.
February 25, 2014 by John Kenny. The Irish Daily Star
Irish rallying has seen the likes of Robert Barrable, Craig Breen, Keith Cronin and Alistair Fisher emerge in recent years from competing on the Irish and British scene onto the European (ERC) and World Rally Championship (WRC) Now they could well be joined by another our emerging talents in 26 year old Monaghan driver Daniel McKenna.
McKenna competed in last year’s MSA British Rally Championship (BRC) as the reigning Billy Coleman Award winner for the best Young Rally driver in Ireland and the €50,000 prize fund saw his return to the BRC for the first time since a part-campaign in 2010.
The Monaghan ace took full advantage with four class wins in six events to claim the BRC RallyTwo class title and with it free entry into Wales Rally GB.
Alongside the R2 crown, McKenna won the Fiesta Sport Trophy title and the BRC Live Media Trophy, securing prize tests in a Ford Fiesta R5 and a Prodrive Mini JCW S2000.
He then won the annual Pirelli Star Driver Award shootout which gave him a fully-funded season in the BRC in 2014 which will see McKenna compete in a DGM Motorsport-prepared Citroen DS3 R3T.
McKenna has started to test the car on gravel ahead of the opening round of the BRC, the North Wales Rally at the beginning of April and he must surely now be considered to be amongst the favourites to become only the third Irish driver after Billy Coleman and Keith Cronin to win the BRC crown/ “Competing in a Pirelli backed car is not a guarantee of success” said McKenna when he spoke to the Irish Daily Star.
“This is the 8th year of their scheme and (Keith) Cronin is the only driver to have won the BRC in a Pirelli backed car. There will be a lot of pressure on. I’m not sure if I’d be one of the favourites as it depends on what kind of competition is going to be there but I hope as the season goes on we can be in there fighting for the title”.
The first round of the BRC is not until the first weekend of April which is quite late in the year in terms of rallying compared to competing in Ireland but it means McKenna will have more time to fully prepare Having a free drive in the Citroen in 2014 will mean a lot financially to the Young Irish driver as he intended to also compete in the Circuit of Ireland in April as well as registering for selected rounds of other European Rally Championship (ERC) events.
“It means an awful lot. I won the Billy Coleman award in 2012 which obviously has massive prestige and it was the main reason we were able to fund our campaign in the BRC in 2013. We have managed to hit our goals so far but to be driving at this level in the BRC wouldn’t be possible with our present budget, so it’s massive. Also to be with Pirelli will possibly open other doors but its all now in my own hands and I hope to do myself proud this year”
Irish rallying has been accused in the past of ignoring the strengths of our young talent. During the recent good times, only those with real financial clout could afford to compete, but our recent financial woes have seen a turnaround in the fortunes of our younger contingent.
In recent years Ireland has seen the likes of Barrable, Breen, Cronin and Fisher emerge with some success on the world stage and they are capable of beating anyone on their day.
McKenna says he would like to join that growing list “I’m hoping that I can stay on the same par as those guys who are making the connections and as far as I can see Irish Rallying is going from strength to strength and long may it continue”
However McKenna would also like to see more emphasis put on Irish drivers in the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship (ITRC) The BRC made a dramatic change a few years ago when they banned world rally cars, and introduced cheaper and more affordable classes with the whole idea of getting young drivers into a stepping stone system “The example of how it can work is Elfin Evans the Welsh driver who only two years ago was driving an R2 such as I drove last year and now he is a works World Rally driver for M Sport. In Ireland I would like to see some changes made especially with the reintroduction of more one make classes. We had the Citroen C2’s a few years ago and they were very successful but since that there has been nothing. There are always great stages in Ireland and great competition, for me when I won the Billy Coleman award, there were really no options in Ireland and that’s what led to the BRC. Indeed for Stephen Wright, who won last year’s Young Rally Driver, sees his best option is to go to Belgium. There is some talent being missed because of financial constrains and a lot can be done to improve that. I’m sure that if there was an initiative in Ireland to go to the more modern cars for younger drivers, they would definitely reap the rewards”
The 2014 BRC starts in April with the North Wales rally and that will be followed by a further six rounds in which include the Pirelli Richard Burns Foundation Rally in Carlisle in May and the Scottish based Jim Clark Rally.
They will be followed by theScottish Rally in June, the Ulster Rally in August, the Isle of Man in September and Octobers Rallye Sunseeker International based in Poole in England.