It was the fulfilment of his rallying dream when Garry Jennings won the Donegal International last year.
Living just across the border in Fermanagh, Donegal has always been a special place for him — the camaraderie of the people (he’s married to a Donegal girl), the convivial atmosphere, the scenic beauty and, of course the rally. It was the one he wanted to win more than any other.
Jennings was understandably elated when it came out of the blue 12 months ago, few feeling he could step straight up from production Mitsubishis into a hired S14 Subaru WRC and be instantly competitive. But he and co-driver Neil Doherty were on the pace from get-go and stayed ahead from the first stage to the last.
But such was his focus on this rally, for a time afterwards he felt he had nothing more he wanted to achieve. Yes, he went on to finish runner-up in the Irish Tarmac championship but now admits he lost his motivation for a time.
“I was on such a high I felt I had nothing left to fight for,” he said.
But a year on, that has all changed.
Now armed with his own S12 Subaru in which he won the Rally of the Lakes last month, Jennings is fired up and ready to fight hard again, not just for a second Donegal win but the premier Tarmac title, too.
“I was a bit of an outsider last year but it is different this time,” he said. “I’m No.1 and I’m leading the Tarmac series so there is extra pressure.
“But I’m not going to Donegal to finish second or third.
“I’m going there to win and I think I can carry on and win the Tarmac series as well.”
With his mojo firmly back in place, no one will underestimate Jennings this year.
He has moved on from his days as the best production car driver in the country to become an established contender for outright victory on all the top Irish rallies, Donegal especially.
However, he knows as well as anyone this is the hardest, the longest, the most demanding of all the internationals and it will take a supreme effort — and luck — to come out on top at the end of the three days which start from Letterkenny tomorrow morning.
He leads a 170-strong strong field which includes the reigning Tarmac champion Darren Gass and Irish national championship leader Declan Boyle, also in Subarus, Derek McGarrity and Donagh Kelly, who have both switched to Ford Focuses, and Daragh O’Ri
ordan in his stunning little WRC Ford Fiesta. There are wild cards too, like current production champion Sam Moffett who will try to emulate Jennings by stepping up to McKinstry Motorsport’s S14 Impreza as well as an appearance by World S2000 champion Craig Breen who goes back in time to drive a Ford Escort.
It all kicks off from An Grianan Theatre in Letterkenny from 11.15am.
Top of the Donegal entry list: 1 Garry Jennings (Subaru Impreza), 2 Declan Boyle (Subaru Impreza), 3 Derek McGarrity (Ford Focus), 4 Daragh O’Riordan (Ford Fiesta), 5 Darren Gass (Subaru Impreza), 6 Donagh Kelly (Ford Focus), 7 Seamus Leonard (Subaru Impreza), 8 Sam Moffett (Subaru Impreza), 9 Josh Moffett John Rowan (Mitsubishi Evo), 10 Martin Doherty (Mitsubishi Evo), 11 Craig Breen (Ford Escort), 12 John O’Donnell (Subaru Impreza), 14 Stephen Wright (Mitsubishi Evo), 15 Shane Maguire (Subaru Impreza).