Garry Jennings Ulster Rally summary

JENNINGS TAKES PODIUM ON ULSTER Garry Jennings and Enda Sherry took a fantastic third place overall on Garry's first event in an Impreza world rally car on the Ulster International Rally this weekend. Garry's podium finish was even more ...


Garry Jennings and Enda Sherry took a fantastic third place overall on Garry's first event in an Impreza world rally car on the Ulster International Rally this weekend.

Garry's podium finish was even more satisfying as his inclusion in the event was only confirmed two hours before the start on Friday. He had originally completed the entry form with his usual Group N car but that was before the deal to use the ex Petter Solberg Impreza S9 had been finalised. The regulations state that the event stewards can overturn the FIA rule preventing a competitor from changing the category of his entry. This they did but only after all the International crews had agreed in writing to the change from class N4 to A8.

Drama over and placed seventh car on the road, Garry set about repaying the faith placed in him by JMB Enterprises, who were pivotal in the arrangement to hire the car from Derek McGarrity Motorsport. However, the first stage was an anticlimax for all the crews, as Tim McNulty's accident blocked the stage, meaning everybody was allotted a notional time and the rally proper started on stage two.

The team had tested the car on Wednesday but the conditions were much different to those on the Friday stages. On dry roads and in relatively warm weather, Garry was able to use the anti-lag system for the first time in anger on stage two. "We'd tested in the wet and I couldn't get on with the system," he explained, "but it is definitely an advantage in the dry. The car is so responsive, but the main differences I've noticed apart from the acceleration, are the brakes and suspension." He continued, "You can brake so much later into the corners than the Group N car and I'm convinced that we haven't left the ground on some of the jumps; the dampers just soak up the landings, it's brilliant."

His approach on the first timed test was understandably cautious but the clock showed the crew in fifth place, just 8.5 seconds off the lead. "I think I left foot braked too much and the front brakes went off a bit." said Garry, "And we had a dodgy intercom which was more annoying than anything. But there's a load more to come out of the car, I've just got to learn how much I can push." The final stage before service was the spectator special near Armagh and the pair set fourth fastest time, just three seconds off the lead, closing to within 0.4 seconds of Gareth Jones.

With darkness approaching, all the cars left service with spotlights fitted and with Garry and Enda back in full communication. Two more fourth fastest times moved Garry ahead of Jones although the crew had worked hard for the position. "I wasn't sure what the problem was," reported Garry, "but we had a couple of wild sideways moments in those stages before I realised it was a slow puncture on the rear."

The overnight fourth place put them in that position on the road for Saturday's stages, which may have started in daylight hours, but visibility was not much better than Friday night, as the weather had taken a distinct turn for the worse. Persistent rain had made the stages treacherous with patches where mud was washed across the road and rivers of water running down the wheel-tracks. Garry reverted to running without the anti-lag system engaged, losing some responsiveness but restoring his confidence in the slippery conditions.

The pair set about the stages, posting third fastest time on the opening eight miler, but not without a scare on the way. They clipped a bank and the car lurched onto two wheels, Garry managing to catch it before it went over. "There's a bit of grass in the front and it doesn't look much, but it was a moment I'd rather forget." he grinned. The cracking time was not sufficient to hold back the charging Eamon Boland, who posted two scorching times, demoting Garry and Enda to fifth.

Tyre choice was critical in the variable conditions and Garry admitted that the next loop of three stages was difficult, "I didn't need to look at the stage times to know e took the wrong tyre," he shrugged, "I was having to brake really early for all the high speed approaches and to cap it all the paddle gear-change stopped working." The manual stick is still fitted to the Impreza so he was able to manage, but it is set up for a left-hand drive car making it difficult to use easily. "The stick is only a back-up as the paddle change is very reliable." he explained, "It was fixed in service by re-booting the programme with the laptop. All too technical for me but the guys from Prodrive sorted it in seconds."

Stages eleven and twelve saw the weather improve slightly and the correct choice of Kumho tyre allowed the crew to push. They posted another third and fourth fastest times, maintaining the fourth place they inherited when Chris Meek dropped time with a puncture. Tyre choice continued to be difficult as rain was reported on the final loop of three stages. The service area, however, was dry and sunny so Garry chose an intermediate saying, "The cut Kumhos will work even when it's drying, you've just got to know when to ease off a bit if they start to get too hot."

His nerve was to be tested for a different reason on stage thirteen though, when he passed second placed Peader Hurson stranded at the side of the stage. "I couldn't believe it," he said, "Peader had gone off on a slippery section and was stuck off the road. I had to concentrate all my efforts not to make any silly mistakes. There was no way we could have caught Eamonn (Boland) for third and I wouldn't have wished problems on the guys in front, but that's rallying."

The finish ramp in Armagh's Mall beckoned and Garry was first to be interviewed as the top three were presented in reverse order. "It's absolutely fantastic to be on the same podium as Eugene (Donnelly) and Eamonn and apart from clipping a wee post with the bumper, there isn't a mark on the car. I can't thank JMB Enterprises and all my sponsors, friends and family enough for all the support and help in getting us here. I hope they are as pleased as I am with the result and it goes some way to repaying their faith in me. There is one down-side though, there will be some sore heads in the morning! I've also got to thank Enda for a top job. It's funny to think that when I was in Peugeots, he was sitting by Dessie Keenan and we had some close battles against each other."

While there are no firm plans to compete in the car again, Garry is working closely with his sponsors to try and secure more time in a World Rally car and hopes a deal can be struck before next season.

-credit: gjr

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Series BRC
Drivers Petter Solberg