Jennings targets victory to clinch Tarmac crown
Garry Jennings may be just a top five finish away from becoming Ireland's Tarmac rally champion, but he's aiming to end the season with a flourish.
The Ulster Rally winner has a 14-point lead over Donagh Kelly in the premier Irish series, a big enough cushion for a conservative approach to the final round, the Cork '20' International this weekend, but safety-first is not his plan for the Millstreet-based event.
"Yes, a place in the top five would be enough to win the championship, even if Donagh finishes first and takes all the bonus points on offer," said Jennings.
"But I think I can win the rally and that's what I intend to try and do.
"I've led all the rounds apart from Galway at the start of the year and I've won twice and would have had a third but for road penalties which I thought I got unfairly in Donegal. I think that shows I've been the quickest driver all year and I want to put the seal on it by winning in Cork."
With Derek McGarrity opting not to contest the final round and Donegal International winner Sam Moffett reverting back to his production Mitsubishi, only Kelly has a realistic shot at denying Jennings his first Tarmac title.
And although Kelly has still to win his first international, he goes to Cork on the back of victory in the Clare national rally, a clear sign he is getting to grips with the Ford Focus he switched to. However, the man most likely to stand in the way of either a Jennings or Kelly victory is Daragh O'Riordan, who will be on home ground and has dominated this rally for the past two years.
He has struggled since selling his winning Subaru and bringing the first WRC Ford Fiesta to Ireland, but he did lead Jennings on the Rally of the Lakes, only to crash out, and is a formidable opponent in the Cork/Kerry region.
He can't affect Jennings position at the top of the standings, and the Kesh driver's real concern will centre on his S12 Subaru which only just struggled over the finish line of the Ulster Rally.
Despite running a freshly-built engine, it overheated when the head gasket leaked mid-rally – the second time it has happened this year – and although it has undergone a second re-build, it will be on Jennings' mind.