Fermanagh’s Garry Jennings (Subaru WRC) won the Orchard Motorsport Lurgan Park Rally for the third successive year with an impressive display. Co-driven by Michael Moran, they finished 6.8 seconds ahead of the Subaru WRC of multiple winner Kenny McKinstry and his co-driver Michael Gilmore. Early leaders Derek McGeehan/Laurie Smyth (Mini WRC) were 3.9 seconds behind in third.
Heavy rain prior led to slippery conditions as McGeehan slid his way to the top of the leaderboard, albeit a tenth of a second ahead of Jennings, who experienced a very close encounter with a tree. The top four, which included McKinstry and Derek McGarrity (Subaru WRC), were covered by a mere second. Welsh driver Mel Evans (Subaru WRC) was an early retirement with a damaged wheel.
Both McGeehan and Jennings improved their times on the second stage with the former extending his lead to 1.4 seconds even though his Mini WRC was on the grass on a few occasions. McKinstry and McGarrity retained their positions though the latter stalled and then touched a bale. Jennings punched in the best times on the next three stages and by S.S. 5 led McGeehan by 4.3 seconds, the early leader overshot on S.S. 4.
Indeed, his second-place position was coming under threat and on S.S. 6, 11-time winner Kenny McKinstry punched in a fastest stage time to close to within 0.3 of a second of the Derry driver. Meanwhile, Jennings moved 6.6 seconds ahead.
Rally leader Jennings and McKinstry traded fastest stage times on the closing pair of stages with Jennings sealing victory. Jonny Leonard (Mitsubishi) won the Group N category — finishing 6.1 seconds ahead of the similar car of Tipperary’s Pat O’Connell. The top two-wheel drive competitor was Lisburn’s Wesley Patterson (Escort).
Meanwhile, the Irish crew of Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (Citroen DS3 WRC) finished seventh in the Lotos 72nd Rally Poland, round seven of the WRC. Having rolled the car seven times in Friday’s shakedown stage, it was all about getting to the finish line for the duo. The rally was won by Sebastien Ogier (VW Polo), who also netted top points from the Power Stage to extend his lead in the series to a massive 78 points. Andreas Mikkelsen (VW Polo) was 11.9 seconds behind in third with Ott Tanak (Ford Fiesta WRC) clinching the final spot on the podium.
The ALMC Rally in Trim was won by Mark Straker (Darrian) — he finished 10.6 seconds ahead of the Subaru WRC of Steve Wood. Simon Mauger (Metro) was third. Monaghan’s Jim McKenna (Escort) was the top Irish driver, he was sixth and winner of the Modified category.
Meanwhile, Cork’s Matt Griffin and teammate Duncan Cameron finished third in the second race of the International GT Open series at the Red Bull Ring in Austria.
A puncture during qualifying probably cost them a higher place on the grid than P5. Griffin made a great start and lap by lap closed on third placed Raffaele Giammaria and was on his bumper when both pitted to allow a change of drivers. With some drama in the pits, when another competitor’s car failed to restart because of a battery problem,Cameron was up to third.
He defended his position with an aggressive drive, holding off Giorgio Roda and then Michele Rugolo before taking the chequered flag.
In Saturday’s 70-minute race, Griffin/Cameron had to be content with seventh place after the imposition of two separate five-second penalties for an alleged abuse of track limits even though according to Griffin, video evidence from the on-board camera was to the contrary.