Jennings takes a narrow advantage in early stages
Garry Jennings had his nose in front after the first leg of the Joule Donegal International Rally, squeezing out a four-second advantage over this year's Irish Tarmac championship leader Donagh Kelly.
Jennings, the winner in 2012, grabbed the lead in his Subaru on the first of yesterday's six stages but then Kelly, unbeaten this season in his Ford Focus, fought back to move three seconds ahead by the first service halt after stage three.
But with the weather changing and rain making the roads treacherous, Jennings capitalised on the slippery conditions to claw his way back in front as the crews returned to Letterkenny last night.
The front two had broken away from third-placed Declan Boyle although last year's winner was far from downbeat to be just 20 seconds off the lead as he adapted to his new M-Sport Ford Fiesta.
Derek McGarrity survived a heart-stopping moment when the brakes failed on his Subaru as he tried to slow for a chicane but he made it to service to have them repaired and was back into fifth place behind the similar S14 Impreza of Seamus Leonard at the end of the day.
Daragh O'Riordan in another WRC Fiesta completed the top six just ahead of the R5 Fiesta of Stephen Wright and the S2000 Skoda Fabia of Joe McGonigle.
Declan Gallagher led the national section until he crashed his Toyota Starlet on the final stage, handing the lead to Ford Escort driver Gary McPhillips.