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Drivers banking on leap of faith

It was the first and only British championship rally to be won by a Super 2000 car and the chances are it will repeated again this year.

In 2010, 21-year-old Craig Breen won the Todds Leap Rally NI in his S2000 Ford Fiesta and even though he will be absent this year, the Skoda Fabia duo of Robert Barrable and Jonny Greer stand out as potential winners of the August 19-20 event which will again be based in Antrim.

Barrable, from Swords, has already won at national level as he gets to grips with his S2000 Fabia and will come to Ulster on the back of an outstanding European debut in the classic Ypres Rally in Belgium at the weekend.

Greer was there too and although the he failed to finish, the 23-year-old from Comber is on a remarkable run of British championship results which have seen him finish fifth, fourth, third and second on the previous four rounds of the series.

The target now, he hopes, is to complete the sequence on his home round of the championship but even in the absence of Breen (and Alastair Fisher) - committed to the World championship Academy series in Germany - Greer will have tough competition from the likes of BRC leader and Scottish champion David Bogie as well as young Welsh winner Elfyn Evans as well as the in-form Barrable.

Once again the organisers have been forced to split the event into two parts - Rally NI and the Ulster WRC Rally - because of the conflicting regulations which govern the British and Irish Tarmac championships.

The Ulster Rally itself will cater for the powerful WRC cars of the Tarmac championship and early indications suggest last year's champion Derek McGarrity will be back to take on the Subarus of this season's front runners, Tim McNulty, a double winner in Galway and Donegal, Daragh O'Riordan, winner of the Rally of the Lakes, and the consistent series leader Kevin Barrett.

"The two main rallies will run back-to-back and spectators won't even notice the join but we have to do this to conform with the differing regulations of the two championships," explained event director Philip Murray.

There will also be a national category for competitors in modified cars and joining the line-up here will be 17-year-old Omagh schoolgirl Amy Cox, who was an impressive class winner on her first major event, the Circuit of Ireland at Easter.

"I would love to be able to do one of the main rallies but I haven't qualified for my international licence," she explained.

"But just being part of the whole event will be a great experience."

Voted the No.1 rally in the British championship for the past two seasons, the 'Ulster' will also play host to rounds of the British historic championship, the UK and Irish Citroen Trophy competitions, the Ford Fiesta Sport Trophy, the Suzuki Swift Cup and the BRC Challenge including the Fiesta Sport Challenge and the Super 1000 series.

Set to kick off at lunchtime on August 19 with a ceremonial start at Courthouse Square in Antrim, the rally is sponsored by Ballygawley outdoor activity centre Todds Leap and is centred on the Junction One Shopping Outlet.

Belfast Telegraph

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