Edwards leads way but Cronin eager to turn up heat in Antrim
Matt Edwards has zipped to the top of the British Rally Championship standings but faces a fight to stay there as he heads to Antrim next week for round three of the series, the John Mulholland Ulster International.
The Welsh driver, who had the bizarre experience of starring in the promotional video for Britain's round of the World Championship, Wales Rally GB, piloting a Ford Fiesta as it flew down Slate Mountain on a zip wire, has been flying high in the BRC with maximum points so far.
Until this season, Edwards had never won a BRC event but, having replaced reigning champion Keith Cronin in the M-Sport Ford team, he has been the surprise packet of the series and leads the Irish ace by 20 points.
However, the 2017 Ulster Rally was where Cronin turned his season around, his win setting up a last-round showdown with Sweden's Fredrik Ahlin, which led to a fourth title for the Cork driver.
He will have No.1 on his car for the Antrim Castle start on Friday week, not an R5 Fiesta like last year but a Hyundai i20 which, despite the deal only being patched together a week before the start of the Championship, has taken him to two third places.
In contrast to Edwards, who has struggled on his previous Ulster visits, Cronin has an impressive record, including two victories, and will start favourite in an event which brings the British and Irish Tarmac Championships together.
He is a former Tarmac champion himself and will face many of his old rivals, notably the Moffett brothers Sam, the current champion and leader again by a single point from Josh.
They are seeded at two and three in their R5 Fiestas, with Edwards at No.4 and the two leading Ulster contenders, Desi Henry (Skoda Fabia) and Jonny Greer (Fiesta), at five and six.
The Skodas of Scot David Bogie and Ulster's former British Junior champion Marty McCormack are next, with another Welsh driver, Rhys Yates, and England's Alex Laffey completing the top 10 in an 85-strong starting line-up.