Garry Jennings became the first ever non-French winner of Rallye du Bethunois when he brought his Subaru WRC home thirty seconds ahead of the competition.

The Kesh driver and co-driver Rory Kennedy claimed the lead of the event on the third stage of the two day rally, and they held on to that lead throughout to become the first foreign crew to top the timesheets in the forty one year history of the rally.

“It was a great rally and a great experience,” said Garry.

“Before I went out I would have been happy enough to finish in the top five, and I don’t think anyone expected us to be on the pace so quickly.”

Organisers of the rally had been in contact with Jennings over the past three years in a bid to get him to contest their round of the French National Rally Championship, and this year Garry decided to make the trip and challenge himself with something new.

“It is a lot different to anything that happens here,” he acknowledged.

“It is nothing like here, and that is why it took me a stage or two to get into it. The stages were narrow, fast, smooth surfaces and then maybe a turn on to a gravel road for a kilometre or two, and then back onto a main road. We went through village after village on the stages. There are massive cuts of maybe ten feet inside the corners, and we don’t do that here. They were very long, fast draining stages. Very mentally and physically draining stages.”

The language barrier was another obstacle the pair had to battle with, but once on the stages they were quickly among the front runners.

Occasional World Rally Championship driver and winner of the 2017 rally, Stefan Lefebvre, set the fastest time on the opening stage. His retirement on stage two opened the door, and from stage three Jennings rattled off five consecutive stage wins to establish a lead that he would never lose.

“We went hard on the second loop of three and pulled out a gap,” said Garry.

“We knew on the Sunday we had to keep it neat and tidy and make no mistakes. We made one small error where I overshot a junction and had to handbrake back. We lost maybe four or five seconds but nothing too bad.

“I slowed down until I got to their pace, and if I needed to up it then I did that on the next stage to keep the gap the same. It was very important to get the finish having made the effort to get there.”

In front of massive crowds Jennings held on to his advantage to win the rally by thirty seconds. Having tasted victory, the Subaru driver is now eager to experience more of French rallying, and has committed to contesting Rallye Charlemagne at the end of September.

“We had a meeting with rally organisers when we were over there and they were trying to get us to go in the hope that will encourage more World Rally Cars to come out to compete against us,” he revealed.

“My mechanics left the car with First Motorsport in Belgium, and they are going to go back out a week before the next rally and get the car ready,” he said.