The Ulster International Rally played host to the fourth round of the Citro?n C2R2 Cup, part of the Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship this weekend.

The two day, all asphalt event was won by a margin of just 32 seconds by Irish crew Martin McCormack and Liam Moynihan after 160 miles of competition.

Also registered for the Irish C2R2 Cup, the crew had pulled around forty seconds clear of Jason Pritchard and George Gwynn by the first service on Friday, although stage two was cancelled after an accident.

By the overnight halt the gap was down to just four seconds, McCormack sustaining a puncture on the final stage of the day. "We dropped about fifty seconds, but Jason had already taken a bit back on stage five. I really didn't enjoy it." he said at the final service.

Pritchard struggled with the car's differential, presuming that a rebuild of the whole transmission before the event had left it tight. "The car is pulling one way on acceleration and the other under braking," he explained, "It is quite un-nerving."

As the crews bedded down for the night, championship leaders Andrew Hockridge and Rich Mills were third, despite a front puncture on stage three. They drove two miles out of the stage but put in a great time overall.

Fourth and another crew with puncture problems were Cornish pair Matt Cotton and Anthony Godden. They suffered with even more time dropped, as the puncture caused them to spin, the cable that engaged reverse gear snapping.

Martin Roberts and Eric Pritchard had some problems with the brakes binding after adjusting the free play in the pedal. "The brakes were a lot more positive, but I think we may need to de-adjust the rod to free them off a bit." concluded Roberts. They had a couple of moments in the dark but held fifth at the final service of the day.

2007 C2R2 Cup Champion Martin Laverty had Vincent Fergus alongside, but their car was misbehaving from the outset, the rear axle appearing to be out of line. "The wheel is rubbing on the bodywork," he said, "and I'm concerned it will; wear through the tyre."

His event was also marred on day two by a broken clutch arm, which caused it to slip. He and Fergus eventually finished a frustrated sixth, having nursed the car through all but a couple of stages on the final day.

Roberts stayed fifth, backing off as the weather turned foul from lunchtime on Saturday. He was another slightly disappointed, having struggled on the dark stages on Friday.

Cotton settled for fourth, deciding the potential weather conditions in the afternoon merited a cautious tyre choice. Even so, as the heavens opened they had several moments under braking from high speed, but maintained the gap to Hockridge ahead.

The Championship leader also maintained third, sufficient to increase the newcomer's margin at the top to three points from Roberts. "We had a couple of overshoots," said Hockridge, "but all in all it was a great rally."

Jason Pritchard's return to the series after missing the first round with a broken foot, and subsequent pain on the Jim Clark, paid dividends with a win in the Isle of Man. He added to the points tally with a second in Ulster, leaving McCormack to battle for Irish honours as the Welsh youngster's non-start back in April can be discounted when dropped scores come into effect at the end of the season.

Winning with a comfortable margin was Irishman Martin McCormack, but enjoyment of the champagne spraying was spoiled after a slip-up with fuel. "We've lost ten of the twenty points available," he shrugged, "because we went to the wrong re-fuelling rig and didn't take the Tesco 99 Octane that is required by the BRC"

"It was an honest mistake and we ran the correct fuel all day on Saturday, but I accept that some penalty needs to be applied." Concluding, "The consolation is that we won both British and Irish C2R2 categories. But we couldn't commit to the next rounds, so we'd probably have been overtaken anyway."

The next round is International Rally Yorkshire on September 27th where Irish veteran and eventual champion Martin Laverty took victory, a result he will do well to repeat with the youngsters snapping at his heels.

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