Oilman Garry Jennings eager to deliver at home rally
Garry Jennings' reign as Irish Tarmac rally champion will almost certainly come to an end this weekend but he has no intention of handing over the title without a fight. There may be little he can do to prevent Declan Boyle succeeding him as the premier Irish champion but Jennings has his sights set on beating him to the top of the Todds Leap Ulster Rally podium in Enniskillen on Saturday.
"The championship may be gone but it is important for me to win. This is my home rally in front of people who know me, not just as a rally driver but as the man who delivers their heating oil," says Jennings, who runs a Fermanagh-based fuel distribution business.
"If you watch the on-board videos from last year you can see me flashing the lights at spectators, not to warn them to get out of the way but to acknowledge I'd recognised them as some of my customers. It is amazing what you can see even when you are flat out down a special stage."
Those same spectators welcomed Jennings home as the Ulster winner last year en route to the Tarmac title. But this has been a lean and troubled season.
He had opportunities to win both the Galway International and the Circuit of Ireland National rallies but went off the road both times.
Jennings' Subaru was so badly damaged at Easter that he missed the next round in Killarney.
It has left him a distant fourth in the Tarmac standings, 41 points behind Boyle who needs little more than a solid finish this weekend to become champion for the first time, especially with second placed Sam Moffett absent and preparing to make his World championship debut in Germany.
"Declan has been great this year and deserves to become champion. He has been as quick if not quicker than everyone else and has won three times. He may be a good mate but I'm going to do my utmost to make sure he doesn't get win No.4 this weekend – not on my rally!" added Jennings.
Both, however, will be wary of a man who has done and won it all before – Eugene Donnelly.
He is also out of the title hunt after accidents in Galway and on the Circuit but he is a five-times champion and is just two Tarmac wins behind the all-time record holder, the late Fermanagh great Bertie Fisher.
He switches from a WRC Mini to McKinstry Motorsport's S14 Subaru, a car he drove to victory on the May Day Rally at St Angelo Airport – the venue for this weekend's spectator stages.
The rally, which also includes the penultimate round of the British championship, kicks off from Enniskillen shortly after noon tomorrow for 15 special stages stretching through until Saturday afternoon.