The Fermanagh driver is a late entry for the Quinn Body Repairs/Sligo Park Hotel Rally, a move principally down to the desire of co-driver and owner of the Toyota Corolla WRC, Herbie Blackburn, to contest the rally. From Jennings’ perspective, it is also an acknowledgement of one of his long-time sponsors, Sligo Pallets.
Earlier in the year, the duo teamed up for the opening round of the Dunlop series in Portlaoise. However, that was a short-lived experience that didn’t even make the finish of the first stage due to brake and battery issues.
The quality of the Sligo entry is somewhat diluted due to the fact it is not a round of the national series. Monaghan’s Shane Maguire, in his Group N Subaru, is top seed while fellow Group N aces Trevor Bustard and Pat Kirk, both in Mitsubishi Evo IXs, complete the top three.
Essentially, the remainder of the entry is dominated by the Mk 2 Escort brigade, with Jim McKenna, Jonathan Pringle, Alastair Cochrane, Arthur Kierans and Daniel Conaghan the principal exponents. The Toyota Corolla pair of Columba Heena and John Ward and local hero Dominic McLoughlin (Peugeot 205) are also on the list for the nine-stage rally that begins at 9.30am.
Also tomorrow, the Hankook Down Rally, usually a gravel event, switches to tarmac and will feature the classic Hamilton’s Folly stage.
A round of the Carryduff Forklift Northern Ireland Rally Championship, it is based in Castlewellan with five-times Circuit of Ireland winner Derek McGarrity (Subaru WRC) installed as top seed in the ex-McNulty S12B Subaru.
Although Derek McGeehan (Mini WRC) is seeded at two, he faces a race against time to have the car repaired after clouting a chicane bale at last week’s Lough Neagh Rally.
Last year’s event winner, Donagh Kelly, who campaigned a Mitsubishi on that occasion, will drive his recently acquired S11 Subaru WRC. Another former winner, Kenny McKinstry (Subaru WRC), who has Limerick’s Sean Mullally calling the pace notes, should also be amongst the pacesetters.
The top rear-wheel drive exponent is Drew Stewart (Ford Escort); former national champion George Robinson (Mitsubishi) leads the Group N contenders. A strong top 10 also includes John McGaffin (Subaru WRC), Trevor Ferguson (Subaru N12), Emma McKinstry (Subaru WRC) and Ray Brammer (Subaru WRC).
In Mitchelstown, round five of the Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship, the Firgrove Hotel/Myers Maxol Tipperary Forest Rally, features all the championship protagonists.
Garry Jennings and Owen Murphy, who between them have won all four rounds thus far, are the favourites for overall success even though consistency has pushed the Mitsubishi pair of Colin Britton and Stephen Wright into the top two places.
Murphy, who missed the first round, really needs to keep Jennings at bay. Meanwhile, Jennings, who will be co-driven by Mallow’s David Moynihan, was at the centre of controversy on the last round in Mallow when his Subaru 555 was ruled ineligible as the bag (fuel) tank failed to conform to regulations.
The issue still has to satisfy the scrutinisers, but hopefully for all concerned, common sense will also prevail. First car away for the day’s eight stages is at 8.30am. Servicing after stages two, four and six is at the former Galtee Meats complex.
Elsewhere, Dubliner Michael Leonard competes in the Porsche Mobile 1 series that supports this weekend’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone. A regular in the Pro-AM Class in the British Porsche Carrera Cup, Leonard will lead a trio of drivers — that also includes British drivers Richard Plant and Sam Tordoff — under the Naas Court Hotel team banner.
Leonard has competed in six races in the ProAm 1 category this season with second place at the opening round at Brands Hatch his best result.
“We will be aiming for a big finish amongst the top Porsche drivers in the world that are coming to Silverstone. It’s a big step up from Carrera Cup GB to the Mobil 1 series, but I’m confident we can mix it with the big boys at the home of the British Grand Prix.”
The Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race car competes in the Mobil 1 Supercup, the world’s fastest international one-make championship, which supports Formula 1 Grand Prix.