Garry Jennings will contest the British Rally Championship for the first time in 18 years, starting with the Neil Howard Stages Rally at the end of this month.

With the Irish Tarmac Championship already cancelled and local rallying still on hold, the Kesh driver has opted to take his new Ford Fiesta R5 to England for its competitive debut around the asphalt perimeter roads and main circuit confines of Oulton Park Circuit in Cheshire.

The one-day event is the first of seven scheduled rounds on both tarmac and loose surfaces, with the Ulster Rally rounding off the championship in November.

Jennings is expected to face a host of Irish regulars who are plotting a similar return to action, with English WRC driver Rhys Yates also confirmed.

“I am just going for the fun, to relax and have a bit of craic,” said Jennings.

“I don’t think there will be much happening over here, so I think all the Irish fellas are going. All the rounds are fairly easy to get to. You would probably get to them handier than you would get to Cork or Killarney. I believe there are a lot of people interested and signed up. I am looking forward to it.”

Jennings is making the switch from his familiar Subaru, and will drive his new Ford Fiesta R5.

The car is right-hand drive and will be running in a different class to many of his rivals, but although he is still eligible to score overall points in the Championship, he believes it will take him some time to match the pace of the front runners.

“I don’t expect to be competitive at the start, because these fellas have been driving these cars for five or six years, but hopefully as the season goes on, I will be.

“It is a championship, so you can learn as you progress. A bit like Jon Armstrong did in the first round of the JWRC – just learn as you go along.”

Although circumstances have limited Jennings’s seat time in his new vehicle, he was able to test the car recently, and he declared himself happy with the outcome.

“I went to Mondello for a spin around the track at an open day and it felt good. I probably didn’t have the right set-up for Mondello, but I just went to get some time in the car. It felt sharp enough and everything felt good,” he declared.

The first round of the BRC may pose a similar challenge to Mondello, but Garry is treating the opener as a learning experience ahead of a full season.

“I think Yates has won this rally a couple of times, but for me it will just be about getting a run around, and getting a finish. I think that will be the challenge for the first couple of rallies.”