Daniel McKenna has been crowned the 2014 MSA British Rally Champion after overcoming Osian Pryce in a drama-filled final double-header on the Rally Isle of Man.
The Irishman, co-driven by Arthur Kierans, had looked like he’d lost his chance at glory after he rolled his Citroen DS3 R3 on Friday afternoon towards the end of the opening round.
A great turnaround by the DGM Sport team got the Pirelli Star Driver back in action though and a bent suspension for Pryce on the final day gave McKenna the title with his fourth round win of the season.
Pryce had taken the victory in the first event, but only another victory in the final round would have allowed him to wrestle the title from McKenna’s grasp.
In the end, McKenna took the honours by 11 points, becoming the third-ever Irish BRC champion at the end of a difficult season for the series, which is going to take a sabbatical next year.
“It’s unbelievable and still hasn’t sunk in yet,” said the champion. “We left no stone unturned in our preparations for this event. It is especially significant that it is 40 years since the first Irishman won the BRC and we won his (Billy Coleman) award on our way to this title.
“After we crashed I thought it was all over and it is thanks to the lads at DGM that we managed to get back in the hunt for the title. I’ve got to offer a massive thanks to Pirelli for this opportunity and hopefully it repays their faith in me.”
The Isle of Man event started with an emotional moment of silence at the ceremonial start for Timothy Cathcart, who lost his life on the Ulster Rally in August.
The competitive action began with side-by-side rallying during the spectator superspecial on Douglas’ promenade, which led onto three stages into the Thursday night which McKenna emerged from with a 5.3 second lead to take into Friday morning.
The drama started straight from the off on day two, with McKenna suffering a puncture on SS5 which gave Pryce a 17 second lead. That gap had increased by a further two seconds when on SS9, McKenna rolled his DS3 into a field.
While that left McKenna with a race against time to get the car repaired in time for round six that evening, Pryce had a lucky escape himself after stopping for three minutes in the same stage, only for it to be cancelled for the roll and the times canned.
Pryce had stopped to repair a broken fuel tank guard, and drove carefully for the next two stages to bring his DS3 home for the round five win, closing him to within two points of McKenna at the head of the standings.
In the battle for the BRC RallyTwo class, there was early drama as the leader heading into the event Dean Raftery rolled out of SS2 in his Ford Fiesta R2.
While chief rival Calvin Beattie benefitted to take the class win in his Fiesta, Raftery returned under SuperRally rules to limit the damage in the points.
The BRC3 and MSA British Junior Rally Championship titles were settled before a wheel was turned meanwhile. With Gus Greensmith the only entrant for either class to make the trip to the Island, the 17 year old was confirmed double champion.
The sixth and final BRC entrant for the weekend was Chris Wheeler, however an accident on SS4 left him needing a trip to hospital, with a cracked knee meaning he didn’t complete the remainder of the event.
The final round of the season carried with it a 50% points bonus, and started at 6.30 on Friday evening with six stages that took the field well into the night, a grand spectacle to kick off the season closer.
After the first loop of three stages, Pryce led McKenna by 1.9 seconds, but it could have been more were it not for a puncture on SS14 that cost Pryce around eight seconds.
It was to get worse on the next stage for him though, as he hit a bale and then a kerb, causing damage to the rear of his DS3 that left him unable to complete the remaining stages that night.
“The rear beam was badly bent, so we only just managed to get out of the stage, but it was practically un-driveable,” he explained.
With Pryce restarting on Saturday morning with a big time penalty under SuperRally rules, McKenna knew he just needed to reach the finish without any more troubles to take the championship.
The Irishman had struggled to get into his rhythm after his earlier roll, and went on to back off considerably in the final seven stages, with no further problems meaning he reached the finish at the Isle of Man TT Grandstand to secure the event win and the title.
Pryce meanwhile was left to rue the mistake that he feels cost him the title, commenting on Facebook: “I ended up dropping a clanger and hitting a kerb, ruining my championship hopes. There’s so many people I’d like to thank for giving me this great opportunity, and secondly I apologise to every single one of you for throwing it away!”
In the BRC RallyTwo battle, Raftery was able to get his Fiesta repaired in time for the start after his earlier roll, and after three stages he had a lead of over thirty seconds from Beattie that he wouldn’t relinquish.
Raftery’s dominant round six win earns him several titles, adding the BRC2 Class, Ford Fiesta SportTrophy and Ravenol Oils Newcomers Award honours to his BRC RallyTwo crown.
Newly crowned British Junior champion Greensmith had a chaotic end to the event, contact with a bale on SS21 causing a broken windscreen, but he was able to get it fixed and took the finish to cap off his celebratory weekend.
Alongside his overall title, McKenna also sealed the Citroen Racing Trophy and BRC Asphalt Cup, with Pryce taking the BRC Gravel Cup. Those two, plus Raftery and Greensmith, also earned free entries to this year’s Wales Rally GB thanks to the Road to Wales initiative.
The NGK Spark Plugs BRC Challenge also went down to the final rounds of the season, with Richard Sykes and Ross Hunter battling it out.
The duo had a close fight on the opening round until a 100mph accident for Sykes on the penultimate stage fortunately ended with his Citroen C2 facing the right way up in a ditch.
That gave Hunter the Round 5 win, and he doubled up in Round 6 when Sykes hit trouble again with a broken driveshaft on SS16, though Hunter nearly threw it away himself with a spin into a bank on SS21.
The Peugeot 205 pilot got to the finish though for the decisive win, taking the title by just four points after sharing three wins apiece with Sykes over the season, earning himself an entry into the national section of Wales Rally GB in November.