DD Motoring: Gary Jennings & Rory Kennedy victorious at Galway Rally!


 February 9, 2017
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Five-times-title for Kennedy
On Sunday evening Gary Jennings co-driven by Letterkenny’s Rory Kennedy brought his Subaru Impreza home first overall on the opening international rally in Galway to retain his title there.

Donegal’s Declan and Brian Boyle were his biggest opposition and on the opening stage there was only two-tenths of a second between them and Jennings.

The next generation of rally fans waiting for their heroes to arrive at the Galway Rally at the weekend. Photo Brian McDaid

The Boyles were putting it up to Jennings until the car developed an intermittent electrical fault followed by a puncture which was to drop them out of the running for an overall win.

On Saturday evening Gary had a commanding lead of a minute over the rest of the field.

On the opening stages of Sunday morning, north-east of Galway near Tuam, Gary’s path home to victory left his champagne on ice for a while as Sunday morning’s first two stages were cancelled because of very heavy overnight frost.

Rory in his office, keeping an eye on the road conditions as they drive through the cancelled stage because of ice on Sunday in Galway. Photo Brian McDaid

Gary had a trouble-free weekend despite the wintery conditions of the opening rally.

Following last year’s win in the Galway Rally Gary and Rory had a disaster of a year with mechanical bothers and offs, so the victory at the weekend was back to winning ways for this popular crew.

Rory takes up the story on Monday evening over a cuppa in rally HQ in Letterkenny, Boyce’s café where else of course! Now called McGettigans XL.

Trying to hide the odd yawn from two weeks work in Galway preparing and competing to secure his teams win, Rory’s mind is still buzzing following the win. There was something very special for the Letterkenny man to be on the winning team this weekend in Galway.

Gary Jennings and Rory Kennedy on the Galway Rally this weekend which they win for the second time in a row. Photo Brian McDaid

It’s over twenty years ago since Rory notched up his first outright win with the great Bertie Fisher.

This weekend Rory was back on the old stages that haven’t been used since him and Bertie were winners there. Those great days in a very successful blue Subaru Impreza were never far from his mind.

The loyalty of a perfect stranger to rallying at the weekend brought it all home to Rory.

A local farmer on one of the stages lined up half a dozen palettes on their side in the door way of his shed with a warm Irish welcome, (Failte) to the 2017 rally and also to remember the great Bertie Fisher.


Not on his notes
Rory had every stone ditch, every water table, every inch of shiny tar noted as he had done all through his professional career, but this heartfelt message on the palettes meant so much so close to the time of the late Bertie Fishers death on the 22nd of January, 15 years ago which was to strike a cord with Rory who was part of the team with Bertie in so many successful rallies in Ireland.

A heart felt message for Rory Kennedy on one the stages of the Galway Rally at the weekend reminding him of his great and late team mate Bertie Fisher.

Unknown to the farmer, Rory’s introduction to rallying was not unlike the farmer’s admiration of Fisher as Rory started out also as a big fan of the late Bertie Fisher.

Rory can remember it as clear as if it was yesterday watching the Donegal Rally with his father, the late Jim Kennedy as Bertie Fisher blasted through Glen Village in a Mk1 Ford Escort only to put the car off on to it’s roof down the road a bit.

As a young cub Rory watched the spectators physically lift the battered Escort back on to the road, and continue to work at the car as best they could.

Bertie was out of the car and now standing right beside Rory as the frantic work to get the car straightened out progressed.

Rory also remembers so clearly the watch the Bertie Fisher was wearing that day – it had the shape of a steering wheel on the face of it with a centre piece and spokes on the glass. As Rory’s hero got sorted out and went off down the stage in his now very modified escort, Rory said to himself “some day I am going to be a part of that.”

Rory did manage to roll a couple of cars on his way to the top, anyway what is it the way that saying goes – “you can’t make a omelette with out cracking a few eggs”… or even cracking a few rally car shells for that matter!


Journey back
Gary and Rory lifted their title for a second year in a row on the Corrib Oil Galway rally on Sunday evening and soon it wasn’t long before Rory was now behind the wheel of his own “Ferrari Red” BMW to make the 150 mile return journey home to Letterkenny.

On Sunday evening Rory met a fleet of Feda O’Donnell’s buses transporting Donegal scholars back to their home away from home to the city of the tribes.

Their careers in life about to start in Galway with their third level education. As Rory is driving home he is thinking of his own career and where it all started for him many moons ago.


Glen men by four hit Galway
In 1975 four Glen men headed on a wintry February weekend to the Galway International Rally.

A brand new Donegal registered red and black Opel Kadett Coupe 1200S (ZIH 160) was on one of its first outings serviced by a yellow and black Opel Kadett estate.

Humble beginnings A recreation of the old Opel Kadett in which Rory Kennedy officially started his rallying career as a young service team member for the late Andy Hegarty on the Galway International Rally in the 70s.

The youngest of the Glen men was only 14 or 15 years of age and it was the first time he was away from home on his own.

The lights of Galway seemed a lot brighter to this lad than what he was used with in Letterkenny.

Local Opel Dealer in Letterkenny Andy Hegarty, a native of Glenswilly was competing in the rally and brought with him one of his chief mechanics Con McDaid, also a fellow Glenswilly man to service.

Andy Hegarty and James Cullen in the Opel Kadett of the 1970’s in Galway which a young Rory Kennedy was a young service team member on

On the notes for the rally that weekend was an up-and-coming navigator, also a Glen man but not from Glenswilly, he was from Glencar, his name was James Cullen, who would go on in his rally career to become one of Donegal’s most successful rally drivers.

The youngest of the crew was too young to legally drive so he settled in the passengers seat of the old service car, a battered Opel Kadett Estate.

The Late Andy Hegarty who rallied an Opel Kadett on the Galway Rally in the 1970’s which was the introduction for a very young Rory Kennedy into rallying as a member of the Service Team

He was just your typical youth of the seventies, Bay-city Rollers haircut, Wrangler jeans and jacket, and Adidas runners.

This was Rory Kennedy in 1975 on his first official duty in his rallying career. A Glencar boy servicing on the Galway International rally.

That year part of the rally run through part of the night, and Rory remembers seeing the great Ford works team buzzing around.

I suppose little did he think one day Rory would be in that same position and not only winning the rally, but wining it twice with Bertie Fisher once with Mark Higgins and twice with his present team mate Gary Jennings.

There is a special appeal to rally fans going to the Galway Rally.

Rory Kennedy recalls going to spectate on the Galway rally with Hugh Tinney and the late Davy Wasson where they seen the great Rodger Clarke drive to victory in the works RS 1800 Ford Escort Mk 2.


And finally…
As Gary Jennings and Rory Kennedy recorded their victory this week it would not be possible if other things didn’t come into play within their team both in servicing and out on the road with the gravel notes teams, also for family members that work behind the scenes to organise accommodation and to sponsors that believe and continue to support the team through sponsorship.

And outside the team the marshals that make the trip up from Donegal to stand out in the rain and wind, and try their best to guide spectators to safe locations. They are all a part of the travelling tribe that make the pilgrimage to Galway every year to provided everyone with another year of safe rallying.


Happy Motoring Folks and Well done