Henry eager to thrill home fans by lifting Irish crown
It was just about the perfect birthday present for Desi Henry - another important haul of points in the Irish Forest Rally Championship and the lead in the series with one round to go.
He turned 27 on Sunday and celebrated by finishing second on the Limerick Forest Rally in his R5 Skoda Fabia to move to the top of the standings ahead of the final event, the Glens of Antrim Rally next month.
The RiverRidge Recycling-sponsored event is Portglenone man Henry's home round of the series and one he has won in the past, leaving him favourite to cap what has been an outstanding season by becoming Irish champion.
However, it didn't start out too well in Limerick with the Skoda suffering a puncture on the first stage which left Henry in fifth, over a minute behind the R5 Ford Fiesta of leader and reigning champion Josh Moffett.
Worse still, a stone from the flailing tyre severed the alternator belt forcing him to switch off all the electronics to save the battery. It meant a misted up windscreen for the following two stages with co-driver Liam Moynihan attempting to clear the fog with leaves tied to a stick.
"It was fairly hairy for a while and cost us any chance of challenging Josh for the win," said Henry (above). "I think it might have been a good battle but as it was he was able to control things from the front."
But, by the end of the six stages, Henry had clawed his way back to second, still just a minute behind Moffett, and took the points on offer for runner-up which moved him into a commanding position in the series, especially as nearest rivals Gerard Lucey and Michael Carbin failed to finish.
"We have made a quick calculation and it looks like a place somewhere in the top 10 on the last round would be good enough but I would like to think we can do better than that," he said.
It would be a fitting way to finish a season in which Henry scored three podium places in the British Championship in Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Man.
"We're just a small amateur team so to finish on the podium alongside professionals like Elfyn Evans and Mark Higgins was really satisfying," added Henry.
The November 5 Glens Rally will this year be based in Ballycastle and will feature a return to Slievenorra as well as the Beaghs and Ballypatrick forests.
Meanwhile, there was a dramatic end to the production category in the Northern Ireland Championship when Clive Kilpatrick crashed out on the final stage of the final round, the Down Rally, effectively handing the title to Colm McFall.
Alastair Cochrane, Alan Smyth and Drew Wylie were others who won their classes.