BRIAN PATTERSON I
“Fisher name could win ITRC again”
t’s just a few weeks to go to until the Donegal International Rally and it is all to play for in the Irish Tarmac Championship.
Outright victory on this colossal rally in the Irish calendar may go to one of the old established Titans in their World Rally Cars – Donagh Kelly, Garry Jennings and Declan Boyle spring to mind – but there will be just as much interest in the new breed of drivers and the R5 cars. That, for the moment, is where the pinnacle of Irish Rallying lies.
Alastair Fisher in his Dom Buckley-prepared Ford Fiesta R5 leads the Tarmac points. Snapping at his heels are Sam Moffett, Stephen Wright, Josh Moffett and Keith Cronin in that order.
Just 12.5 points separate the top five, with 16 points for a win, and six from seven rounds to count. Donegal is round four. All of the top five competitors have had at least one case of misfortune, including Alastair Fisher. He and co-driver Gordon Noble crashed out of West Cork when battling with Keith Cronin.
Alastair, with steely determination, has got his championship back on track. He took maximum scores on the Circuit of Ireland and the International Rally of the Lakes. When Alastair’s uncle, Bertie Fisher, his son Mark and daughter Emma, perished in a helicopter accident in 2001, Alastair was just 12 years old. It was the most tragic of happenings.
Bertie was a legend in his own lifetime, not just in his four Tarmac Rally champion crowns, but in his integrity, business acumen and his gift for largescale structural engineering, which turned Fisher Engineering into an internationally renowned company. Alastair works in the same Ballinamallard factory, now with the name Severfield (NI) above the door. He commented: “I’ve been in and out of the workshops since my younger days, and, although I’m in the office now, I do have a good interest.”
Indeed, Alastair seems to have the same attraction to the challenge of construction as Bertie did.
Alastair also has the same traits, in that not only can he drive a rally car hard and fast, he is a man of few words whose actions speak for him. Backed by his father Ivan, he approaches the rally year in a structured, professional manner. He has had a couple of seasons in the WRC, in the Fiestas and the Citroen Academy, and came close to success with great battles against Elfyn Evans and Stephen Lefebvre. He doesn’t rule out another crack at something in the WRC, but for this year the sole intent is the Tarmac Championship, plus a little matter of getting married to his long-time girlfriend, Fiona.
When we asked him if there was any chance of competing on the Scottish Rally, which he won three years ago, he ruled it out completely. It is just one week before his wedding. He would, though, consider a gravel rally before the year is out.
For the moment, the priority is Donegal. He has a good pedigree in that famed County. He won the Fiesta R2s there in 2007 and tasted success in Letterkenny in 2011 on his way to winning Group N on the Tarmac championship. He was second overall in 2013 driving the relatively new Ford Fiesta S2000 against a plethora of World Rally Cars. Rory Kennedy was the co-driver on that one.
Donegal, a wonderful and dramatic rally arena for his late uncle, could unfold into another significant chapter for the Fisher name. This time, however, with Alastair’s name fully in the spotlight.
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