Jennings Back to Winning Ways at Sperrins Rally!
Garry Jennings and Rory Kennedy sealed victory at today’s ‘Go’ Tour of the Sperrins Rally, round four of the McGrady Insurance Motorsport UK Northern Ireland Rally Championship!
Organised by Magherafelt and District Motor Club, Jennings eventually arrived home victorious in his Ford Fiesta R5 by five seconds after a day-long battle over six closed road stages with the Citroen C3 belonging to Jonny Greer and Niall Burns.
It was reigning champion Greer who was quickest out of the blocks in his Citroen. He emerged from the opening stage with a 1.4s lead over Jennings but that was to be his only fastest time of the day. Instead, Jennings started to reel his rival in on stage two, clawing back slender amounts of time before moving to the head of the leaderboard after the third stage.
By the time crews reached service in Magherafelt, Jennings was the new rally leader after two fastest times saw him power in front by 1.9s. Over the final loop of three stages, Greer hoped to retake the advantage but it wasn’t to be. It was Jennings who had the edge and by the end of the six-stage event, he had done enough to secure his first rally win in over four years.
“It was good to be fighting with the other crews,” Jennings said. “We wanted to be on the pace and fair play to them, they never gave up!”
Navigator Rory Kennedy added: “It’s great to get back on the podium again. We’ve been struggling for a few years.”
Jonny Greer and Niall Burns had to settle for second position on this occasion but that was enough to secure maximum championship points. Jennings is not registered for the series so a maximum score for Greer eases a little bit of pressure off the Carryduff man’s shoulders after his retirement from last month’s third round.
“I thought we might have been able to catch Garry in the afternoon,” Greer said, “but he seemed to have been able to find another gear. He had the edge on us today but we kept it clean so I’m happy enough.”
In third overall, Desi Henry’s day was thwarted by a bad tyre choice for the morning loop of stages. He was expecting a little rain but the rain failed to transpire, leaving the Portglenone driver struggling to find enough grip with his softer compound tyres. He changed his tyres at service but the damage had been done. Jennings and Greer had already raced ahead, leaving Henry and navigator Paddy Robinson to settle for third.
“We lost the rally on the first loop with a wrong tyre choice but we really enjoyed the day,” Henry said. “It was a fantastic event and the stages were brilliant.”
The battle for fourth raged all day between Jason Mitchell, Jason Dickson and Gareth Sayers. Mitchell and Paddy McCrudden held the position after the opening stage before dropping behind both Dickson and Sayers. It looked as though Dickson was on course to seal the spot but Mitchell entered the final loop of stages with a renewed determination. He took chunks of time out of his rivals, moving in front of Sayers before overhauling Dickson on the final stage.
“We’re going in the right direction now!” Mitchell said. “We did a lot of testing and we’ve made a big step forward. The car is really starting to become more driveable.”
Dickson and navigator Martin Brady were happy with fifth overall on what was their first closed-road event in the Fiesta R5. They reckoned they had a soft tyre on the final stage but they didn’t lose as much time as sixth-placed Sayers who spun and had to reverse during the fifth test. It wasn’t all bad news though as Sayers and Gareth Gilchrist were content with having achieved their aim of picking up valuable championship points.
Ian Dickson and Kenny Bustard claimed seventh in their Fiesta while Martin Cairns and Peter Ward completed the top eight, also in a Fiesta. Outside the top 10, championship hopeful Derek McGarrity had a difficult day in his Polo. He struggled with handling problems throughout the event and eventually finished 15th overall.
In the two-wheel-drive category, it looked as though David Bogie was on course for the win in his freshly built Escort MkII. After the first loop, he led Declan McNaughton and Mark Henry by six seconds. Then McNaughton hit trouble on stage four, losing nearly 20 seconds.
Suddenly, Bogie's advantage had extended to 17 seconds over Camillus Bradley but the Scot's hopes of a debut win for the new car were soon dashed when a mechanical issue sidelined the Escort. That let Bradley and navigator Crawford Henderson into the lead by 3.9s from Frank and Lauren Kelly. However, the Kellys had other ideas and pulled out all the stops on the final stage to secure a last gasp category win!
“It’s great to get back into the groove again,” Kelly said. “It was a great day’s rallying.”
Camillus Bradley and Crawford Henderson had to settle for second while Alexander Cochrane and Connor Dunlop completed the top three ahead of Declan McNaughton and Mark Henry.
Competitors now enjoy a two-month break before the final round of the McGrady Insurance Motorsport UK Northern Ireland Rally Championship takes place with the Down Rally on 22 July. For more information, visit nirallychampionship.com.
Go Tour of the Sperrins Results (Top 10)
1 Garry Jennings/Rory Kennedy (Ford Fiesta) 39m46.3s
2 Jonny Greer/Niall Burns (Citroen C3) +5.0s
3 Desi Henry/Paddy Robinson (Citroen C3) +19.2s
4 Jason Mitchell/Paddy McCrudden (VW Polo GTi) +1m32.2s
5 Jason Dickson/Martin Brady (Ford Fiesta) +1m34.2s
6 Gareth Sayers/Gareth Gilchrist (Ford Fiesta) +2m09.9s
7 Ian Dickson/Kenny Bustard (Ford Fiesta) +2m42.0s
8 Martin Cairns/Peter Ward (Ford Fiesta) +2m42.4s
9 Frank Kelly/Lauren Kelly (Ford Escort MkII) +3m01.5s
10 Camillus Bradley/Crawford Henderson (Ford Escort MkII) +3m03.0s
Full results are available from rallyscore.net.
Photo caption: Event winners Garry Jennings and Rory Kennedy in their Ford Fiesta R5. (Image: David Harrigan).