Galway Rally report
Subaru man Jennings takes second Galway win in a row on tricky event
Organiser: Galway Motor Club When: February 4/5 Where: Ballybritt Galway Championships: Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Championship Starters: 76 Stages: 15
Last year’s winners Garry Jennings and Rory Kennedy led from start to finish in their Subaru Impreza S12B WRC to join a club of four drivers who have won the Galway Rally back-to-back.
Roy White/james O’brien, in their Ford Fiesta WRC, also produced a copybook drive to take second while maximum Irish Tarmac Rally Championship points went to Alastair Fisher/gordon Noble in their Fiesta R5.
Following the long break from rallying during the winter, the top drivers were understandably edgy starting the opening stage, the 7.58mile Attymon test. The conditions were difficult. Although the heavy overnight rain had stopped, the roads were wet and the low wintry sun was reflecting off the shiny and slippy surfaces.
Jennings was first on the road. “No heroics,” he said at stage end, having broken a long duck for his first win on the event last year.
He was still fastest, though only by a narrow margin from Declan Boyle in his Ford Fiesta WRC. Boyle expressed surprise to be so close, as he felt that his car was down on power.
Jennings was soon to be even more comfortable. Boyle was having to overdrive his Fiesta WRC to try and stay with the flying Subaru in front.
In stage five, Ballyfa, former Irish Tarmac and National champion Boyle slightly overcooked it and thumped the rear corner of his Fiesta WRC against the scenery, puncturing a rear tyre.
He lost over four minutes in the incident. He did complete stage six and made it to service. However he decided not to continue because of his ongoing engine misfire.
Josh Moffett was the fastest R5 driver through the opening stage, but after falling behind Fisher, he collected a puncture on stage five and he too was out of the running for top ITRC points for the highest-placed R5.
By the end of the day, that honour went to Fisher, who lay third overall behind White, who was using the event as a warmup for his Irish National Rally Championship defence.
Fisher led Sam Moffett – fourth overall – in the race for top ITRC points. Sam said at service after stage six that he needed a change of strategy if he was to shake Fisher. He was unfazed, and took a little time out of his rival on each of the last three Saturday stages.
Some 21 months after his last rally, Robert Barrable held fifth overnight. He had struggled with his Ford Fiesta R5 early on but improved rapidly.
Without Boyle breathing down his neck, Jennings was able to take it a bit easier through the final three stages of day one. Indeed, Jennings seemed more interested in how Ireland were doing at Murrayfield. He still set fastest time on those three stages, he’d won all nine of the day’s stages.
The Sunday leg was cut short. It was meant to consist of three loops of two stages, but the first loop didn’t run because the roads were icy. One of the stages in the loop was cut from 8.45 miles to just over three miles, which the fastest drivers were covering in just over three minutes. The other stage, Knocknagur, was a real blast. Jennings was able to drive at his own pace to win, while White made full use of his Fiesta WRC’S power to move ahead of Alastair Fisher on the final stage.
Fisher wasn’t too downhearted, having achieved his aim of maximum Tarmac Championship points, one spot ahead of nearest rival Sam Moffett in fourth. Fisher was also running his Fiesta on Kumho tyres for the first time after switching from Pirellis.
The returning Barrable rounded out the top five with his plans for the rest of the season after Galway unconfirmed.
Stephen Wright returned after a spell out of his Ford Fiesta R5 and took sixth overall, ahead of the recovering Josh Moffett whose event was reduced to damage limitation. Both Joe Mcgonigle and Brendan Cumiskey, eighth and 10th respectively, were adapting to new Skodas and both improved over the tricky two days. They sandwiched Stephen Mccann’s Fiesta S2000.
Jennings: two in a row in Galway points Fisher was comfortable taking max