Alastair Fisher won his first ever Irish Tarmac Championship round with a commanding victory on the Galway International Rally.

Twenty one years since his late uncle Bertie Fisher lifted the trophy, the Fisher name returned to the top of the podium on the championship’s opening event, with Alastair and navigator Gordon Noble leading from start to finish.

Fisher has come close to an Irish rally win on multiple occasions since switching to an R5 car three years ago, but his succession of near misses finally came to an end on Sunday evening.

“It’s been a while coming,” he admitted. “We have been knocking on the door for the last three seasons in the R5 car. We had a good few second places racked up and you were questioning if you were ever going to get there but that’s rallying.”

Galway was Alastair’s first outing in the Volkswagen Polo R5, but there was no settling in period for the Trillick driver as he raced in to a commanding lead over the rally’s opening two stages.

A 3.7 second advantage over the first stage became an 18 second lead by the end of stage two, and from that position he was able to manage his advantage over the remaining seven tests.

“I have always felt good in Galway and it’s a rally I like, and we seem to go well on it, but to get off to such a good start was a bit of a surprise,” he admitted.

“We had a clean run on the first stage, even though I wasn’t 100 per cent happy with the car. I made a few changes after the first stage and softened the suspension a few clicks and it seemed to help going into the second stage which was a bit more greasy and slippery. We had a very strong time on it.

“As the day went on we still had to maintain our pace because there was still a good battle going on behind us and they were all pushing, so we had to do the same. In the conditions you could easily have had a spin and lost ten seconds so we had to keep going at a good speed.

“We had four quickest times from the first five stages. There was one stage that was quite wet and we decided to back off a bit and not take any risks. From there we just managed it. Thankfully the nerves were ok. They were still there in the back of my head but they didn’t take over. With the conditions being so difficult Gordon and I were concentrated on the pace notes and reading the road and getting through.

“I want to thank all the team for their hard work over the weekend and to our sponsors for their continued support.”

The win gives Alastair an early advantage in the Irish Tarmac Championship, and he will be hoping that he can continue to develop the car as he targets a championship winning season in the Polo.

“Overall it’s a good car with a lot of potential. I would still like to make some tweaks to it to get 100 per cent comfortable as the year goes on but I feel it has a lot of potential. We will have to try to get our heads together and things sorted out for West Cork now.”

Alastair had expected a tough challenge from local rival Garry Jennings, but the Kesh driver pulled out of the rally hours before the first stage was due to start.

In a statement posted on his Facebook page, Garry revealed that the tragic death of competitor Manus Kelly in Donegal last year was behind his last minute decision.

“I’m sorry to have disappointed my fans and anyone involved with the rally,” read his statement.

“Returning to rallying was not an easy decision for me as many of you know, after the tragic events of last year. I returned home to speak with Kerry and our young girls last night 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.”

William Mavitty was back in action in his familiar Mitsubishi as he tried to regain the Tarmac Championship Group N title that he narrowly lost out on in 2019. He made the prefect start to his season with a class win on every stage and a top ten finish overall.

“I really enjoyed the weekend’s rally as I love the wet and mucky stages,” he said. “We started the event with 21 on the door and finished ninth overall beating ten R5 cars, one of which was one of my childhood heroes Eugene Donnelly. I can’t thank the team enough for their work and the club for running a flawless event.”

Barry McNulty was co-driving for Cathan McCourt in a Ford Fiesta R5 and they had a fraught start to the event, with an early spin costing them time as they struggled to get onto the pace of the front runners.

The pair brought their Fiesta home in seventh overall and will have a quick return to action this weekend as they contest the opening round of the British Rally Championship.