Belfast Telegraph

Irish drivers ready to power ahead at Circuit of Ireland 2016

By Sammy Hamill

In the year when a new book commemorates the achievements of Bertie Fisher, his nephew Alastair is being talked of as one of three Irish drivers who could keep the Circuit of Ireland rally crown at home.

Alongside Craig Breen and Keith Cronin, he has the potential to win a rally - which starts today - in which his uncle remains one of the heroes and a triple winner. Alastair was there when the impressive book, King Fisher, was launched last month and he must have been inspired.

Daunted, too, perhaps by the challenge of a rally his uncle always said was more important to Irish drivers than any other.

It won't be any easier this time than during the years in which Bertie reigned but Alastair has the tools to compete at the front with the likes of Breen, Cronin, Elfyn Evans, Kajetan Kajetanowicz and the rest in a record-breaking entry list.

Like Breen, Cronin and Fisher have branched out in recent years, competing in the World and British championships, with a fair degree of success too.

For a while Breen took the spotlight with his victories in the WRC Academy and S2000 categories as well as the European championship, but Cronin and Fisher both came within a handful of points of winning World Junior titles too.

Cronin also won three British championships and Fisher added a Scottish Rally win to his CV.

Breen has moved up to join Kris Meeke in Citroen's WRC team but he has been tempted back to defend the Circuit title he won last year and despite the presence of another WRC 'exile', Evans, and European champion Kajetanowicz, he won't be overlooking the threat posed by his old rivals from home.

Fisher said: "It's great that we are all coming together again. We've all been around the world but here we are back on the Circuit and, I think, meeting up for the first time in pretty much equal cars.

"And when you add in all the other guys, it has got to be one of the most competitive rallies ever staged here. I wouldn't even guess which way it will go but I'm looking forward to it. It should be a mega battle."

Fisher and Cronin have been going head-to-head in this year's Irish Tarmac championship and although it is the Cork driver who has won the first two rounds, there has been little between them on stage times. The one black mark was Fisher's crash in West Cork but even there he was challenging Cronin.

"The accident was disappointing but we showed we had stepped up our pace from the first round in Galway and upgrades to the engine of the Ford Fiesta helped too," he explained. "I think we could be competing at the sharp end this weekend."

That sharp end is likely to consist of Breen and Cronin in their Citroens, Evans, Kajetanowicz and Fisher in their Fiestas plus a myriad of other drivers and a secondary group of Irish drivers which includes the Moffett brothers, Josh and Sam, who finished third and fourth last year.

So many to choose from but Ireland just might reign over them all. Take your pick from Breen, Cronin or Fisher.

Belfast Telegraph

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