Home victory boosts McCormackís CitroŽn title hopes
Martin McCormack and Phil Clarke took away a haul of prizes from this weekendís Toddsleap.com Ulster International Rally, the penultimate round of the UKís CitroŽn Racing Trophy.

The 127 mile event, which is also the fifth round of the MSA British Rally Championship, saw the youngster not only lead the C2R2 Max contingent from start, but take fourth place overall in the BRC standings, missing out on an overall podium place by just under eleven seconds.

With Mark Gamble withdrawing his entry shortly before the event, the remaining three C2R2 Cup competitors set about the revived Ulster stages, the asphalt roads of the north Antrim coast not used in this format since 2002.

The weather was typically unsettled for the start of the rally on Saturday afternoon and tyre choice was on everyoneís minds. But it was McCormack who set the pace straight from the word go despite early brake problems, comfortable on roads which were less than an hour from his Draperstown home.

After the first loop of three stages, Championship rivals Jason Pritchard and Andrew Edwards had got into their rhythm. Despite choosing the wrong tyre combination for the surprisingly dry conditions, the Welsh pair pegged McCormackís lead to under twenty seconds with a fastest time on the notoriously tricky eight mile Torr Head stage.

Andrew Hockridge and Rich Mills were initially too cautious, but the car felt good on the opening stages and the Welshmanís experience of a couple of Irish tarmac events, including a class win the last time out, was enough to take joint fastest time with Pritchard on Torr Head.

The first loop of stages was then repeated and it was McCormack once again in charge, leaping another eighteen seconds ahead of Pritchard in two stages. Pritchard responded, but it was not enough as the pair set equal fastest time on the second run through Torr Head.

The overnight halt stopped play on the Ulster lanes, positions gelling with McCormack ahead of Pritchard and Hockridge, but an early morning Saturday re-start meant another chance for the chasing crews.

With stages now run in pairs between service, the teams had a better chance of getting tyre choice right and all three were on the correct Pirellis for the first loop. All had problems on the first stage of the day, Cairncastle, McCormack and Pritchard overshooting the same hairpin while Pritchard landed heavily, bending the steering.

It was McCormack who continued to pull clear at the front, but Cairncastle was to claim a victim during the second run, Pritchard clipping a bank and sustaining damage to the oil filter which ended his rally on the spot.

Just three stages stood between the crews and the Antrim finish and the remaining pair maintained station, although a late electrical gremlin gave Hockridge a scare, a low voltage reading making him reluctant to switch the engine off.

McCormackís victory in the CitroŽn Racing Trophy netted the MSA British Junior Rally Champion a cheque for Ä2,000, boosted to Ä2,500 for being third placed two wheel drive car on the event. Hockridge did not go home empty handed either, taking Ä1000 prize money for his second place, courtesy of CitroŽn Racing. [AUDIO]As the champagne sprayed next to the historic Antrim Gate, McCormackís eventual winning margin was over three minutes. But his victory is not enough to seal the CitroŽn Racing Trophy/C2R2 Cup title and the battle will go across the English Channel for Rallye Le Touquet in late September.

The C2R2 Cup and CitroŽn Racing Trophy UK are supported by CitroŽn UK.

C2R2 Cup (CitroŽn Racing Trophy) provisional points
Pos
Name
Nationality
Total

1
Martin McCormack
GB
98

2
Jason Pritchard
GB
72

3
Mark Gamble
GB
50

4
Andrew Hockridge
GB
48

For more information visit www.c2r2.co.uk

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