Alastair Fisher claimed second overall on the Killarney Rally of the Lakes to maintain his pursuit of Craig Breen in the Irish Tarmac Championship.

In a closely fought event, Breen recorded his fourth consecutive victory of the campaign, with Fisher holding off the challenge of Callum Devine and Enniskillen navigator Brian Hoy to take second spot. Willie Mavitty held onto his Group N championship lead with a second place finish in his class, while Chris Armstrong took his Ford Escort to victory in the National section of the event.

The two day event takes competitors over some of the most famous stages in Irish rallying, and Alastair was happy with his performance in the sunny conditions as he finished less than 15 seconds behind the winner.

“We were very pleased with it,” he admitted. “It was a very tough event and very challenging stages. It was bone dry all weekend and we were on a hard tyre every stage, and the roads down there are very abrasive so there was a lot of grip out there. We had a good clean run up Molls Gap on Saturday morning, and then we were down into the famous Ardgroom, Cods Head and Healy Pass stages, and they are very technical with a lot of corners. They were completely in reverse this year so they were new territory for everyone, but our notes worked well and the times were good.”

It was a return to form for Fisher, who had been slightly off the pace on the previous round of the series.

After two second place finishes in Galway and West Cork he had to settle for fifth on the Easter Stages, but he was back contesting for fastest stage times from the off in Killarney.

“I pinpointed a few things on the Easter Stages that just weren’t right with my own driving,” he revealed. “Even though we had two good events at the start of the year, they were in wet slippery conditions and I was out of practice in the dry conditions. The Easter Stages got me back up to speed by the end of the event, so I knew that we just had to tweak a few things and it would be ok.”

That pace was evident from the outset. He was second quickest on the opening stage and kept the gap to Breen to within 30 seconds after the first day.

Callum Devine and Brian Hoy were breathing down his neck and got to within a couple of seconds but Alastair was able to put in a quick time when it was needed to stay ahead. Stage ten on day two saw him pull back almost eight seconds on the leader, but Breen was able to hold on to the top spot.

“It was only a 10 kilometre stage but we managed to have a good run on it,” said Alastair. “It was a very narrow bumpy stage and the set-up of the car seemed very good on it. Overall we pulled him back by 10 or 12 seconds on the Sunday and Craig was very complementary of everyone’s pace. It was good even racing. No-one was giving anyone anything. Callum was going very well and it was nip and tuck. We had a couple of good stages and that gave us the jump on him, but he was nipping at our heels the whole way.”

The result leaves Breen in a very strong position to take the Championship title, but Fisher will keep fighting to the end, starting with the next round in Donegal in June. “Craig is almost there and there is not much we can do on that front. It is still mathematically possible for us but he would need three bad scores and we would need three wins.”

Willie Mavitty is still in pole position for the Group N title, despite suffering his first defeat of the season in Killarney. The Mitsubishi driver had a 100 per cent record in the championship until last weekend, but a wrong tyre choice proved costly and handed Andy Reilly the chance to claim maximum points.

“Unfortunately we didn’t come away with the win this weekend however it was a great weekend and we have come away with a lot of positives,” he said. “It was dry but very cold on Saturday morning and I opted for a medium compound tyre. We had to do three very long challenging stages and unfortunately it was the wrong choice and we should have been on the harder tyre. Over the opening three stages we dropped 30 seconds leaving us on the back foot. When we got to service and got on the hard tyres on we started setting some fastest stage times but unfortunately they weren’t fast enough to close the gap.”

Chris Armstrong was contesting the National section of the rally in his Escort, and he had settled into a strong second position after the first day’s action. He was locked in a battle with the Mitsubishi of Vincent Sweeney with only two seconds separating the pair before clutch failure on the Evo handed Armstrong the win.