Swift trip across the Irish Sea
RALLY 1 / SWIFT SPORT CUP

As the Rally 1 crews head to join the main MSA British Rally Championship runners on the Ulster International Rally this weekend, the class is dominated by the BRCís Swift Sport Cup Suzukis, the one-make series drivers topping the points table after three events.

However the lone Honda Civic of Joseph McGonigle must not be forgotten, taking a podium at his first attempt and leading briefly on the Pirelli before a Kielder ditch swallowed the car. He crashed out of the Jim Clark on the very first stage, but managed a come-back on the Manx lanes where he finished third again.

Leading both the class and Swift Sport Cup though, is the only driver with experience of the little 1600cc Suzukis, Borders driver Gordon Nichol shone on home asphalt to take his first victory on the Jim Clark. He and co-driver Emma Morrison overcoming an enforced switch back to supplied pacenotes to take third on the Isle of Man, enough to move them to the top of the table.

Yorkshireman Luke Pinder closed the gap to the Scot though, with his first win on the Isle of Man after knocking on the door of the top spot for several events. He rolled spectacularly out of the lead of the Pirelli though, Richard Sykes repeating the feat on Borders tarmac after early series leader Molly Taylor damaged her suspension with a costly incident on the Borders lanes.

Australian Taylor led both R1 and the Swifts until the Isle of Man, having surprised the boys with victories on the two gravel events. Her inexperience on asphalt seems to have been her downfall since, going off the road on both tarmac events, most spectacularly in the Isle of Man where the car launched over a bank and landed heavily on its roof. Both crew members were only shaken, but it will certainly mean the young Aussie won't be looking forward to the Ulster tar.

The tussle for the lead has been a four way affair this year, Pinder, Sykes and Nichol have kept the young Aussie honest, swapping fastest stage times during the first four BRC events.

Manxman David Harrison and Yorkshireman Nick Everard hold the final points positions in the Swift Sport Cup. Harrisonís prize of free entries in the 2009 BRC courtesy of winning last yearís BRC Challenge, has not gone smoothly so far, taking scant consolation from second on the Pirelli. The pair both have two no-scores, mainly due to mechanical problems, so will be playing catch-up for the remainder of the season since the best five scores count towards the British Rally Championship.

The Ulster International Rally is a tough one by anyoneís standards, concentration and stamina required throughout the 127 miles of difficult tarmac stages. Running near the end of the field in their diminutive 1600cc Swifts will not mean any less commitment from the six crews though, all the drivers needing to give their maximum until the Antrim finish on Saturday afternoon.

The whole event is based at the Junction One retail centre on the edge of Antrim, but the ceremonial start and finish will take place in the town centre. For more information and Rally Programmes visit www.ulsterrally.com

Swift Sport Cup website: www.swiftsportcup.com

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