Daniel McKenna is set to make a surprise rallying comeback on the Donegal Harvest Rally. The 2014 British Rally Champion will drive a modified Ford Escort Mk2 which features several new pieces of technology.
Speaking to Kevin Glendinning in part two of his Krunching Gears interview, which will be released on Thursday, McKenna explained the details inside his Escort.
“We are going to give it a go anyway to see what happens,” said McKenna. “We said we would put a few new gizmos on the car with Raymond Moore.
“We’re trying out a new 3MO gearbox, a new XAP electric actuator, new AP brakes that are basically R5 brakes, and we’re going to try a set of Ohlin dampers from Philip Case as well.
“There is a lot of development which also means a lot of headaches as well unfortunately.”
While the build by Bobby Sharkey has been a long-term project McKenna admitted during the interview, which was recorded earlier in September, the timeline for the Harvest is getting tighter than they hoped.
“We’re in the final throes of it now, we have Ciaran Rushe wiring the car at the minute, and we’re trying to get it over the line.
“The rally is in two weeks time and the wiring loom still has to go into her.
“I promised myself I would never be last minute but I also knew that if we don’t pick a date or a goal it would never be done.”
It has been six years since the 2012 Billy Coleman Award winner’s last rally – Skibbereen’s Fastnet Rally. It was the last of three rallies McKenna entered in a Toyota GT86.
On the podcast, McKenna also talks about how he ended up working for M-Sport, driving a lorry for the world rally team.
The Monaghan native has since moved back to Ireland to work in Donegal but it was by chance his notion to rally an Escort again came about.
“I got a wee bit of a graw back [to rallying] whenever Andrew [Grennan] and Adrian Hetherington were doing the RAC Rally in 2017. A lot of the rally was based up around Carlisle, close to where I was.
“It just so happened that I was home that week and I gave them a hand. I remember the stages up around Dumfries and Galloway, we were doing the chase car and that was unreal.
“When you got the tyres checked and changed at the end of the stage you were able to go and watch. It was dark at that point and hearing them go off the start-line in the dark, it was just like being back in the seventies and eighties heyday.
“I came home [to Ireland] that Christmas, stripped the Escort which was lying in the shed, and it sat as a bare shell for another year before I got back to it again. It is all because of that RAC, that is the way to go now – back to the Escort and I don’t want to be taking it seriously anymore.
“From that point in 2017, I’m finally getting there four years later. I’m putting Bobby Sharkey through it again and as he says, ‘if this is your dream I wouldn’t like to see you nightmare.’”
Despite his BRC success and Junior WRC appearances, it is McKenna’s Mk2 Escort appearances that many remember best. His time away from modifieds will come full circle next weekend as his last time behind the wheel of an Escort was in Donegal seven years ago.
McKenna was fifth overall and leading two-wheel-drive on 2014’s Donegal International Rally before gearbox failure put him out of the rally at the start of the final day.
This year’s Donegal Harvest Rally consists of two stages each completed three times. It takes place on 3 October with the two stages based around Donegal Town.
Photos by Kevin Glendinning and Paul McIlroy