Young guns fired up to take on best in Circuit
They are still in the fledgling stages of their rally careers but Craig Breen and Alastair Fisher will lead the Irish assault on the Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland which starts from Belfast City Hall on Friday afternoon.
And even if the odds are stacked against them in the face of an armada of all-conquering Skodas, the Irish young guns are up for the fight.
Already making a significant impact on the World Championship stage, they have their individual reasons for wanting to put in peak performances as rallying’s second global series, the Intercontinental Challenge, comes to Ireland for the first time.
Nephew of the late Irish rally great Bertie Fisher, Alastair is determined to live up to the family name.
“The Circuit of Ireland is very special for us because of what my uncle Bertie achieved. He won this rally three times and, along with everything else he did in his fantastic career, will be remembered as one of the best Irish drivers of all time,” said the 23-year-old from Trillick, Co Tyrone.
“It is a lot to live up to but I can only focus on doing the best I can and hope for a good result.”
But young Fisher is demonstrating that he is a top driver in his own right and comes to the Circuit on the back of his victory in the World Championship feeder series, the WRC Academy, in Portugal last weekend.
Now he switches from his two-wheel-drive R2 Academy
Ford Fiesta to a Super 2000 version which will be run for him by Ford’s World championship organisation, M-Sport.
“I have limited experience of driving the S2000 Fiesta, just in Donegal last year and the Rally of Scotland, but I’m feeling confident after winning in Portugal,” he said.
But, in fact, Fisher has shown he can adapt quickly and was the star of the 2011 Donegal International, finishing second and out-pacing all the WRC supercars with the exception of Tarmac champion Tim McNulty’s Subaru Impreza.
He also showed up strongly in the Scottish IRC round, but Breen was the revelation of the Scottish event, finishing fourth behind the now IRC champion Andreas Mikkelsen, the 2010 champion Juho Hanninen and Monte Carlo Rally winner Bryan Bouffier. Exalted company indeed.
Since then the 22-year-old from Waterford has moved on to win the 2011 WRC Academy and is currently leading the World S2000 series.
Now he dreams of winning the Circuit of Ireland. “I want to win and showcase what I can do in my own country,” he said.
All his achievements, however, have come in Fords and now he is gambling by switching to Peugeot for the first of four IRC appearances this season.
This weekend he will drive a S2000 Peugeot 207 and Breen admitted he is putting pressure on himself by “stepping outside his comfort zone”, but said he was highly impressed when he drove the car for the first time in France 10 days ago.
He described it as a “real little tarmac racer” but was back behind the wheel again on Tuesday for a test session down near the border in order to find a suitable set-up for the bumpy Irish roads.
His Circuit dream could now depend on him getting it right.