WATER was an added challenge for competitors on the opening day of the Todds Leap Ulster Rally, tyre choice a critical factor and on the opening special stage near Enniskillen Derek McGarrity blasted his way to top of the leader leader board in his Ford FocusWRC some eight seconds faster than his closest challenger.
Stage two was won by Garry Jennings the victor of the recent Lurgan Park Rally and he was very much on home territory with his Subaru WRC.
The Fermanagh ace was somewhat caught out by the very slippery conditions on special stage one but he was very much on the pace for the next stage.
Stage three went to Sam Moffett in his Subaru WRC and at the end of the opening trio of stages McGarrity has a five second lead over Jennings.
Meanwhile the British Rally Championship contenders had their own battles in Rally N.I. with Tom Cave the pacesetter in his Citroen while local Jon Armstrong was very much on form at the wheel of his Ford Fiesta and holding second place after the opening three stages
There was disappointment for local fans as Alistair Fisher as his Citroen leftthe road.
In the battle for Group N honours, Stephen Wright fought off a challenge from Josh Moffett.
The cars returned to service at St Angelo and the first Spectator Stage of the event and Jennings made contact with a fence resulting in slight bodywork damage on his Subaru, but the next stage saw him right back on the pace and he swept past McGarrity to take the lead, Derek having stalled the Focus on the startline.
Sam Moffett remained in third place overall and in the British Rally Championship battle Cave remained at the top of the time sheets with the impressive Jon Armstrong in second with Osian Pryce third in his Citroen.
A mere seven seconds between Jennings and McGarrity as the rally headed towards the two final stages of the opening day.
Jennings maintaining his form to take stages six and seven from McGarrity.
On Saturday the action starts at Cloughan Glen just before 8am and a further eight stages including two more Spectator Stages at St Angelo with the winning car expected at the finish in Enniskillen at 5.45pm.