Rally driver Alastair Fisher following in family wheel-tracks

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Scottish Rally winner Alastair Fisher hopes to emulate his late uncle Bertie Fisher with success in the Ulster Rally.

Alastair Fisher goes into this week's Ulster Rally hoping to emulate the achievement of his famous late uncle Bertie, who won the event three times.

The 24-year-old put a difficult 12 months behind him by becoming the first Irish driver to win the Scottish Rally in June and now he will compete on familiar territory when the next round of the British championship takes place in Enniskillen for the first time in the history of the race.

Having come close to his maiden success several times since making his debut in 2008, the first two rounds of this year's British championship were dogged by setbacks, so it was a welcome change of fortune for the Trillick man when he and Omagh co-driver Gordon Noble won round three of the championship in their Citroen DS3.

"It was a bit of a relief to get that win under my belt," admitted Alastair.

"Having a rally so close to home now brings a bit of added pressure but it's nice to have it in Fermanagh and some of the stages are very local to me, so it will bring a good buzz to the area."

Ahead of the Ulster Rally on 23 and 24 August, the pair lie second in the championship, five points behind Finns Jukka Korhonen and Marko Salminen, who came home 15 seconds behind Fisher in second place in Scotland.

"The entire rally will be held on tarmac, on closed public roads and the stages will be generally fast, quite narrow, and with a few bumps that can catch you out.

"We'll need a good set of pace-notes to get all those things covered, so the one day of reconnaissance we are allowed before the event will be very important.

Alastair Fisher
Fisher became the first Irish driver to win the Scottish Rally in June

"We'll do our homework, double check the notes and then go at it full speed during the event."

The County Tyrone driver suffered a string of disappointments as a competitor in the World Championship Academy series and more recently in the WRC3 Citroen Top Driver category, where his pace on the global stage has not been rewarded with the points he deserved.

Fisher and fellow Irishman Keith Cronin dominated the opening round of the World Championship-based series, the Rally of Portugal, but came away with just a handful of points each after losing several minutes when the engine of their DS3 Citroens were drowned out in a river crossing.

Fisher, driving for French team Sainteloc Racing, led at one point in Portugal, only to see top points go to former Monte Carlo Rally winner Bryan Bouffier, who safely navigated his way through the water.

The second round of the world series, Rally Italia in Sardinia, brought further disappointment for Fisher as a disastrous start saw him hit trouble and retire on the first stage.

And most recently, Fisher crashed out of Rally Finland after leading the event on day one. He was disputing the lead with Cronin, who went on to win.

"The Citroen Series is a little bit out of reach now so I'm sitting out Rally Germany, which clashes with Ulster. Long-term, it would be nice to get a year at world championship level with a top team but my immediate priority is to win the British championship," explained Fisher.

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Rally driver Alastair Fisher reveals some of his favourite things

Being the nephew of one of the most popular figures in the history of British motorsport, Alastair is pleased to be carrying on the family tradition.

This year the two-day Ulster Rally will benefit from significant support from the Fisher Foundation, set up as a permanent memorial to the lives of Bertie and his children Mark, also a talented rally driver, and Emma, who died following an air accident in 2001.

"At the start of my career the Fisher name got me some good publicity, then it brought a bit of added pressure to perform, but now I've built up a name for myself in my own right and things have worked out ok.

"It would be very special to win the Ulster Rally, especially as it's in my home area, and the Fisher Foundation supports the Marshalls' Club in terms of providing safety units and Competitor Tracking. It's good that the family name is still involved with the sport."

Fisher combines his sporting passion with his job as a Construction Engineer, having previously earned a First Class Honours Degree in Construction, Engineering and Management.

"I managed to get my degree in construction while I was driving competitively and it's a big task trying to balance everything, but it keeps me busy," he admits.

Like other disciplines of motorsport, the young driver admits that the economic downturn has had a negative effect on rallying in recent years.

The demise of Rally Ireland and the cancellation of this year's Circuit of Ireland as a result of adverse weather after its status was downgraded because of a lack of funding were further blows to the sport.

"A lot of the World Rally cars that used to compete in Ireland aren't out any more as they're so expensive to run but the British series has gone to a two-wheel drive championship which makes it more affordable for younger drivers.

"Thankfully things have levelled out a bit and the entries are getting a lot stronger at some events. The last couple of seasons have been tough though.

"The inclusion of the Circuit of Ireland as a round of the European Championship was a great addition last year and some of the television audiences it brought along with it were really good," said Alastair.

And Fisher believes that the recent return of Dungannon driver Kris Meeke to the world stage after an 18-month absence will provide a major boost to the profile of the sport in Ireland.

Meeke was called up to join world champions Citroen for the Rally of Finland, following the demise of the Prodrive Mini project at the end of 2011.

The 2009 Intercontinental Challenge champion from Dungannon was driving alongside team regulars Mikko Hirvonen and Dani Sordo and was lying in a very creditable fifth place when he crashed out.

"Kris is a very good driver and has been on the sidelines for too long. He has built up a name for himself but the nature of the sport is that you have to be in the right place at the right time - hopefully he'll get the break he deserves now."

On a more sombre note, the recent death of Dungarvan man Paul Mulcahy while competing in a round of the Dunlop National Rally Championship, the Ravens Rock Stage Rally, again brought into sharp focus the dangers associated with the sport, a reality that the young Northern Ireland driver acknowledges..

"You take all the precautions you can and use all the latest safety equipment but it's always in the back of your mind," he admits.

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