Rally NI: Alastair Fisher isn’t confused - he just wants to win!
Alastair Fisher could be excused if he ends up cross-eyed this weekend.
He will be trying to win the Toddsleap.com Rally NI — but focusing on the Ulster Rally too.
The 22-year-old Trillick driver, who was the hero of the Circuit of Ireland at Easter, finds himself in a position that is almost too difficult to explain.
He is the leader of the Citroen Irish Tarmac championship, but won’t be competing directly against his main rivals for the title, the MacHale brothers, Gareth and Aaron.
Instead he will be in the British championship section, Rally NI, while the MacHales and the likes of Circuit of Ireland winner Derek McGarrity line up in the Ulster Rally.
It is all because of a rule change this year which means the big WRC Supercars from the Irish series are barred from competing alongside the production machines of the British championship. The organisers’ answer was to create two separate rallies which will run in parallel.
But it means Fisher’s Revolution Wheels production Mitsubishi will start alongside the British championship contenders in the Rally NI even though his main target is the Irish Tarmac title.
“It is a bit confusing all right,” says civil engineering student Fisher.
“I had started the season going for both championships but things didn’t go so well in the BRC series. I had a couple of non-finishes early on and the results didn’t get much better after that.
“But I’ve had a good run in the Tarmac championship, leading since the Rally of the Lakes in May, so it made sense to concentrate on that for the rest of the season.
“This is the one event which includes both championships but unfortunately the new rules mean we can’t all run together so I’ll be competing against the likes of Keith Cronin, Gwyndaf Evans, Jonny Greer and Craig Breen but keeping an eye on the times of the MacHales in the other rally.
“As I understand it, for Tarmac championship purposes, the times of all registered competitors will be separated out afterwards and points allocated as if we had been in the same rally.
“It’s not very satisfactory but I don’t know what else the organisers could have done in the circumstances.”
It is a confusing situation for all but the anoraks, who actually have five separate rallies to enjoy this weekend.
It will be the Supercars of the MacHales, McGarrity and Co who lead the 150-strong cavalcade out of Antrim tomorrow (1-15pm) for a compact 14-hour, 14-stage event which takes in the classic north Antrim stages and finishes at 5pm on Saturday.
Gareth MacHale, a close second last year, is favourite to win overall but Fisher will again hope to stay close enough on the time sheets to keep alive his hopes of emulating his uncle, the late four-time Tarmac champion Bertie Fisher.
Rally NI top seeds: 1 Gwyndaf Evans/Phil Pugh (Mitsubishi Lancer), 2 Keith Cronin/Barry McNulty (Subaru Impreza), 3 Alastair Fisher/Rory Kennedy (Mitsubishi Lancer), 4 Craig Breen/Gareth Roberts (Ford Fiesta), 5 Jonathan Greer/Dai Roberts (Mitsubishi Lancer), 6 Piet van Hoof/Sander van Barschot (Mitsubishi Lancer), 7 Bryan Bouffier/ Xavier Panseri (Citroën DS3), 8 Jason Pritchard/Robbie Durant (Subaru Impreza), 9 Adam Gould/Craig Drew (Subaru Impreza), 10 Dave Weston/Ieuan Thomas (Subaru Impreza).
Ulster Rally top seeds: 1 Gareth MacHale/Brian Murphy (Ford Focus), 2 Derek McGarrity/James McKee (Subaru Impreza), 3 Daragh O'Riordan/Tony McDaid (Subaru Impreza), 4 Aaron MacHale/Eugene O’Donnell (Ford Focus), 5 Arjen de Koning/Hein Verschuuren (Mitsubishi Lancer).