Heavy early morning rain descended on the opening day of the Ulster Rally – round six of the MSA British Rally Championship. The slippery and demanding conditions played havoc for tyre choice through the lanes of Northern Ireland on the opening six tests. The BRC crews tackled the six stages on the opening day after a picturesque city centre Ceremonial Start in the heart of Derry/Londonderry.
Leading the BRC charge from the start was Elfyn Evans and Craig Parry who ended the first leg of the Ulster Rally just a mere 4.5 seconds ahead of Keith Cronin. Running first on the road, the Welshman made the most out of the challenging conditions in his Ford Fiesta R5 on the opening loop of stages to fend off the three-time BRC Champion Keith Cronin. Cronin is making a welcome return to the BRC this weekend after missing the previous three events but came back with a bang in his Citroen DS3 R5. Citroen stablemate Jonny Greer is chasing his second podium in 2016 and is lying 29.1 seconds off the lead in third.
Chasing Greer all the way is Scotsman David Bogie in his Skoda Fabia R5 who had an inspired afternoon to claw his way into podium contention. CA1 Sport teammate Fredrik Ahlin has had a baptism of fire on his first Ulster experience. The Swedish Star suffered a puncture on the second stage, but undeterred the Ford Fiesta R5 driver rounds out the top five after the first days action.
Local stars Sam Moffett (Fiesta R5), Desi Henry (Fabia R5), Josh Moffett (Fiesta R5), Martin McCormack (Skoda Fabia S2000) and rising star Rhys Yates (Fiesta R5) round out the top ten BRC runners. All will be gunning for a good result on the second day of the tough, Tarmac test.
It was to hard day for Tom Cave who came into the Ulster Rally, second in the BRC series. Transmission woes on the evening loop saw the Spencer Sport driver plummet down the leaderboard to end the day 23rd overall.
Comfortably leading the way in the DMACK Junior BRC is Irishman Robert Duggan. The Vauxhall ADAM R2 pilot is playing his ‘Joker’ this weekend and with it could take the title with an unassailable lead heading to the season finale.
Sindre Furuseth and local hero Adam Bustard have enjoyed a ding-dong battle all day for the remaining podium positions. Norwegian Furuseth holds the advantage with Bustard on track for his third BRC podium. Mattias Adielsson was one of the favourites for class victory but retired after an accident on the first stage.
Callum Devine (Opel ADAM R2) and Marty Gallagher (Peugeot 208 R2) have set the stages alight in their front-wheel-drive pocket-rockets. Devine holds the BRC4 class lead with an ever improving Gallagher not far behind.
The striking Toyota GT86 CS-R3 has been entertaining in the hands of Will Corry on the slippery and greasy stages in BRC3, while in the National Rally Cup, Donnie Macdonald leads the way in his Mitsubishi Evo 9. The Inverness-based driver mastered the conditions to hold a commanding NRC lead heading into the final day.
Elfyn Evans – Ulster Rally Leader
“It has been a tough day for us as we have spent 50% of the day on the wrong tyre choice! It has been tricky out there and the rain has caught us by surprise this afternoon so we had to just get through safely. We have to keep at it but we have to remember we could wrap up the Championship here, so we must focus on the job in hand. To have the lead is great but awfully close!”
Keith Cronin – Ulster Rally Second Overall
“It was ok for us, no problems. We have been conservative all day as we have tried to stay on the safe side of caution on tyre choice and I feel I have been driving well within myself as I haven’t been taking any big risks today. We are in a good position and want to hold onto it, as realistically it would be nice to win and bag the BRC points but I am thinking about the Irish Championship as well.”
Jonny Greer – Ulster Rally Third Overall
“We had a good clean run and are happy with our performance today. It has always been a worry as to what tyre we should be on but we did a good job today. Keith [Cronin] and I have been working together to help each other try and make that right decision. It’s a long day tomorrow and we are looking forward to the fight with David [Bogie].”
Full results can be found on www.msabrc.com