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Rallying: Ulster duo on World stage

By Samy Hamill

Published 24/03/2011

They could have been battling to become British champion but Alastair Fisher and Craig Breen have set their sights higher.

Two of Irish rallying’s top young guns, they change direction this week when they become part of the new Academy series in the World championship, starting with the Rally of Portugal.

The WRC Academy features 20 drivers from around the world, all under 25 and all driving identical two-wheel-drive Ford Fiestas.

On the surface, it is a step down from the four-wheel-drive Mitsubishi Lancer and S2000 Fiesta Fisher and Breen have driven in domestic competition recently and 22-year-old Trillick student Alastair admits it was a difficult decision to abandon the chance to become British champion.

“I'd like to think I'd have been in with a shot at the BRC title if I'd stayed,” he said

“The BRC is going two-wheel drive next year and this would have been the last chance to have a go at winning the title in the Mitsubishi.

“It was really tempting to do that, but I believe it will be more beneficial to my career by going to the WRC Academy.

“We’re all in the same cars and you know that the person who's driving well is going to stand out and be recognised by the people that matter.”

The Academy crews are joining the WRC series in round three for a rally which is said will be the first to create “a level playing field” for the new breed of 1600cc turbocharged supercars of the likes of Citroen and Ford.

Mikko Hirvonen won for Ford on the snow of Sweden and Sebastien Loeb won for Citroen at high altitude in Mexico.

Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson, who partners former World champion Petter Solberg in a DS3 Citroen, says Portugal will give a clearer picture of which manufacturer is ahead of the game with the new cars.

“This weekend in Portugal will be the first time we all go head-to-head in what are typical rally conditions.” says Patterson.

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