Garry Jennings powers to Galway International Rally success

Chris Smiley graduating to the British Touring Car Championship
Chris Smiley graduating to the British Touring Car Championship

Garry Jennings totally dominated the Galway International Rally, the opening round of the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Rally Championship.

The Kesh driver, at the wheel of a Subaru World Rally Car, finished three minutes and twenty four seconds clear of former British Rally Champion Keith Cronin (Citroen DS3) and Alastair Fisher (Ford Fiesta ) in third.

In the National category Lisburn driver Wesley Patterson came out on top at the wheel of a Ford Escort and in the Historic category the top honour went the way of Ray Cunningham in a Morris Cooper S.

There was a reasonable turnout in the Junior category which saw Kieron O’Donoghue triumph in a Honda Civic. Day one saw a number of retirements including top names such as Declan Boyle who crashed out on special stage five and on the following stage Declan Gallagher retired, thankfully no serious injuries were reported.

Meanwhile, there will be a second Ulster driver contesting the British Touring Car Championship this season as Chris Smiley joins Colin Turkington.

Smiley a former MINI Challenge Champion contested the Volkswagen Scirocco R-Cup in Germany in 2014, before making a one-off appearance in the VAG Trophy at Oulton Park last October where he scored two race wins.

The 23 year-old from Carrickfergus will drive an updated Toyota Avensis for Team HARD - a car which has been worked on extensively over the off-season, resulting in a much lighter chassis.

“Whilst the Toyota is not a world away from the Minis or the Scirocco, it is turbocharged and front-wheel-drive and is weighted very differently and the suspension behaves differently as it is not a production car, so it will feel racier,” commented Smiley.

Previously having tested Jason Plato’s Triple Eight Racing-run MG6 after winning the MINI Challenge JCW Class in 2013, he acknowledges that he will face a learning curve in terms of the feel of the Toyota, with the current NGTC machinery exhibiting different behaviour to what he has driven in the past.

Meanwhile down under and Ulster drivers tasted success in the Bathurst 12 Hour race with Steven Kane finishing second for Bentley and Andrew Watson finished seventh in a McLaren.

The overall win also went to McLaren with drivers Shane Van Gisbergen, Alvaro Parente and Jonathon Webb.