Jennings wins against the odds
A tin of Radweld, crossed fingers and a lot of nervous sweat helped Garry Jennings to claim a dramatic victory in the Todds Leap Ulster Rally.
A glance at the results shows that Jennings won the event by a margin of almost 90 seconds from 2010 winner Derek McGarrity, suggesting it was a routine victory.
The statistics, however, tell nothing of the trials and tribulations encountered by Jennings on his way to a home win in Fermanagh, as well as an increased lead in Irish Tarmac championship.
From the near horrific conditions of the rain-drenched first stage on Friday, where at one stage he was 20 seconds off the pace, to his tangles with a tyre barrier and fence on the spectator stage at St Angelo Airport to road penalties and late worries over a failing engine in his Subaru, Jennings was really put through the ringer.
McGarrity had led for the first four stages in his Ford Focus before Jennings got into his stride to edge in front at the overnight halt on Friday.
With Donegal International winner Sam Moffett and new Irish national champion Declan Boyle both making early exits, it then came down to a straight fight between Jennings and McGarrity. And when Jennings, from nearby Kesh, built up a lead of almost a minute on Saturday morning, he seemed to be home and dry.
But then, with four stages remaining, his Subaru began to misfire and victory was back in the balance.
After a thorough examination of Jennings' car the trouble was traced to water leaking into a cylinder in the newly-built engine.
Attempts to address the problem during a service break by rival McGarrity's DMG team – they were running both leading cars – cost him 30 seconds in road penalties, but nothing could be done.
"It seems the cylinder head had lifted a bit so there was nothing we could do except pour in a tin of Radweld to plug the leak and top up the water," explained Jennings.
"We turned down the power, kept the engine running all afternoon to keep the water circulating and crossed our fingers.
"Those last four stages were very nervy, but we got away with it," he added as the celebrations began alongside his co-driver Rory Kennedy, who chalked up his fourth Ulster Rally win, 22 years after his first with Bertie Fisher.
Meanwhile, 20-year-old Welshman Osian Pryce survived the carnage that was going on all around him to emerge as the youngest winner in the British championship for a decade with his victory in Rally NI, the two-wheel-drive division.
Alastair Fisher, whose hopes of becoming the first Ulster driver to win the British title rested on a strong home result, crashed out on only the third stage and he was followed soon afterwards by early leader Tom Cave.
The list continued to grow with Scot John MacCrone, Joe McGonigle, Desi Henry and Timothy Cathcart all crashing out along with local teenager Jon Armstrong, who was later chosen as the Pirelli Star Driver of the event for his head-turning first day performance.
Pryce kept his head to stay in front of championship leader Jukka Korhonen with Ulsterman Mark Donnelly staging a late fightback to take third place, his best result of the season, in an all-Citroen top three. Another Irish driver, Daniel McKenna, was the winner in the R2 category as he finished in fifth place in his Ford Fiesta.
The Northern Ireland championship section of the rally was won by Derek McGeehan in his WRC Mini with Frank Kelly 24 seconds behind in his Ford Escort.
The historic rally was won by Omagh's Ryan Barrett in a Ford Escort.
Ulster Rally: 1 Garry Jennings/Rory Kennedy (Subaru Impreza) 1 hr 59 mins 42.8 secs; 2 Derek McGarrity/James McKee (Ford Focus) + 1 min 18.7 secs; 3 Donagh Kelly/Kevin Flanagan (Focus) + 2 mins 29.8 secs; 4 Josh Moffett/John Rowan (Mitsubishi Lancer) + 8 mins 09.8 secs; 5 Stephen Wright/Suzanne Wright (Lancer) + 10 mins 24.2 secs; 6 William Mavitty/Andrew Brown (Lancer) + 14 mins 26.7 secs. Rally NI: 1 Osian Pryce/Dale Furniss (Citroen DS3) 2 hrs 05 mins 36.7 secs; 2 Jukka Korhonen/Marko Salminen (DS3) + 50.9 secs; 3 Mark Donnelly/Dai Roberts (DS3) + 1 min 38.7 secs; 4 Jonny Greer/Jonny Hart (DS3) + 2 mins 50.3 secs; 5 Daniel McKenna/Arthur Kierans (Ford Fiesta) + 2 mins 58.7 secs; 6 Callum Black/James Morgan (DS3) + 3 mins 27.2 secs.