Derek McGarrity (Subaru WRC) is 35.8 seconds behind in third.
In the Modified category, Daniel McKenna leads the way from Damien Gallagher and Barry Meade, all in Mk Two Ford Escorts.
McNulty gambled on tyre selection for the opening loop of three stages. It reaped immediate rewards through the stage at Fanad Head where he finished 13.4 seconds ahead of Fisher, with the Subaru trio of Seamus Leonard, Derek McGarrity and Daragh O’Riordan next in classification. Interestingly, McKenna’s time was actually the second quickest time — 9.1 seconds behind McNulty.
To conserve his tyres, McNulty backed off through the stage at Atlantic drive where Fisher posted the best time. The Tyrone ace was also quickest on the stage through Glin village as he moved into a 3.1 second lead, although he had a slight problem when the throttle stuck open close to the stage finish. Seamus Leonard (Subaru WRC) occupied third followed by Derek McGarrity and Cork driver Daragh O’Riordan, who reckoned tyre selection hampered his cause. Kevin Barrett (Subaru), who was sixth, had to contend with smoke in the cockpit of his Subaru.
Meanwhile, Donagh Kelly (Mitsubishi) led the more traditional Group N cars, his Mitsubishi was some 40 seconds ahead of Alan Ring.
With a change of tyres, McNulty charged through the repeat of Fanad Head, posting a time some 20.4 seconds faster than Fisher, the Meath ace duly regained control of the rally. There was a further gain on SS five, albeit a few seconds, while Fisher set the pace on the day’s final stage to hold second.
He said: “I’m very happy, the whole set up is great and it is very pleasing to have posted a few fastest times. Tomorrow morning stages will suit us but the afternoon tests will be a different matter.”
McGarrity moved into third when Leonard’s rally terminated courtesy of a burst oil pipe on SS five. O’Riordan’s performance on the second loop was a welcome improvement, he was fourth with Barrett fifth. Kelly (Mitsubishi) ended the day in sixth with Ring next in classification.
Despite axle troubles and a high speed moment in Atlantic Drive, McKenna led the Modified category as Gallagher and Meade were having a fine duel in the race for second spot. Scotland’s, David Bogie retired his Metro 6R4 with a burst oil pipe, Declan Boyle and Phil Collins both retired, the latter rolled his Escort. Today’s second leg consist of 10 stages and the rally will conclude tomorrow with a further eight stages, including two runs through the town stage at Buncranna.
Topaz Donegal International Rally, Letterkenny: 1 T McNulty/P Kiely (Subaru WRC) 49:30.6; 2 A Fisher/R Kennedy (Ford Fiesta S2000) 49m:59.2; 3 D McGarrity/J McKee (Subaru WRC) 50:35.0; 4 D O’Riordan/T McDaid (Subaru WRC) 50m:36.7; 5 K Barrett/S Mullally (Subaru WRC) 51m:17.8; 6 D Kelly/K Flanagan (Mitsubishi) 52:25.2; 7 A Ring/A Deasy (Mitsubishi) 53:19.0; 8 S Heron/G McVeigh (Toyota Corolla WRC) 53:22.8; 9 P Morrow/J Hart (Mitsubishi) 53:27.1; 10 G Jennings/D Moynihan (Mitsubishi) 53:32.0. NATIONAL: 1 D McKenna/A Grennan (Escort) 51:21.5; 2 D Gallagher/M Walsh (Ford Escort) 52:14.7; 3 B Meade/E Hayes (Escort) 52:22.8; 4 W Patterson/M McGarrity (Escort) 52:42.0; 5 J Dalton/G Jones (Darrian) 52:47.7.