Motorsport UK British Rally Championship leader Adrien Fourmaux managed to tame Storm Betty – and a pack of chasing Rally2 contenders to head into the overnight halt of the Modern Tyres Ulster Rally with a 7.4s lead.
Biblical rain and storm force winds blighted the four-stage opening day, with crews battling deep standing water and the inevitable visibility issues but it was the Frenchman and co-driver Alex Coria who led from the opening stage in their Ford Fiesta Rally2.
Battling with Irish Tarmac Rally Championship contenders over the loop, Fourmaux took it all in his stride, to head former BRC Junior champion Callum Devine into the second day, with Cathan McCourt third.
“It’s really tricky out there today” was Fourmaux’s rather understated response at the end of the day.
“We knew that coming here would be really difficult but we are really happy with our pace today. The grip has been changeable and with the weather, it is looking a bit different tomorrow so we shall see”.
Garry Pearson endured a slow start to their rally in the tricky opening stage but gradually upped his pace in the VW Polo GTi, to end the day 13th overall.
Water was the topic on so many lips during the day and Alan Carmichael’s Hyundai had plenty inside the car as well as out, making visibility through the windscreen a luxury at times. Coupled with a damper issue, it was a day from hell for the Northern Irish driver.
Steve Waugh admirably coped with the conditions in his Fiesta R2T on his first outing outside of the mainland and first full asphalt rally in the wet. Still gaining experience, he ended the day 53rd overall.
A sensational time from Kyle McBride on the third test, fired him into the lead of the Junior BRC fight as Kyle White rued a poor tyre choice on pretty much each stage of the loop. McBride has just under 4s in hand over the 208 Rally pilot into the second day so cannot afford to relax as the fight begins in earnest in the daylight of Saturday.
Casey Jay Coleman couldn’t quite get the Fiesta hooked up in the conditions and battled to find the confidence to push. He ends the day third in the Juniors, as early leader Ioan Lloyd’s Peugeot was forced to return to service early with power issues.
The bulk of the rally mileage takes place tomorrow, with three stages repeated, giving 65 action packed miles ahead of the champagne spray at the Modern Tyres facility in Newry.