Belfast Telegraph

Jennings is raring to go in top Birr line-up

 

By Sammy Hamill

A trio of former Tarmac champions head the line-up for Sunday's Birr Rally, the opening round of the Triton Showers Irish National Championship.

Declan Boyle, Donagh Kelly and Garry Jennings are taking their WRC cars to Nenagh as Irish rallying struggles under the weight of prohibitive insurance costs - costs which have seen a number of events cancelled, including the traditional season-opening Galway International.

Indeed, Birr was under threat until last weekend when a late surge of entries encouraged the organisers to go ahead.

Among them was Jennings, who is scheduled to make his first appearance since the Donegal International last June.

The Fermanagh driver had intended to return for the start of the Tarmac Championship in Galway, where he won last season, but when that was called off he opted to switch to the National series instead and will line-up at No.3 in his S12 Subaru behind the WRC Ford Fiesta of Boyle and the WRC Ford Focus of Kelly, both former Birr winners and National champions.

Roy White, the 2016 champion, starts at No.4 in his WRC Fiesta with Joe McGonigle set to make his Championship debut in a McGeehan Motorsport WRC Mini at five. He won the annual Turkey Run in his first test outing in the car.

Stephen Wright is the top-seeded R5 driver at No.6 in his Fiesta.

Meanwhile, Kris Meeke was fourth fastest in shakedown ahead of Rally Sweden, less than a second behind the quickest time set by Hyundai's Thierry Neuville. Citroen team-mate Craig Breen was eighth.

"At the start of the shakedown I wasn't feeling very confident, but I felt more comfortable on the second pass and in the end my time is fairly competitive," said the Ulsterman. "But we'll just wait for the first few stage times and see where we stand. The target is to be consistent and try to come away from Sweden with some more points."

Behind Neuville, Mads Ostberg, who is part of the Citroen team this weekend, was second fastest with World champion Sebastien Ogier third for Ford.

There was an impressive introduction to snow rallying for Ulster's British junior champion Callum Devine, who is making his debut in the World Junior series.

The young Derry driver was third fastest in the shakedown despite never having rallied on snow or on studded tyres before.

Fastest was the Championship favourite Emil Berqvist, a Swede, with Julius Tannert second, but Devine was only seconds behind.

Belfast Telegraph

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