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Declan set to lead Ken around the ‘Block’ in new car

DECLAN McCrory admits he might have put himself under some unnecessary pressure ahead of the Donegal International Rally, which gets underway today.

When the seedings were announced, the Clady man was given number 42, just ahead of American ‘Hoonigan’ Ken Block, as he was going to be competing in his Subaru Impreza S12.

However, since then, he has managed to get hold of an S12B Impreza, which has quite the back story.

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Built in 2006, this particular Subaru started life in the hands of 2003 World Rally Champion Petter Solberg, who drove it to a stage win at Rally Ireland in 2007.

Australian driver, Chris Atkinson then took the wheel, and drove it to its first two WRC podium finishes in Mexico and Argentina, before the car moved on to France, Belgium, Hungary and eventually Ireland.

“There’s a lot of expectation with this car, so at least there’s no pressure!,” Declan joked.

“It was the last works car that was built and it was the last one that Petter Solberg drove and it’s the same as the one Manus Kelly won it in last year and the year before that.

“It’s a works car, with loads of history, the last one that the Subaru WRC team owned.

“The car has been completely built from Melvyn Evans Motorsport, who are the guys that run Mannus Kelly’s car that won the event the last three years, so it’s coming from a good stable.

“It’s mental to be getting to drive this car, because it held a stage record in the WRC for 10 years and that was only broken recently.”

Obviously Declan, who will have Stephen O’Hanlon on the notes, has the tools for the job this weekend, but he should also have a good gauge as to how he’s doing, with Block just behind him on the road.

As well as being an internet sensation thanks to his ‘Hoonigan’ Gymkhana videos, he is also an accomplished rally driver, so should provide McCrory with an clue of his own progress.

“We’ve got Ken Block in behind us, so I’m thinking myself there will be loads of publicity if he’s behind us, assuming he can keep up!,” he quipped.

“It’ll be interesting to see where he’s at but I suppose I’ll know things are going well if I don’t see him!”

Another local driver keen to make a mark at the weekend is Aidan Wray, who is determined to retain his Group N crown.

However, having only done one rally in the last eight months, he knows he faces a tough task.

“I did Cavan a few weeks ago because you have to get ready for Donegal,” he explained.

“I’m looking forward to it but three days is tough on the driver, navigator and the car, it’s tight going, but we’ll be hoping for a finish and we’ll be doing our best to achieve that.

“To be honest, everyone goes to win and I’d like to get the same result as last year when we won Group N and were eighth overall, which would be nice.”

Like McCrory, Wray is delighted to see Block entered for Donegal, seeing the Ford Escort Cosworth driver as only a positive due to his legions of fans.

“It’s brilliant to see it because it will bring the crowds,” he said. “The rally gets crowds anyway, but it will bring more and it will bring people who might not be interested in rallying, so it’s for the better.”

Other local drivers also competing over the weekend include William Vance, Donemana’s Niall Devine and Alistair Glenn, from Lifford.

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