Name: Daniel Mc Kenna.
Address: Scotshouse, Clones, Co. Monaghan, Ireland.
First Rally: Cavan Stages Rally 2005
First Event: CMMC January Night Navigation Trial.
Ambitions: To become British Rally Champion, Secure a Works Seat in the IRC and Eventually Progress to the WRC.
I am currently living in Donegal town. I am a qualified Mechanical Engineer with an Honours Degree from Sligo IT. I have decided to continue my studies and I am now studying for a Masters of Science in Energy Management in Sligo I.T. I am currently taking a break from my Master’s Studies to concentrate on my rallying career. Most of my time is spent organising elements of my rallying but when I’m home in Monaghan I help my father with his business, Scanbitz Ltd. I am currently looking for a full time job but I am hopeful for a full time career in rallying as rallying is my passion.
Primarily, motorsport is my main hobby or interest and I compete in stages rallying, night navigation trials, autotests and autocross events across the season. Other than that I have a keen interest in rugby, football and snooker and keeping fit in the gym. I enjoy socialising with friends from home and college and motorsport colleagues. I also have a keen interest in music and I attend as many live gigs by my favourite artists as possible.
I am in a relationship for almost three years with my girlfriend Aisling whom I met in college. We are living together now and she is currently working in Donegal and gives me all the support I need in my motorsport pursuits.
My First Motorsport Memory?
My first memory of motorsport is being at a rain soaked Cork 20 in 1992. I went with my parents as my father’s cousin, P.J. Woods, was competing. Dad serviced and looked after the car for him which was an ex Kevin Barrett Mark 2 escort. PJ and my uncle Colin, who was his navigator, competed in the National
Championships for many years as well as International events. I remember P.J. had a small off and burst the radiator but managed to get back to service. A new radiator was fitted by Dad and we filled it with water from a flooded field by the roadside service as there was so much rain that weekend.
All of my early memories of rallying are from being all around the country with Dad and P.J Woods’ rally team.
How Did I Get Involved In Rallying?
My father has always been involved in motorsport since the 70’s. He started Stock Car racing in our local area with his friends. He also attended all the major rally events across the country such as the Donegal International. He occasionally reminisces of his fond memories of Ari Vatenan in Donegal in 1978 in his black RS 1800 and of Vincey Bonnar on the final stage through Letterkenny in 1983. He also recalls spectating at a junction in Galway when Austin McHale lost his Chevette HSR on braking and had to use the slip road where my father was standing. He swung the car on the handbrake as quick as he could, coming within inches of my father, and was away before anyone knew what happened. Immediately afterwards my father felt his leg getting damp. When McHale hand braked his car around he had brushed off my father’s leg bursting a can of coke in his pocket. It happened so fast my Dad didn’t even realise what had occurred. A close call!
As my father looked after P.J.’s car he sometimes had the opportunity to compete in it and this is how I got really interested in driving and competing.
The story so far!
In 1998, when I was 10, Dad was still involved in Stock Car racing and a Junior Section was introduced. We prepared a Toyota Corolla and I began competing, which continued for approximately three years. I gained a lot of skill on loose surface tracks and I really learned a lot about car control during these years. I thoroughly enjoyed this experience. It was really competitive as I was competing against 15 other guys my age all wanting to win. I advanced to the 1300cc class after 2 years in Juniors and upgraded to a Nissan Sunny. I finished with Stock Car racing in 2001.
In 2002 Dad and I decided to attempt a bigger challenge and started to compete in Night Navigation Rallies. We acquired a Volvo 340 as it was a rugged rear wheel drive car and we also borrowed Lorcan Kennedy’s Peugeot 205 GTI on occasion. We competed for two years in the National and Border navigation Championships with fairly good success in the Novice Class. At this time I began navigating for Garret Mc Cullagh in Local Stages rallies, which was great experience for me and I learned a lot about pace notes etc. I realised that making my own notes was the only way to gain the confidence to drive at ten tenths and that Descriptive Pacenotes suited me better than Numbers or any other type of notes.
I teamed up with Fintan Mc Gorman in the Night Navigation scene in 2004 and we competed in the National and Border Championships for a few years. I still navigate for Fintan occasionally. We have had good success with a number overall wins.
Over the Christmas period of 2003 Dad acquired a Mark 2 Escort shell and we decided to start building a rally car for Stages and Autocross events. Myself, Dad and my best friend Andrew Grennan began the project and Andrew agreed to navigate in the Stages. I first met Andrew in Secondary school when we struck up a conversation about rallying and we’ve been best friends ever since. Andrew is Fintan’s nephew and that’s how we began competing in Night Navigations together.
While we were building the Mark 2 I double drove Jim McKenna’s Starlet and some of Noel Lappin’s cars in Cavan Motor Club’s Latton Quarry Cross events in order to hone my skills as I could not start Stages events until I acquired a Driver’s Licence in 2005. We had the Mark 2 ready early in 2004 and I began driving the car in Latton Quarry and other Quarry and Rally Sprint Events all over the country.
By early 2005 we had the car well prepared and I really concentrated on the Junior Autocross Section in Latton Quarry and in other events. Myself and Andrew’s first Stage Event was the Cavan Stages rally in 2005. The car stopped half way through the first stage due to distributor problems. We managed to get it repaired but had lost a lot of time. However we were able to finish the event as Sweepers for the last six stages which was great experience. We then competed in the Monahan Forestry Rally. We managed to complete three stages this time before the distributor stopped us again. We then installed an electric ignition in the car to rectify the problem. The Northeast Mini Stages was our next event. It was our first finish but oil cooler trouble left us fifth in our Class. We then competed in the Castle Single Stages and were leading the Class until the gearbox got jammed in neutral and we were unable to finish. We had the car well set up at this stage and we started really enjoying events. I had good success in the Quarrycross Championship in 2005 but unfortunately not quite so good in Stages events.
I continued competing in Quarry and Sprint events regularly and I started having some success in Stages events also. Our first Class win came in January 2006 in the Castle Single Stage event in which we were setting top ten times. Next we won the Class in the Cavan Stages Rally despite having engine trouble along the way. In Sligo 2006 we were competing in the Junior Section and had a very bad accident, 90 mph sideways into a wall, which wrecked the car. We had to re-shell the car which took six months. In 2007 we competed in the full National and Border Championships in Class 10 with great success. We had quite a few Class wins but also a number of mechanical non finishes. We also competed in the Monaghan Forest rally and we were lying 6th o/a and top 2wd on only our second forest event. A fuel pump failure stopped us on the 3rd stage in the event and we went OTL, we got the car repaired and we did all of the stages without being classified.
We began building the new car for Class 12 in August of 2007. We realised that because of the speeds we were doing we needed a stronger and safer car. We launched the new car in Monahan 2008. We had great success with a Class win and 10th o/a. Then a Class win in Cavan and the Newry Mourne rally found us in a good position in the Border Championship. Then off to Sligo again where we were really going well, holding third o/a and setting third fastest times behind two WRC’s, when disaster struck on the penultimate stage. Another bad accident in which Andrew sustained a broken ankle and the car was completely wrecked. I lost the car on a fast jump and we hit a tree stump at about 100 mph. As a result we had to re-shell again. Same story – it took six months to rebuild the car for the 2009 season.
2009 saw us have a crack at the International Modified crown in the National section of the Galway International. A tough event with a lot of mechanical problems and an off losing 3 minutes, but we fought back, acquiring some fastest times, to win the class and finish 6th o/a.
I then had to take a break to finish my Honours Degree Thesis and my final exams and we missed our local events. Next was the Donegal International where we had a slipping clutch for the first three stages dropping lots of time. We were lying 14th o/a after the first day. We upped our pace on day two but I made some mistakes with over shoots. We ended the day 7th o/a and leading the Class. On the final day we put in some fastest times on wet stages to finish 5th o/a and win the Class. After this result DMMR stepped in with Class 13 and 14 engines with which we had mixed success. We were 2nd o/a in the Castle Stages Rally with the class 14 engine. We then hired Gareth McCullagh’s car as the class 13 engine wasn’t ready, in which we had our first overall win in the Monaghan Mini Stages rally. We got the DMMR Class 13 engine going for the Sligo Mini Stages in which myself and Ciaran Tynan took my next overall win. Ciaran was navigating as part of his wedding present from myself and Andrew. After this event we cut our ties with DMMR and we bought our own 2.5 Millington Diamond engine for the 2010 season.
2010 started well with overall victory in the Galway National Rally. Then to Birr for the first round of the National Championship where broke the gear linkage on the first stage dropping about 10 minutes. However we still managed to finish 19th o/a and 5th in Class and I got the Driver of the Rally award. Next was Mayo where we were going well, despite gearbox problems, holding 4th o/a. On stage 5 I was caught out with a shower on slicks and lost the car when braking into a chicane, clobbering a bale, which put us out of the rally. Monaghan next, our local event, and we had a point to prove after two bad events. We were 3rd fastest on the 1st stage and second fastest on the 2nd stage. Lying 2nd o/a I took a massive jump too fast on the 3rd stage breaking the back suspension and putting us out of the event. Cavan was next. We had fitted a new gearbox and we romped home 5th o/a and won the class comfortably. Next was our biggest challenge, the Donegal International Rally, where all of the top Mark 2 Escort drivers from Ireland and Britain would be competing, and we wanted to prove we could be the fastest. On Friday’s stages we were fastest on all the stages setting top times o/a and a third fastest time o/a behind the WRC’s of McHale and McNulty. Saturday we held our lead but we lost time at the scene of an accident. With only one stage of the rally left, due to a tragic accident which resulted in the remainder of the event being cancelled, we got a puncture and we dropped to 2nd o/a behind David Bogie in his 6R4.
We then decided we would hire a Group N car for the Ulster Rally in order to test our pace against the top BRC competitors and have a chance for a nomination for the Pirelli Star Driver Award. We hired the DJ rally Hire Evo 9. We surprised even ourselves as, for the first time in the car, we held 5th o/a ahead of a lot of BRC regulars after day 1. Unfortunately the event didn’t end well as I put the car off on the 2nd last stage while lying 7th o/a. I was very disappointed with myself. However, when I made it back into Service I discovered we had won the nomination for the PSD Shootout due to our good performance in the event. Needless to say I was absolutely delighted.
In order to give ourselves the best chance at winning the Shootout we decided to compete in a left hand drive Evo 9 for the Trakrod Rally. Again we surprised ourselves with our pace as it was our first time to drive a LHD, our first time to compete in England, our first time making notes on gravel and only our second time in a four wheel drive car. We finished 4th o/a and won class R4 which we were delighted with and it also give us a lot of hope for the PSD Shootout, which is our next event. So watch this space and I’ll let you know in my rally report.
Achievements So Far:
1999: Junior Stock Car Racing Champion.
2000: 1300cc Stock Car Racing Champion.
2002/03: Novice National Champion in Night Navigation. Overall Winner on 2 Navigation Trials.
2003/04: 3rd o/a in National Navigation Championship. Overall Winner on 2 Navigation Trials.
2005: Junior Latton Autocross Champion. 4tho/a in the Championship.
2006: Overall Champion in the Wheelkickers Loose Surface Championships. 1st Overall in round 3 of the championship.
Class 2 Latton Autocross Champion. Class 10 Winner in 3 Rallies in the Border Championship.
1st o/a in the Castle Motor Club Rally Sprint.
2007: 2nd in Class 10 in the National Championship.
1st in Class 10 in the Border Championship. 5 Class 10 wins throughout the Championships.
2008/09: Dominated Class 12 in the National and Border Championships with 7 class wins in selected events and top 5 finishes o/a.
2nd o/a in the Castle Stages Rally.
1st o/a in the Monaghan Mini Stages Rally.
1st o/a in the Sligo Mini Stages Rally.
2010: Dominated Class 14 with continuous fastest stage times and 2 Class wins.
1st o/a in the Galway National Rally.
Driver of the Rally Award in the Birr Stages Rally.
2nd o/a in the Donegal National Rally.
1st o/a in the Castle Stages Rally.
Nominated for the Pirelli Star Driver Shootout in Rally N.I.
4th o/a and 1st in Class R4 in the Trakrod Stages Rally.
Who Has Been Instrumental In My Success?
As can be seen, from the number of times his name has been mentioned above my father, Eamonn, has stuck by me through all the years with lots of support, enthusiasm and encouragement. My parents have financially supported my motorsport through our family business, Scanbitz Ltd., and have always allowed me compete in motorsport events provided I graduated from college.
Another instrumental figure to our success has to be Andrew Grennan. Not only is Andrew a fantastic navigator but he is also like a team manager. While I’m in college Andrew organises the car and everything else for all of the events from start to finish.
What is the best advice I have been given?
In 2004 Maurice Moffett gave me the best advice I have ever been given. “Tyres are the most important thing in rallying, they’re the only contact you have with the road for God’s sake”. Very wise words.
Also, Arthur Kierans recommended we should write our own pace notes as a lot of speed can be found that way and its good for helping to remember roads. This was definitely the case and great advice from Arthur.
Special thanks to all the guys who service for us and help us prepare the car, Fintan, Sean, Shane, Stephen and Damian. Also a special thanks to Bobby Sharkey. Bobby looks after the car for us from suspension set-up to engine building and everything in between. He does a great job. Also to DJ Rally Hire for their help and support in the Ulster Rally and leading up to the PSD Shootout. Also Clark Motorsport from whom we hired the car for the Trakrod Rally. And last but not least to my mother, Emily, who taught me to drive at the age of eight. Little did she know what she was starting.