Garry Jennings eyes cool quadruple
Few have experienced the vagaries of rallying in recent months more than Garry Jennings. From the highs of a Galway Rally win to first stage retirement in the Donegal International, it has been a real rollercoaster ride in 2016.
In between, he won the Mayo and Mourne rallies but crashed while leading the Rally of the Lakes as his season soared up and down like a FTSE index.
And that Donegal disappointment also threatened to rule the former Tarmac champion out of an event he hates to miss, the Orchard Motorsport Lurgan Park Rally. But he has promised that his S12 Subaru Impreza will be on the start line tomorrow morning (10am) ready to challenge for a fourth straight win.
"The engine had been freshly built for Donegal but the mapping wasn't quite right and it resulted in two pistons melting on the first stage," he explained. "But that's rallying; these things happen.
"We had the engine straight back to England and the builders have pulled out all the stops to strip it down and get it re-built so I can be in the park. It was on the boat last night and my engineer, Johnny Crozier, and his team have a busy day ahead re-fitting it. I'm confident they'll have it ready in time."
Apart from seeking to become only the second driver to win more than three times in a row in the park, Jennings, always conscious of his commitment to those who support him, pointed out that his main sponsor, Go, are opening a new filling station in the area. "I didn't give them much of a show in Donegal so it is important I start," he added.
Jennings has dominated the rally for the past three years and is No.1 again in the 50-only entry list which sees the all-time Lurgan Park champion Kenny McKinstry - with 11 wins - at No.2 in his S14 Subaru with two more former Tarmac champions, Declan Boyle, who is making his park debut at No.3, and Derek McGarrity at four, both in WRC Ford Fiestas.
Derek McGeehan in his WRC Mini and Jonny Leonard in a Mitsubishi Lancer are also in a top 10 which includes the Subarus of former Northern Ireland champion Stuart Biggerstaff and Emma McKinstry, daughter of Kenny. Robert Woodside, in an R5 Ford Fiesta, could mix it up.
Ford Escorts are always a big feature of the event and their line-up is headed by drivers such as Frank Kelly, Damien Toner and Keith White while young Callum Devine, who finished in the top 10 of the Donegal International in his little Opel Adam, is back from the Ypres Rally.
With its compact format of eight special stages all within the confines of the park, easy access to the service area and entertainment, it has long been a popular family day out.
Top of the entry list: 1 Garry Jennings (Subaru Impreza); 2 Kenny McKinstry (Subaru Impreza); 3 Declan Boyle (Ford Fiesta); 4 Derek McGarrity (Ford Fiesta); 5 Derek McGeehan Smyth (Mini); 6 Jonny Leonard (Mitsubishi Lancer); 7 Pat O'Connell (Mitsubishi Lancer); 8 Stuart Biggerstaff (Subaru Impreza); 9 Ray Brammer (Subaru Impreza); 10 Emma McKinstry (Subaru Impreza).