SS8: Wright leads but Pressured by Armstrong and Harper

After SS8: Crews are back in service at the Carryduff Forklift Down Rally and there’s a big battle raging for the rally lead!

After the earlier dramas that saw early leader Jonny Greer retire from the rally with mechanical trouble while punctures for both Meirion Evans and Jon Armstrong dropped them down the order, suddenly there is a new name at the head of the field…

McGrady Insurance N.I. Championship competitors, Stephen Wright and Liam Moynihan, have moved into the top spot with their Fiesta R5 after eight stages but they can’t afford to relax. A hard-charging Jon Armstrong and Noel O’Sullivan are in the midst of an impressive recovery drive…

After their time loss of around one minute due to a puncture, they’ve climbed back up to second overall in the McGeehan Motorsport Mini WRC, just six seconds adrift of the leaders with three stages remaining.

“I’m leading the rally but I’m not sure how long I’ll stay in front,” Wright said at the Eikon service area. “We’ll keep doing what we’ve been doing and see where we are at the finish.”

As for Armstrong, it’s his first event with a World Rally Car and he’s still acclimatising to his new mount. The Fermanagh man is the reigning World Rally Esports Champion and a Down Rally win would add to his ‘virtual reality’ success.

He has claimed five fastest stage times out of eight stages and has his eyes set on the top step of the podium…

“It’s a really nice car to drive,” Armstrong said, “but I’m still getting used to it.”

Daniel Harper and Chris Campbell are still in the mix with their Mini WRC. The crew are third overall, just eight seconds adrift of the leaders and are the leading Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Championship competitors.

Outside the top three, there’s another huge battle raging for fourth overall. Less than four seconds separates Derek McGarrity in fourth and Stuart Biggerstaff in seventh, with Melvyn Evans and Steve Wood in between.

McGarrity is disappointed with his tyre choice this morning, as well as the time he lost as a result of a broken anti-roll bar. He reckons he could have been fighting for the win in his Fiesta WRC without those troubles.

Melvyn Evans and Aled Davies are just one-tenth of a second behind McGarrity in their Fabia R5, while Steve Wood and Keith Moriarty dropped two places after the short spectator stage to hold sixth.

Stuart Biggerstaff and Anthony Nestor are thoroughly enjoying their day in the Fiesta R5. The former N.I. Champion had very little testing time in the car beforehand and has never rallied in a left-hand drive car until today so his stage times have been ultra-impressive.

In the two-wheel drive category, Damian Toner still has a smile on his face despite burning his hand while trying to fix a problem with his Escort MkII. He and navigator Barry McParland are eighth overall and lead the two-wheel category comfortably from Camillus Bradley and Crawford Henderson, with Christian Cochrane and Martin Lynch third.

Wesley Patterson had been among the top three but he is nowhere to be seen on the leaderboard. Others in the category include Philip Greenlee, who reportedly went off the road during the second loop of stages.

Completing the top 10 overall, Derek and Mark McGeehan are ninth in their Mini WRC ahead of Thomas Preston and Carl Williamson in 10th.

Competitors are now leaving service and will tackle three more stages before the winners are crowned back at the Eikon Exhibition Centre, near Lisburn, around 5.15pm.

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