Safety first approach gives Moffett a firm grip on title
Josh Moffett faced a dilemma. Did he in engage in a battle with Welshman Matt Edwards for an Ulster Rally victory or did he pocket the points which will almost certainly assure he succeeds his brother Sam as Irish Tarmac champion?
He had led the rally overnight on Friday but his main Irish rivals, Desi Henry and Jonny Greer, had gone in a flash, both of them the victims of the same lethally slippery corner on the Cairncastle stage, so what was more important - the rally win of the title?
The Monaghan man decided to see what Saturday would bring and when Edwards, the British championship leader, upped his pace in the drier conditions, jumping from third to first, Moffett was content to slot into second, keeping the chasing back at bay without taking undue risks.
He did have a late fright when the gear lever of his R5 Ford Fiesta snapped on the final stage, allowing Scotland's David Bogie to close within three seconds at the Antrim finish, but it was job done and Moffett will go to the final round in Cork with an all but unassailable lead in the premier Irish series.
Similarly, Edwards now a firm grip on the British title, his third maximum haul of points in as many rounds taking him a long way clear of second placed Bogie.
The second Welsh driver to win the rally in the past three years, the 24-year-old from Rhos-on-Sea emulating 2016 winner Elfyn Evans who also finished the season as British champion with the same M-Sport Ford team.
Despite the treacherous conditions on Friday he was one of the most untroubled drivers on the rally. "We drove to a level which was comfortable and pushed when we could but it was important to drive to the conditions," was his modest explanation.
Others couldn't cope including the top home trio of Henry, Greer and Marty McCormack, the latter deciding enough was enough after a succession of spins and his Skoda sailing through a hedge on Saturday morning.
In the wars too was Rhys Yates who battled for the lead early on but finished fourth after he skated wide on a corner, sustaining a puncture.
Kevin Eves won the national division in sixth place overall ahead of the top Ulster driver to finish, Camillus Bradley (7th), both driving Ford Escorts.
Claudy's Jordan Hone was the leading front-wheel-drive finisher in 10th overall in his little R2 Opel Adam and the youngest driver in the rally, 17-year-old Josh McErlean from Kilrea, looked like pulling off a first British Junior victory when he closed to less than a second off Norwegian leader Steve Rokland. But it all went wrong on the final two stages, letting William Creighton into second place.
Meanwhile, Citroen's Craig Breen finished seventh on Rally Germany as Toyota's Ott Tanak made it back-to-back wins ahead of the Hyundai of World championship leader Thierry Neuville. Sebastien Ogier was fifth after a puncture on Saturday dropped his Ford back.
Ulster Rally top 10: 1 Matt Edwards and Darren Garrod (Ford Fiesta) 1 hr 20 mins 49.2secs; 2 Josh Moffett and Andy Hayes (Ford Fiesta) +26.6 secs; 3 David Bogie and John Rowan (Skoda Fabia) + 29.1 secs; 4 Rhys Yates and James Morgan (Skoda Fabia) + 1 min 36.9 secs; 5 Alex Laffey and Patrick Walsh (Ford Fiesta) + 3:31.3 secs; 6 Kevin Eves and Chris Melly (Ford Escort) + 4:52.9 secs; 7 Camillus Bradley and Crawford Henderson (Ford Escort) + 6:10.5 secs; 8 Alan Smyth and Mac Keirans (Mitsubishi Evo) + 7:46.5; 9 Kyle McGettigan and Dale McGettigan (Ford Escort) + 8:05.8 seconds; 10 Jordan Hone and Paul Hone (Opel Adam) 8:36.3 secs; 10 Steve Rokland and Dai Roberts (Peugeot 208) 8:51.8secs.