Following a convincing victory in the recent Killarney Rally of the Lakes, Garry Jennings and Neil Doherty now lead the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship outright in their Kumho-shod Subaru S12B. Having struggled to sixth place on the preceding Galway event, Jennings was naturally eager to make up points in Killarney but, not having rallied for three months, had absolutely no vision of winning what is regarded one of Europe’s top rallying challenges.
The competition was fierce too, with crews from as far afield as Sweden and the USA.
The man to beat, however, was the much more local Darragh O’Riordan, who had triumphed in the event for the last two years and was looking to become the first driver to achieve a hat-trick of victories on it since the legendary Bertie Fisher. By the end of day he was 7.3 seconds ahead of the smoothly-progressing Jennings, who was going well and had achieved the fastest time of all through stage four. By the end of Sunday’s first test O’Riordan had extended that lead to 25.4 seconds and it began to look as though he could well achieve his aim, but disaster struck on the second stage when he misjudged a righthander on Tim Healy Pass and slid off the road.
His rally was over, and Jennings found himself heading the leader board with a 48.4 second cushion to the second-placed Donagh Kelly.
Kelly’s place was already under threat though for, despite suffering steering problems with his Subaru following an early puncture, Derek McGarrity was busy setting a string of fastest stage times, and eventually overhauled Kelly to finish second to a delighted Jennings at the close. Another Kumho-shod pairing – Rory and James Byrne, Mitsubishi Evo 10 – came home in eighth place. The overall result means Jennings now leads the championship from McGarrity by 30 points to 26. The next round of the now finely poised series is the Donegal Rally Ireland, June 21-23. Said Kumho’s European Motorsport Manager Steve Thompson: “This was a superb performance by Garry and Neil on an event that’s notoriously tough on the crew, rally car and, of course, the tyres. We wish them all the very best in Donegal.”