A head-on photo of a yellow, blue and white Volkswagen Polo rally car
Alastair Fishers returns to Galway as the defending champion from two seasons ago

The Irish Tarmac Rally Championship finally gets its 2022 season under way this weekend – almost two years to the day since the motorsport series last took place before the forced COVID-19 shutdown.

Galway on the west coast of Ireland is the venue for the opening round of the Championship and it has had no issue filling each of the 140 spots on an entry brimming with quality in all the major classes.

All eyes, though, will be at the head of the field where any one of eleven R5 and Rally2 drivers from the UK and Ireland will fancy their chances of conquering one of the trickiest events on the calendar.

In order to do that they will have to beat defending champions Alastair Fisher and Gordon Noble – the place where Fisher scored his first maiden international win having come close on previous occasions.

Fisher – the nephew of the late Bertie Fisher – hasn’t competed since the jubilant scenes of that Super Sunday but insists he won’t let that get in the way of his bid to make it back-to-back Galway triumphs.

He returns in the same make and model of car that carried him to victory but this time it will be run by Melvyn Evans Motorsport – the squad that supported Matt Edwards to the British Rally title on last August’s Ulster Rally.

“I thought long and hard about doing the Championship and I looked at the form of all the R5 and Rally2 cars as the pace of development since 2020 has been so strong,” said Fisher.

“There was an itch that had to be scratched with the Volkswagen Polo, and with a test planned for the Thursday before the event, I’m hoping I can settle back into it quickly and start off on the right foot.

“The team running the car for me had a good year in the British Championship last year with the Polo; they ran Matt and Osian’s [Pryce, runner-up] Polos so I’m hoping to utilise that knowledge as much as I can. With the Tarmac Championship looking so strong we have to exploit every per cent possible.”

Competition comes from Callum Devine who has form on his side having won three of the last four closed-road events of last year – including the Cork ‘20’ and Donegal Harvest rallies – current Northern Ireland Stage Rally champion Jonathan Greer, and Josh Moffett – the Irish Tarmac winner from 2018.

“It would certainly be special to make it two-in-a-row at Galway but I have to be realistic as I haven’t been out in a while,” admitted Fisher, who has Donnell and Ellis and Trunk Flooring onboard as new sponsors for his latest campaign.

“If it isn’t a win and we come second or third, I’ll take that as well.” The Galway International Rally gets underway next Saturday with nine stages followed by a further six on the Sunday.

Across the two days, crews will tackle a competitive distance just shy of 150-miles.

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