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JENNINGS “CAMEO” MOURNE WIN

Gary Jennings and Rory Kennedy turned up at the fourth round of the 2016 Northern Ireland championship; the Mourne Rally based in Newry, and totally dominated the nine-stage closed road tarmac event. In the end the Subaru S12 crew won by over 2 minutes from Derek McGarrity’s Ford Fiesta WRC. Third place went to Damian Toner driving the same Mk.2 Escort he won the Loughgall Rally in.

Jennings and Kennedy were just out to test the set-up of the 2-litre Subaru WRC ahead of the Donegal Rally the following weekend. The car having been totally rebuilt following an accident in Killarney the previous month. So their appearance on the Mourne could have been classed as a “cameo roll”. Anyhow McGarrity took another full championship points haul and leads the series by 17 points from Camillus Bradley. Kenny McKinstry is third but 20 behind McGarrity.

I was on radio duty at the start SS1/4/7 Black Hill, a twisty 8 mile stage near Whitecross. A lack of marshals forced the cancellation of the first run, but the other two ran without any problems. The weather was excellent, warm and sunny all day. A total of 77 cars started the rally while 44 finished.

CRONIN IS THE STAR OF DONEGAL

He may have finished second, beaten by just half-a-second by a local driver in a “full fat” 2-litre Subaru WRC, but Cork’s Keith Cronin and Mikie Galvin were surely the stars of last month’s Donegal International Rally. Driving a little 1.6 Citroen DS3 R5 Cronin and Galvin had been as low as 9th on day one following a puncture but steadily made their way back up the leader board during the course of the next two days. They collected top points in the Irish Tarmac Championship which is now led by Sam Moffett and Alistair Fisher on 54 points. Cronin is third on 49.5.

For me the rally was eventful. We were timekeeping over the three days. When I say we, that was Ray, myself and Ross Matheson. Our first day saw us meet up at the end of stage three/six Corradooey which was near Convoy. The weather on that Friday afternoon was cloudy but dry and so it remained for both runs. 133 cars finished SS3 from the 150 who started the 20-stage tarmac rally. One of the pre-event favourites, last year’s winners Gary Jennings and Rory Kennedy had already retired their Mourne Rally winning Subaru S12B with a blown engine after SS1.

We stayed for two nights at our favourite B&B in Carrigans and the Donegal Motor Club footed the bill as well as supplying lunch and evening meals. We had plenty of time to get to our locations each day and all of our stages started on time. Well done DMC!

On the Saturday we were on duty at the finish of SS12/14 Gartan near Kilmacrenan and not far from Muckish Mountain. Despite problems with the timing equipment (not good when the cars are 30 seconds apart) we managed to get a time for each of the 133 still competing in the International/National sections plus 17 Historics whom we only saw on SS14. The weather was good until the second run at 6pm when the rains came. Declan Boyle who had been leading the rally from SS1 retired his Fiesta WRC with mechanical problems on SS14.

Final day Sunday and our location was the finish of SS17/20, the famous Fanad stage. Once again the rain persisted for the first of the two runs but eased back for stage 20, the final 9-mile test of the 2016 Donegal Rally. Seamus Leonard had been leading but put his Subaru S14 off on the first Fanad stage handing the lead to Keith Cronin but Manus Kelly was second and setting some fast times over his favourite stages in his hired Subaru S12B.

So to that final stage. Cronin gave his all, over nine seconds ahead of Kelly going into the test he emerged through our finish beam to record a time which would see him loose the rally by 0.5 of a second, a blink of an eye! It also transpired that Cronin’s R5 developed a loss of fuel pressure half way through the stage so his achievement was all the more remarkable! Congratulations to Manus Kelly and Donall Barrett, last year they won the National section in an Escort Mk.2 this year they became only the third all Donegal crew to win their home International. It was only Manus’s second drive in a WRC Subaru following a win first time out on the Carlow Rally in May. Third overall went to Sam Moffett in his Fiesta R5.

21 cars finished the International category. David Bogie beat Frank Kelly by 21.3 seconds to win the National section, both were in Mk.2 Escorts. There were 84 National finishers. Seamus O’Connell won the Historics of which 15 finished. Michael Boyle (son of the unfortunate Declan) was the winner of the 12 finishers in the junior category which ran on Sunday only.

Despite the weather and the equipment problems Ray, Ross and I enjoyed the Donegal experience 2016. It had been three years since I was involved with the rally but not much has changed. The same classic stages, huge crowds in and around Letterkenny and enthusiastic competitors and officials.

Rally Diary

SAT. 30TH JULY
THE TYRONE STAGES - IN BENONE!

Yes the 5th round of the NI Rally Championship run by Cookstown Motor Club will take place at a completely NEW VENUE FOR RALLYING! Not in Co.Tyrone at all but in Co.Derry at Benone. Rally HQ will be in the Aghanloo Industrial Estate. There will be 12 tarmac stages (4 repeated three times) totalling approximately 36 miles. We have been asked to provide timekeepers so contact me if available. The rally starts at 10.30 and is due to finish at 17.30 (1st Car).