Keith Cronin and co-driver Greg Shinnors recorded a resounding victory by over four minutes from Nik Elsmore and Craig Drew in round six of the Mitsubishi Ralliart Evolution Challenge, the Todds Leap Ulster Rally.
Contrasting fortunes saw series leaders David Bogie/Kevin Rae out of the running on the opening stage when their car ran wide and clipped a verge, the subsequent impact removing a wheel.
The Ulster Rally provided the Evolution Challenge with its second asphalt event of the season and the one round of the year where the many Irish crews that support the championship don't have to board a ferry or aeroplane to get to the event.
Featuring six stages on Friday evening and a further ten on Saturday, totalling a competitive distance of 134 miles, the undulating tarmac roads around the host town of Armagh makes this one of the most demanding rallies of the year for both cars and crews.
Right from the word go, Cronin stamped his authority on proceedings and emerged from the opening stage 14.5 seconds ahead of Neil McCance/Sean Ferris, the anticipated pressure from Bogie dropping away after he lost a rear wheel when the back of the car stepped out and clipped a verge. Unable to continue, the Scottish youngster took the decision to get his stricken Evo recovered and, with the event being run to International rules, was still able to record a finish by running under SuperRally regulations.
By the time cars reached the final service halt of the day in Armagh, Cronin had pulled out a lead by two minutes – a margin almost unheard of in Evo Challenge circles.
Second place was the territory of Daniel Barry/Martin Brady, who had defied their car's tendency to understeer due to a suspected problem with the centre differential.
Nik Elsmore/Craig Drew were just eight seconds behind in third, not bad, considering they were unable to complete the pre-event recce, as Elsmore had contracted a bout of food poisoning the previous day.
McCance had now dropped back to fourth due to two punctures – both collected at exactly the same spot on the Parkanaur stage – one on the first run through and the other on the second.