A year ago Irish drivers Craig Breen and Keith Cronin dominated the British championship division of the Todds Leap Ulster Rally.
Breen won, recording the first victory for a Super 2000 car in the series, and Cronin’s second place secured the points that all but guaranteed him a second successive British title. Fast forward 12 months and both drivers will be absent when the rally begins from Antrim this afternoon.
Breen is pursuing his broader ambitions in the World championship and Cronin is nowhere to be seen, having walked away disillusioned at the lack of opportunities, even for a double British champion.
Their absence opens the door for another Irish driver to step up to the plate — Jonny Greer leads the home challenge in the BRC series which is currently headed by Scot David Bogie.
Greer opted not to follow the example of Breen and Alastair Fisher, Ford Fiesta champions in the past like himself, who have gone down the World championship Academy route and are in action on Rally Deutschland this weekend. Instead, the 23-year-old from Carryduff moved up to an S2000 Skoda Fabia and set his sights on the British title.
Switching from the Mitsubishi Lancer, in which he led the series for much of last season, to the smaller, nimbler, non-turbo Skoda has required a change in driving style and it has taken time to adapt.
But a fifth, fourth, third and second run of results in the previous four rounds suggests Greer is getting there.
Now he would love to complete the sequence on his home event.
“It would be great to get my first BRC win here but being my home rally brings extra pressure,” he said. “But if I can drive the car to its full potential it should be my best chance.”
Greer has a 16 point deficit to make up on Bogie.
But he is just four behind second placed Welshman Elfyn Evans as the series heads into the final three rounds.
And while the British title contenders are battling for points, they could well be upstaged by the combative Garry Jennings, the Fermanagh driver looking to follow up on his production win on the Donegal International and close the gap on Tarmac championship Group N leader Alan Ring.