Q & A: Fisher on Academy chance

The World Rally Championship Academy starts on next week's Rally of Portugal and 22-year-old Northern Irishman Alastair Fisher is one of the 20 drivers battling for the 500,000 euros on offer at the end of the season

Q & A: Fisher on Academy chance

AUTOSPORT spoke to him about the new championship's opener and why he turned his back on a British title shot to focus on the Academy.

Q. After months of anticipation, the opening WRC Academy round is a week away. How do you feel?

Alastair Fisher: It'll be nice just to get started and get that first stage over. I've been waiting for this moment for a long time.

Q. You'll be driving a Fiesta R2, the same as the other 19 Academy drivers. How well do you know the car?

AF: Quite well. I've done three rallies at home in a Fiesta and they've gone quite well. We had two class wins and then retired with an engine problem on the last one. I've spent the last couple of years doing the British Rally Championship in a Group N Mitsubishi, so I'd sort of got out of front-wheel drive a little bit.

Q. Is this your first experience of front-wheel drive?

AF: No. I did the Fiesta ST series in 2007 and 2008, so I have a bit of experience.

Q. How did you get on?

AF: Not bad, in the two years I had eight wins and 23 podiums.

Q. You were definitely one of the challengers in the BRC last season. Was it a tough decision to turn your back on the potential for overall glory?

AF: It was, actually, yes. The BRC is going two-wheel drive next year and this would have been the last chance to have a go at winning the title in the Mitsubishi. It was really tempting to do that, but it's more beneficial to my career - and I'm going to gain more exposure - by going to the WRC Academy. I'd like to think I'd have been in with a shot at the BRC title if I'd stayed, though.

Q. Who's going to be your main competition in the WRC?

AF: I would say anybody who has got some experience of the stages. We were up at M-Sport for two days training last week and you can't help but eye up the people who you think are going to be the competition. I think Craig [Breen] and Victor [Henriksson] both have good experience and they're both likely to be fighting at the front. Honestly speaking, all of the drivers are known for being fast at home, so they're all going to be a threat.

Q. Whose time will you look for first at the end of the first stage next week?

AF: It's probably going to be Craig. He has a lot of experience of the car and some experience of WRC rounds - and he's a bit of local competition for me, so I'd say it will be his time.

Q. But you feel you're quicker than Craig...?

AF: Hmm, well, I wouldn't be the sort of person about to stand here and say something like that. I'd say we're pretty evenly matched. The only time we have competed in Fiestas was in Galway, 2009. He was just coming into Fiestas and I was just leaving.

Q. And who won?

AF: Er, I did. Like I said, I think we're pretty close.

Q. Which rally look forward to the most?

AF: It's got to be Finland. Everybody's looking forward to Finland. A good run on that event is what we're all looking for.

Q. Why the Academy?

AF: Because you know that we're all in the same car and you know that the person who's driving well is going to stand out and be recognised by the people that matter.

Q. What do you know about Portugal?

AF: Not much. I've only ever done one WRC round in my career - Rally Ireland in 2009. I've got some in-car of Portugal last year and the thing I've noticed is how quick the corners are coming and how many there are in a short space of time. Getting my pace notes right is going to be vital on this event.

Q. Good job you've got one of Britain's best co-drivers in Daniel Barritt then?

AF: Yes, Daniel's been great. We've done the events together and he's been over for three weekends for us to work on the notes and things. He's really easy to get on with and, having been in the Citroen Junior Team, he's got plenty of experience for me to draw on.

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