Leader Derek McGarrity has a real battle on his hands
Derek McGarrity was the leader as the Circuit of Ireland National Rally headed into the Ards TT stage last night. But the man who has won the international Circuit five times didn't have it entirely his own way.
McGarrity's WRC Ford Fiesta isn't eligible for the main event under the rules of the European, British and Irish Tarmac championships, hence its appearance at the top of the entry list for the national division, and he duly jumped into the lead from the start.
It was the Ford Escort of Frank Kelly which gave chase initially but he was an early casualty and Wesley Patterson and Declan McNaughton took over with Ollie Mellors in his S2000 Proton in the mix too.
The young Englishman lost ground on the long Glens stage, dropping to eighth, but came back strongly, even beating McGarrity to the fastest time by eight seconds on the re-run of Glendun to climb back to fourth.
Patterson was 35 seconds behind McGarrity's four-wheel-drive Fiesta with McNaughton a further half-minute behind and Mellors just seven seconds adrift.
The Escort theme continued with Alastair Cochrane fifth ahead of the Sunbeam of Keith White and the leading production car, the Mitsubishi Evo of Clive Kilpatrick in seventh. Camillus Bradley (Escort) and the Mitsubishis of Donie MacDonald and Simon Woodside completed the top 10.
The casualties included, sadly, the iconic Lancia Stratos of Steve Perez and the Mitsubishi Mirage of Swede Robert Blomberg. The second of the new Mirages of Jamie Jukes was 14th last night.