Desi Henry aiming to bring forest form onto Derry roads for Ulster Rally
Sliding through dusty forests may not seem ideal preparation for the fast tarmac roads of this weekend's Ulster Rally but nothing boosts confidence like winning and Desi Henry will head into his home round of the British championship buoyed by another victory.
The Portglenone driver made the calculated decision to head south for Sunday's Cork Forestry Stages despite it being so close to the John Mulholland Motors Ulster Rally, which starts from Londonderry on Friday. But it paid off with a comprehensive win, Henry leading from start to finish in his R5 Skoda Fabia.
It was his second win of the Irish forest series this season to go alongside his first cross-channel victory in the Carlisle Stages, another gravel rally, back in June. That performance set him up for his first podium finish in the British championship, third place behind Elfyn Evans and Tom Cave on the Scottish Rally, and saw him produce the most telling comment of the season so far.
He said: "It is a privilege to be on the podium with Elfyn Evans. He's a World championship driver and I'm just a builder."
But Henry went on to build on his growing reputation by finishing third again on the next round of the BRC, the Nicky Grist Stages, in Wales where the men on the podium with him were Welshman Evans and Cave.
Evans is indeed a World championship professional, currently leading the WRC2 category after a two-year run in the main M Sport Ford team where he was competing against the likes of Sebastien Ogier and Kris Meeke. He has returned to his roots to contest the British series with the DMACK Ford team, winning three times and leading the standings.
He sets the standard for privateers like Henry and the Irish contingent including Alastair Fisher, Keith Cronin, the Moffett brothers and Marty McCormack, who line up against him in Derry on Friday (1pm start).
Now Henry's aim is to carry his forestry form onto tarmac after he and the Skoda struggled initially, retiring from the tarmac rounds in Galway, the West Cork Rally and the Circuit of Ireland, but he has clearly found his feet on gravel.