Belfast Telegraph

McKenna and Pryce set to battle it out for British title

By Sammy Hamill

Not so long ago it was one of the best competitions in the world but now the British rally championship is struggling to stay alive.

It begins today with the Pirelli International in the north of England after the first round in Wales was cancelled because of lack of entries.

There are only 20 taking part in the 'international' division of the Pirelli and only for add-on sections like the well-supported historic rally it too might have been axed.

Not surprisingly the UK Motor Sports Association is looking for a new promoter to breathe fresh life into a series that for years was the envy of Europe and saw drivers like Roger Clark, Hannu Mikkola, Stig Blomqvist, Colin McRae, Richard Burns and Ireland's Billy Coleman take the title.

But now even up-and-coming drivers are deserting it, heading instead to the World or European championships which offer better 'ladders of opportunity'.

Few of the major contenders from last year are returning. Drivers like 2013 champion Jukka Korhonen, Tom Cave, Alastair Fisher, Mark Donnelly and Jonny Greer are all absentees from an entry list which is headed by young Welshman Osian Pryce, winner of the Rally NI division of the Ulster Rally last year.

In fact Pryce, 21, won the final three rounds of the 2013 series and was named 'Driver of the Year'. He looks the clear favourite to take the title unless another Irishman, Daniel McKenna, can follow in the footsteps of Keith Cronin, the champion in 2009, '10 and '12.

McKenna was the R2 division champion last year and was rewarded with the Pirelli Star Driver prize of a Citroen DS3 for this season.

He demonstrated how quickly he has adapted to the new car with a stunning drive on the ERC Circuit of Ireland, finishing sixth overall and holding off Finn Korhonen who crashed in his attempts to keep up.

The line-up also includes promising Irish drivers like Tim Cathcart, now in a Citroen DS3, David Carney and Dean Raftery but Pryce and McKenna look to be several steps ahead of the rest.

The big historic entry list is headed by Castlerock doctor Dessie Nutt in his Porsche 911.

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