Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Dan McKenna feeling at home as title race hots up

Leap of faith: Top drivers Garry Jennings (left) and Daniel McKenna at Todds Leap Ulster International Rally launch at Castle Coole
Leap of faith: Top drivers Garry Jennings (left) and Daniel McKenna at Todds Leap Ulster International Rally launch at Castle Coole

The British rally championship may be in turmoil following the decision to call a 'sabbatical' next year but it won't affect the Todds Leap Ulster International or Daniel McKenna's bid to add yet another Irish name to the list of British champions.

Indeed, the shock move by the UK governing body, the Motor Sports Association, to stand the series down in 2015 while they plot a new way forward may even boost next season's Ulster Rally and the Irish Tarmac championship as competitors seek an alternative avenue of action.

But the decision was the hot topic as this season's Todds Leap event was officially launched at glorious Castle Coole in Fermanagh with young Monaghan driver McKenna, currently leading the British series after his Scottish Rally victory at the weekend, the centre of attention.

McKenna, making the most of his season as Pirelli Star Driver award winner, now has a 20 point lead over Welshman Osian Pryce heading into what is effectively his home round of the series. If he can win in Fermanagh he will be well down the road to emulating Keith Cronin, the last Irish winner and a three-time champion.

"It is disappointing to hear there will be no championship next year but it only makes me more determined to make sure I win the title this season and the Ulster Rally could be the crucial round," said McKenna who also won the Jim Clark Rally.

The August 15/16 event is back in Ulster's Lakeland for a second year and clerk of the course Louis Boyd recalled the build-up to last season's rally, pointing out: "This time last year we were celebrating a win for Alistair Fisher and Gordon Noble at the Scottish Rally.

"This year they are returning from a fantastic second place in the Junior World Championship event in Poland and it's Daniel McKenna and Arthur Kierans who celebrate a Scottish victory to strengthen their lead of the British championship.

"We look forward to seeing them back home for what promises to be a very hard-fought rally," added Boyd who also paid tribute to Todds Leap Activity Centre and its managing director Benny O'Hanlon, supporting the event for a seventh consecutive year.

It is, of course, round five of the Irish Tarmac championship and his overall victory last year was instrumental in local hero Garry Jennings clinching the title for the first time.

He is out of the hunt this year after non-finishes on the Galway International and the Circuit of Ireland but Jennings is vowing to take the fight to current leader Declan Boyle, a triple winner already this season, and leading challenger Sam Moffett.

The two-day event includes 130 competitive miles over 15 stages in counties Fermanagh and Tyrone, starting at lunchtime on Friday, August 15 with a ceremonial start in Enniskillen town centre and finishing back at the same point on Saturday from 4pm.

This year will also see the return of the family friendly spectator stage and other attractions at the St Angelo Airport which doubles up as the central service park.

Rally HQ will be based at the Belmore Court Motel and the organisers expect 300 drivers and co-drivers, supported by over 600 service crew, to take part.

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