Jennings eyeing special Donegal success
Ask Garry Jennings what it means to win the Joule Donegal International Rally and he will cite the words of Donagh Kelly, the reigning Irish Tarmac champion.
"Donagh was asked that question last year and he said he would trade all his past victories just to win in Donegal," remembers Jennings who lines up in Letterkenny tomorrow as the defending champion.
It was a bold statement by Kelly who is also Irish National champion with a string of successes behind him including the Galway International, Rally of the Lakes, the West Cork Rally and the Ulster International.
Missing from his CV, however, is Donegal, his home round of the Tarmac series, and a rally which means more to the likes of Kelly, Jennings and Declan Boyle than any other.
Tarmac champions all, they build their season around the three-day duel in June with the winner enjoying the bragging rights for the next 12 months.
"It is the most important rally of the year for us," says Jennings. "We all have Donegal connections so it is like a derby fixture and the crowds, the atmosphere, just make it a special event. And it is also probably the hardest of all the Tarmac rounds to win."
Jennings has done it twice, Boyle once, but it has remained out of reach for Kelly who says: "To win would be the ultimate achievement in 20 years of rallying and my plan is simple - to go like mad from the start. Finishing second isn't in the game plan."
It is not in Jennings' game plan either but he knows more than most that keeping mistakes to the minimum could be the key after he crashed while leading the Rally of the Lakes last month. His Subaru re-built, he bounced back with a confidence-boosting win on the Mourne Rally at the weekend.
"It was just what I needed, a good clean run and a chance to make sure everything was right with the car," he says. "Now let the battle begin…"
It all kicks off at noon tomorrow with Jennings at the head of a capacity field which also includes the championship challenging R5 cars.