Neuville leads as Irish challenge falters in Belgium
As Thierry Neuville duly took his place at the top of the leaderboard, the Ypres Rally adventure was shortlived for three of the Ulster contingent.
Included in the British championship for the first time, the Belgian event had barely begun yesterday evening when Marty McCormack, Jonny Greer and Robert Woodside bowed out. Former British junior champion McCormack crashed his Skoda Fabia on the second stage and Greer retired his Citroen DS3 shortly afterwards with a mechanical issue. Woodside withdrew because of illness.
It left Keith Cronin leading the British championship contingent, sitting in ninth place in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta after the first time stages. He was just a second ahead of the BRC series leader Fredrik Ahlin, who was 10th in his Skoda, with Welshman Tom Cave's Hyundai 11th.
Desi Henry was next best of the BRC drivers in 13th in his Skoda. Up at the front of the field, Hyundai's World championship team leader Neuville had edged into the lead on a rare home appearance. His R5 Hyundai was three seconds ahead of the Skoda of former Monte Carlo Rally winner Bryan Bouffier, with another Hyundai driver Kevin Abbring third.
In the British championship junior division, Callum Devine impressed in his little R2 Opel Adam to lead Vauxhall team driver Chris Ingram by six seconds after the first four stages. William Creighton was third in his Peugeot but Marty Gallagher was a first stage casualty.
Sam Moffett will attempt to make it five straight wins in the Irish national championship's Raven's Rock Rally tomorrow. Declan Boyle is expected to be back in his WRC Fiesta to start the Waterford-based event at No.2 ahead of current champion Roy White in another Fiesta.