Jennings claims redemption with stunning victory
Victorious Garry Jennings said he felt the Joule Donegal International Rally owed him another win.
Having won in 2012 he had a second victory within his grasp a year later until hit with a contentious road penalty which dropped him back to third. He was third again in 2014 on his return after a big Circuit of Ireland accident.
This, he says, is the rally that means most to him so imagine the former Irish Tarmac champion's joy last night as he drove his Go Subaru Impreza onto the finish ramp in Letterkenny, the clear winner for a second time. And having Rory Kennedy alongside him made it all the more special.
Kennedy is the all-time most successful co-driver in the history of the championship, mostly partnering the late Bertie Fisher, but it is exactly 20 years since he last won his home rally.
They began yesterday's final leg of two runs over the classic High Glen, Atlantic Drive and Fanad stages with a comfortable 48 second lead but did Jennings go on the defensive? No chance. He attacked, setting four fastest times in a row to stretch his advantage by a further 26 seconds before finally easing back
It left him with a clear winning margin of a minute and seven seconds over last year's champions Declan and Brian Boyle with Donagh Kelly and Kevin Flanagan a similar distance back in third.
The picture had been very different during the first leg on Friday with Jennings and Tarmac championship leader Kelly, who had been unbeaten this season, scrapping over every second. Jennings led but by less than four seconds.
Things started to go wrong for Kelly on the first Saturday stage when he clipped a bank, damaging the rear suspension of his Ford Focus and dropping 16 seconds to Jennings.
Worse was to follow two stages later when he hit a rock, damaging a front wheel and losing a further minute, slipping back to third.
His troubles also affected Boyle who, although he moved up to second on his debut drive in his new M-Sport Ford Fiesta, reckoned he lost "several seconds" trying to find a way past the struggling Focus. It all left Jennings in the clear and he never looked back, powering the red Subaru to a totally deserved victory.
Derek McGarrity, who had lost touch with the battle at the front when his Subaru sheared a brake pipe on Friday, finished strongly with two fastest times to hold off Seamus Leonard's McKinstry Motorsport Impreza for fourth. Daragh O'Riordan rounded out the top six in his Fiesta.
Manus Kelly won the national section of the rally in his Ford Escort having moved to the front after early leader Declan Gallagher crashed off the road in his Toyota Starlet on the final Friday stage.
The last stage yesterday claimed Adrian Hetherington, promoting the Escorts of Frank Kelly and Paul Reid to second and third.