JENNINGS TAKES LURGAN PARK QUADRUPLE
Organiser: North Armagh Motor Club When: July 2 Where: Lurgan Park, County Armagh, Northern Ireland Stages: 8 Starters: 52
Fermanagh’s Garry Jennings scored a fourth win in a row on last Saturday’s Orchard Motorsport Lurgan Park Rally in his repaired Subaru Impreza S12 WRC.
Banbridge man Kenny Mckinstry, also in a Subaru, kept the pressure on Jennings throughout the eight short, sharp special stages. Eleven-times a winner over the years and dubbed ‘King of the Park’, Mckinstry had no answer to Jennings’ stunning speed.
Former Irish Tarmac and National Rally champion Declan Boyle, co-driven by his cousin Brian Boyle, made the trip to Lurgan from Lettermacaward in North-west Donegal and, although a comparative stranger to the specialised nature of the Lurgan Park lanes, gave the rally a good go and finished an impressive third in his Ford Fiesta WRC.
Pre-event showery weather made for slippery conditions in the Park and tyre choice was a dilemma for most of the drivers. Jennings just got on with the job, and was fastest by 1.3s from Kenny Mckinstry on the opening stage. Declan Boyle was a further 1.6s back. The time gaps may not sound big, but in the terms of this short, snappy rally they were significant. Jennings reinforced his advantage on stage two, and he extended his lead to over 5s from Mckinstry. The latter was probably over ambitious in his tyre choice for that second stage.
Jennings, despite his dramatic speed, had his own worries. His Subaru engine, which had blown up on the opening stage of the Donegal International Rally two weeks before, had been hastily rebuilt and was showing signs of low oil pressure and also a lubricant leak. His mechanics changed the oil and Garry battled on.
Further down the leaderboard there were several interesting battles. Derek Mcgarrity in his Fiesta WRC admitted to being a bit ragged in his efforts to stay ahead of Derek Mcgeehan (Mini WRC) in the battle for fourth behind Boyle. Mcgeehan eventually squeezed ahead of Mcgarrity, with both drivers saying, as did Boyle, that they felt their 1600cc machines couldn’t match the two-litre Subarus in the Park.
Former NI champion Stuart Biggerstaff hasn’t driven in anger for a long time, but in the ‘family’ Impreza WRC he got into his stride during the day and set some good times on the way to sixth. Robert Woodside, driving a Dom Buckley-prepared Fiesta R5 was sixth early on but a few small ‘slip-ups’ meant he finished seventh, just pipping Cashel man Pat O’connell. The latter drove very well throughout, and had one dramatic moment when his Mitsubishi Lancer got out of shape and the drivers’ side rearquarter cannoned a waste bin over a hedge and into the garden of a house.
There was particular interest in the two-wheel-drive category, and Armagh man Damian Toner in his Escort, who won the Loughgall Rally earlier this year, took the honours against strong opposition. Keith White and Frank Kelly, also in Escorts, were second and third in the class race, but despite much wheel spinning in the, at times, very slippy conditions, could make no impression on the flying Toner.
There was a chance that Shane Mcgirr in his rear-wheel-drive Starlet could upset the Escort apple cart, but Fivemiletown man Mcgirr was forced to call it a day two stages before the end when his Starlet blew a head gasket.
Adrian Hetherington was also in the hunt, but two lurid spins into the trees dropped him right down the order and out of the reckoning.
There was a great battle between two young tigers, Alan Smyth (Suzuki Swift) and Kyle White (Citroen C2) for R2 honours. Smyth edged it by 5s. Stephen Mawhinney in his Lotus Sunbeam took the Historic ‘K’ class honours and Drew Wylie (Escort) the MSA Historic class.