Belfast: Ulster final rally summary

Jennings goes for close finish in Ulster. The Stena Line Ulster Rally - Leg 2, 7th September 2002 Day 2 of the Stena Line Ulster Rally, the 6th round of the Pirelli British Rally Championship, began dark and threatening as cars left parc ferme...

Jennings goes for close finish in Ulster.

The Stena Line Ulster Rally - Leg 2, 7th September 2002

Day 2 of the Stena Line Ulster Rally, the 6th round of the Pirelli British Rally Championship, began dark and threatening as cars left parc ferme in Belfast City Centre just after 5.00 am.

The rain was pouring down as the drivers arrived at the Stage 7, Davagh 1, the first stage of the day just north west of Cookstown. David Wright set the early pace, beating Garry Jennings by two seconds on the stage, but an early casualty was Martin Evans whose rally finished before breakfast when his suspension collapsed.

Wright again set fastest time on Stage 8, Doraville 1, four seconds ahead of Jennings who still held the overall lead. He remarked "I'm going steady and the car is fine, I'm just keeping an eye out for Wright coming up behind." Fourth fastest man MacHale complained that the marshals on the start line had warned him about the very slippy conditions in the stage and as a result he had been too cautious. George Phillippedes rally was not about to get any better than yesterday, as he was last seen in a ditch hopefully holding out a towrope, but managed to catch the TOTAL award for his spirited efforts despite the off. Alan Ring thought he was lucky to arrive at the finish, confessing to being sideways over a crest at 80 mph.

Chris Moore's event ended on Stage 9, Barnes Gap 1, when he went off on a fast series of bends as a result of coming across a stranded car on the road over a crest. Andrew Pawley clipped a bridge near the end of the stage, entering service with one wheel at a 45 degree angle and the car "crabbing all over the place". Meanwhile Wright had put in a charge and taken the lead by one second from Jennings with Gallagher in third place.

Special Stage 10, Mary Gray, claimed Mike Faulkner who went off into a ditch, and was also responsible for David Wright dropping time after landing in a hedge on a right hand corner where he was stuck for one minute. This handed the lead back to Jennings who was 9 seconds faster than Gallagher who had a small overshoot.

Gary Jennings was seen to be "grinning like a loony" at the finish of Stage 11, having beaten Gallagher by 9 seconds. Marko Ramanen commented that he was going to fit a radio at service as they were going so slowly and Gareth MacHale was bemoaning his tyre choice as his intermediates would not cope with the standing water. Ben Roper also had tyre troubles of a different sort; his car was too low and the wheel arches were cutting into the tyres on heavy landings. David Wright was frustrated by his error on the previous stage but pronounced Gallagher to be "catchable". Mike Bird complained of having to negotiate three stranded cars in the stage, which had distracted him from the task in hand.

Wright's sterling efforts all came to an end on Stage 12, a rerun of Doraville, when he went off into a ditch in an attempt to regain the lead. Jennings was fastest, 3 seconds ahead of Gallagher and retained a 17 second overall cushion.

Rain like "stair rods" greeted competitors at the start of Stage 13, Barnes Gap 2, and Gary Jennings reportedly told Gallagher "I don't mind giving you a couple of seconds, there's only two stages left"!

Ramanen had a puncture on Stage 12, so drove Barnes Gap with a mix of intermediate and slick tyres and had a minor spin as a result. The Dunbabin twins were happier when it had dried out nearer the end, but Gareth MacHale contradicted him, claiming the pair of stages had been "fierce slippy".

Mike Bird landed heavily on a jump and a wire on the fuel pump came adrift. Unfortunately, the dashboard was in bits and two minutes lost before the errant wire had been found. Ben Roper too had a frantic time as his throttle stop came off and rattled round his feet. Alan Ring meantime, nearly "had the bank" on a bit of mud but maintained his improvement on his first season in a rally car to take the Motorsport News Award for best Improvement on seeding.

The final visit to Gortin service saw Jennings 17 seconds up on Gallagher. The duo were nearly four minutes up on nearest rival Ramanen, such was the ferocity of the pace.

There was to be no cruise to the finish,a and on Stage 14, Doraville 2, Jennings increases his lead by only one tenth of a second. Gallagher rose to the challenge however, and on the final stage, Davagh 2, took an incredible 15 seconds back out of Jennings. The margin at the end saw Jennings clinch the victory by the smallest of margins, a mere nine tenths of a second. And after 128 miles of intense competition, just how close is that?

Gallagher keeps his lead in the championship, but Jennings now looks very strongly placed as the dropped scores start to come into play on the next round. <pre> Posn. Num. Driver/Co-driver Total

1       35      Jennings/Nagle          2:17:52.6
2       34      Gallagher/Pashley       2:17:53.5
3       36      Ramanen/Bevan           2:22:11.2
4       51      MacHale/Downey          2:23:39.9
5       50      Dunbabin/Dunbabin       2:24:41.8
6       55      Wright/Panes            2:25:02.4
7       67      Roper/Roper             2:30:09.8
8       69      Ring/Duggan             2:32:32.2
9       65      Bird/Burke              2:35:33.5

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Series Other rally
Drivers Alan Ring