Former World Rally Championship driver Elfyn Evans finished day one of the John Mulholland Motors Ulster Rally at the top of the leaderboard after six special stages – but it was a local driver who set the early pace.
The opening stage at Holly Hill saw Fermanagh’s Alistair Fisher grab an early lead from Evans; both driving Ford Fiesta R5s with Jonny Greer next up with his Citroen DS3 R5.
Keith Cronin (Citroen DS3 R5) dispatched Greer for third place while the two lead positions remained the same.
Fisher was lucky he slid wide on stage three, the result bent his rear suspension, allowing Evans to narrow the gap.
Stage four saw Evans top the leaderboard with the early pacesetter Fisher down to fifth, the problem a puncture. However stage five saw Cronin in the frame and within four seconds of the impressive Evans.
The final stage of day one, a short 4.7 miler, was again a win for Evans, but Cronin was less than a second slower – no way was he going to let the Welsh driver have it all his own way.
Cronin in a strong second place overall clearly intended to take the fight further on the second and final day.
Greer completed his opening day in third overall with Scot David Bogie fourth (Skoda Fabia R5), Fisher fifth and Fredrik Ahlin rounded off the top six with his Ford Fiesta R5.
Garry Jennings had switched from his usual Subaru WRC for this event and was getting to grips with the new Mitsubishi Mirage, but on stage four brake problems intervened for the Kesh driver.
Today eight special stages with the winning crew on the finish ramp at Ebrington at 6pm.