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Rally update: Gass ups the ante on Jennings

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BY CHRIS MCNULTY

GARRY Jennings got the rain he wanted this morning – but his lead in the Donegal International Rally has been cut to 5.6 seconds by Darren Gass.

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Defending champion Jennings had a 9.7 second advantage coming into the day, but Armagh’s Gass has made a real fight of it heading into Saturday’s last four stages.

The second loop of Knockalla this afternoon, SS10, has been cancelled, the Clerk of the Course, Eamon McGee confirming that the leading cars were concerned that an oil spillage with the heavy rain would have made it too dangerous. Gass was quickest over both loops of Garygort.

With Jennings having ‘a moment’ on the opening stage of the day, Gass cut the lead to 7.4 seconds. Jennings, though, took it back to 8.2 seconds after the first run of a very slippery Knockalla stage.

Yet, it was Gass who was quickest by 2.6 seconds over the second run of Garygort and as the rain continued to teem down it was he and Enda Sherry who wear the look of the more contented crew at service in Milford.

Jennings damaged the bumper of the Subaru S12b on Garygort after misreading a chicane, and Gass took advantage. Jennings was a happy figure last evening.

Leading by 9.7 seconds, the Kesh man – who has Neil Doherty from Glen calling his notes – looking at the weather forecast and seeing heavy rainfall predicted. With his Kumho tyre choice, Jennings’ odds would have shortened – but Gass has put his feet on the gas to now make a real go of it at the head of the pack.

Derek McGarrity continued to have problems. Having come off Garygort very smokey, he considered withdrawing after Knockalla 1 after suffering gearbox issues – but he got back on the road again.

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Daragh O’Riordan wasn’t a happy camper in the Fiesta all day on Friday – and wrong tyre choice left him frustrated on Garygort.

The second time around was much better – and he shaved 20 seconds off his own timing on that run. “We’re heading in the right direction,” co-driver Tony McDaid said after SS9.

John O’Donnell was the surprise package of sorts on Friday, the Kilmacrennan man having a superb day and finished in the top seven heading onto today’s stages. O’Donnell lost a lot of time on the first loop of Garygort after stalling on the start line and on Knockalla they bent one of the Subaru’s back arms.

Still, he and Aidan Friel roll on. “We were steady and content there,” he said after SS9 and he sits in eighth at this service interval. In Group N Martin Doherty from Omagh heads the field, but Stephen and Susanne Wright have clawed the deficit back to 11.3 seconds despite an overshoot on Garygort 2.

Craig Breen is beginning to motor in the national event.

On SS9, Garygort, Breen was the fastest the modified cars, his first quickest of the weekend. Breen, despite having problems with his visor steaming, set a good pace on the first stage of the morning.

Even in something of a restricted Escort with a 2.0 millington, Breen’s class at the wheel was very evident.

Gary McPhilips continues to head the way in this section, though, and he has taken his advantage on Manus Kelly out to 13.7 seconds. Rodney Wilton had been in the leaderboard, but he too came a cropper on Knockalla, clipping a rock and losing five minutes to send him out of contention.

Adrian Hetherington celebrates his birthday today – and he set a stunning time around Knockalla to move into the top five. He was the quickest of the modified cars on the second stage of the day.

The crews are now in service with four more stages to come, two runs each of Grovehall and Gartan.

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