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Garry Jennings chases a special success

By Sammy Hamill

Published 18/06/2015

Big target: Garry Jennings is aiming to repeat his 2012 success
Big target: Garry Jennings is aiming to repeat his 2012 success

Garry Jennings will tell you it was the best moment of his rally career. Winning the Donegal International in 2012 surpassed everything else he has achieved including being crowned Irish Tarmac champion a year later.

For Jennings and so many other drivers Donegal is a special rally.

Longer, tougher and with a warm holiday atmosphere it is the most popular on the Irish calendar, so much so that even getting on the list of reserve starters can be difficult.

It is even more special for those with a Donegal connection, like Declan Boyle and his cousin Brian who, last June, were the first crew from the county to win in over 30 years.

Jennings' connection is more tenuous but important to him nonetheless. From Kesh, he is married to a Donegal girl, Kerry, and his oil distribution business extends across the border from Fermanagh.

That he added his name to a winners' list that includes a who's who of Irish rallying, from Cahal Curley and Billy Coleman to Bertie Fisher and Austin MacHale, not to mention World champions Ari Vatanen and Sebastien Loeb, meant everything to Jennings.

"It is just such a special rally, the one I wanted to win more than any other," he said.

Which is why Garry admits it has niggled just a bit that he hasn't been able to repeat his 2012 success.

He famously led again the following year only to have victory snatched away with a contentious road penalty for leaving a service area early.

Then last year a subdued Jennings, returning after a major crash on the Circuit of Ireland, could never get to grips with the pace of home favourite Boyle who swept all before him in a Tarmac and National championship winning season.

The situation has changed since then with Boyle abandoning his Subaru after a string of problems in favour of a new evolution M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC which he only got his hands on last weekend.

Crucially, it is a left-hand-drive, a configuration he has never used in competition before.

Now it is another Donegal driver, Donagh Kelly in his Ford Focus, who is carrying all before him.

He is unbeaten this season and is on course to emulate Boyle with a Tarmac/National double. Clearly he is the man to beat but, to date, he hasn't come close to a home win, a distant second to Sam Moffett after Jennings' penalty in 2013 his best finish.

Will he deny Jennings a second victory?

Three tough days through the Donegal hills, starting from Letterkenny tomorrow (12 noon), will tell the tale and make someone's dream come true.

Top of the 150 strong entry list: 1 Declan Boyle/Brian Boyle (Ford Fiesta); 2 Donagh Kelly/Kevin Flanagan (Ford Focus); 3 Garry Jennings/Rory Kennedy (Subaru Impreza); 4 Derek McGarrity/Diarmuid Falvey (Subaru Impreza); 5 Darragh O Riordan/Tony McDaid (Ford Fiesta); Seamus Leonard/John McCafferty (Subaru Impreza); 7 PJ McDermott/Niall Burns (Subaru Impreza); Stephen Wright/Mikie Galvin (Ford Fiesta); 9 Martin Doherty/Conor Foley (Mitsubishi Lancer); 10 Tommy Doyle/Eamon Hayes (Skoda Fabia).

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