Jennings and Fisher enjoy great 2011
Published: 29 Dec 2011 13:000 comments
After a shaky start Garry Jennings swept all before him in the second half of the year culminating in winning the Group N Irish Tarmac Championship, while Alastair Fisher's finished his first attempt at the FIA World Rally Academy in third place, including a victory in France.
2011 got off to an inauspicious start for Jennings when he crashed out of the Circuit of Ireland Rally. Having not contested the opening round of the Irish Tarmac series in Galway, his retirement looked to have ruled him out of the championship fight, but he fought back in spectacular style. The Kesh driver won Group N on the Donegal International, and then dominated the Rally NI section of the Ulster Rally, finishing ahead of a host of British Rally Championship contenders to win the event outright. Those wins dragged him right back into championship contention, and when he cruised to victory on the Cork 20 rally he was able to celebrate becoming Irish Tarmac Champion for the second time.
Outside of Ireland's main championship he picked up yet more trophies. Group N victories were achieved on the Sligo Stages Rally and Lurgan Park, and he rounded the season off with outright successes on both the Hellfire Stages rally and the Donegal Harvest Rally.
Alastair Fisher headed into the unknown at the start of the season, contesting the newly formed FIA World Rally Academy. Made up of the best young drivers from throughout the world, it soon became obvious that Alastair had the speed to contest for the top honours. On the opening round he looked to be heading for maximum points before he slid off the road in Portugal. An early retirement followed on the next round before it looked as though he would finally secure an elusive win in Finland before once again a late accident ended his event.
He was having better luck closer to home however, and secured an impressive second overall on the Donegal International Rally and won his class on the Jim Clarke Rally in Scotland. Back on the world stage he continued to battle at the head of the leader boards as the season reached its climax, and on the penultimate round in France he finally got the win his stage times had deserved. His third place finish on Rally GB secured third place in the championship, and he will be hoping that the experience gained will stand him in good stead when he returns to the championship in 2012.
Navigator Barry McNulty was contesting the British rally Championship that he had won in 2009, but he had a mixed season alongside Mark Donnelly, eventually finishing third in his class on the series.
Jonny Leonard was another who was looking to repeat former glories, but a series of non-finishes meant he was unsuccessful in the defence of his Northern Ireland Stage Champions class title.
Derrygonnelly's Kris Farrell decided to cross the Irish Sea to contest the BTRDA Championship, and in what was a year geared towards gaining experience he finished fifth in his class, and managed a class win on the Neath Stages Rally.
Closer to home it was a successful year for Enniskillen Motor Club. Their flagship event, the Lakeland Stages Rally, attracted 70 entries and was won by veteran Kenny McKinstry, with local drivers Shane McGirr, Kris Farrell and Paul McShea taking top honours in their respective classes.
The Annual event at St. Angelo Airport was won by John Bustard, while Shane McGirr provided local fans with something to cheer about when he won the Campbell Contracts Brogher Mountain Time Trial later in the year.