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Alastair Fisher shatters his hoodoo and grabs win in Galway


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Top spot: Alastair Fisher won his first Irish Tarmac Rally

Top spot: Alastair Fisher won his first Irish Tarmac Rally

Top spot: Alastair Fisher won his first Irish Tarmac Rally

Alastair Fisher had come close so many times but now he is an Irish Tarmac Rally Championship winner.

The Ulsterman led from start to finish to win the first round of this year's premier Irish series, the Galway International, ending a run of runners-up finishes and setting himself up as a likely successor to absent champion Craig Breen.

Fisher and co-driver Gordon Noble, in their R5 Volkswagen Polo, won by more than 20 seconds from a pair of past champions, Sam Moffett and Donagh Kelly, on a day when another former champion signalled that he may be bowing out.

Garry Jennings, the top seed and favourite for a third Galway win, made a last-minute decision to withdraw from the rally. He was due to make his first appearance since June when his friend Manus Kelly was killed on the Donegal International but despite taking part in the ceremonial start on Saturday evening, Jennings then headed home to Fermanagh to talk to his wife and young daughters.

He explained: "Returning to rallying was not an easy decision for me after the tragic events of last year. I returned home to speak with Kerry and our young girls and together we decided for our peace of mind at this time to withdraw from the rally.

"I have not yet decided if this is permanent and we hope after time that I may return to the stages."

In his absence, Fisher took control of the rally from the first trio of wet, slippery stages around Loughrea. Despite it being his first time in a Polo - the same Dom Buckley Motorsport car in which Marty McCormack won the last round of the 2019 series - the Trillick driver built a lead of 20 seconds and maintained it to the end.

Moffett and Kelly battled over second place, 2017 champion Sam, driving a Hyundai for the first time, edging it by less than two seconds over Kelly's Polo. Desi Henry had been part of the battle but was forced out when the hub nuts of his Hyundai sheared off.

Welshman Meirion Evans was fourth in another VW ahead of the Hyundai of Josh Moffett with Northern Ireland champion Stephen Wright completing the top six in his Ford Fiesta and Cathan McCourt, the Irish forestry champion, seventh in another Fiesta.

In Belgium, Kris Meeke dominated the Boucles de Bastogne Legends Rally in his first appearance of the year since stepping down from the World Championship.

He turned back time to drive an Mk2 Ford Escort and won the historic event by more than five minutes from Cedric Cherain and Stefaan Stoup, who were also in Escorts.

And in Australia, Andrew Watson took a podium place in the Bathurst 12-Hour race, the Donaghmore driver finishing third in the silver category in the Garage 59 Aston Martin he shared with Olie Hart and American teenager Roman de Angelis.

"It was such a difficult race but I can finally say I've stood on a Bathurst podium! My team-mates, who were rookies at this fantastic Mount Panorama circuit, did an amazing job," said Watson.

Belfast Telegraph