ARA points leader Barry McKenna is looking to gain experience on his WRC debut this weekend on Rally México as he wades into a hotly-contested WRC 3 category.
McKenna has chosen México for his World Championship debut as he believes the stages should be suited to him, but he hasn’t ruled out contesting further WRC rounds later this season.
“I wanted to do a few WRC rounds and I prefer gravel over Tarmac so I figured Rally México would be the most suited to me,” he told DirtFish.
“I’ve done a few gravel rallies in North America and WRC México has some similarities to the rallies in the USA.
“We will see how I finish up in this one but definitely [it] has been playing in my head to get more [WRC events] done. Right now I’m committing to the ARA championship and with family and work it’s one championship or another.”
McKenna currently leads the ARA after securing a commanding five and a half minute victory over Piotr Fetela on the Sno* Drift Rally in January. Then he used a Ford Fiesta R5 but for México he has switched to a brand-new Škoda Fabia R5.
“I’ve always liked the look of them and [I] was at a stage where I wanted to try something different,” McKenna said.
“And from the small amount of testing I’ve done the car feels really good and [I’m] happy to start the rally in it.
“[I] would have definitely preferred to get a smaller rally done in the Škoda before this one just to try and gauge myself but unfortunately the limited amount of gravel rallies over the winter didn’t allow that.
“By the end of this weekend I will know [more] and hopefully I’ll still like the car.”
McKenna is a highly-seasoned competitor and has made his name in the USA competing in the ARA. Last year he beat Oliver Solberg to the runner-up spot behind eventual champion David Higgins.
The Irishman is no stranger to success back in his native country either, winning both the Jim Walsh Cork Forest Rally and the Grampian Stages Rally in Scotland in 2018. He also managed to fit in an impressive sixth place finish on the five-day Roger Albert Clark Rally last November around his ARA and work commitments.
But Rally México is set to be arguably McKenna’s toughest challenge yet as he lines up against the likes of Oliver Solberg, Kajetan Kajetanowicz, Marco Bulacia and home hero Benito Guerra in the WRC 3 class.
“[It’s] hard to say about strategy,” he said.
“All sense goes out the window when you get starting the first stage but [I’m] definitely looking to get experience of these stages and the only way to do that is [to] make sure I get to drive them all and not do anything silly.
“I would typically try for a podium in class but that’s definitely not going to happen here as I’m racing against the best in the world and know that I won’t be as competitive against them as I would like to be.
“But definitely [I] would like to set some decent stage times [throughout the rally].”