Breen nets ninth on full WRC Debut


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Within a few hours of stepping off the podium at ERC Rally Liepāja in Latvia Peugeot Rally Academy driver Craig Breen was on a plane en route to his next event WRC Rally Sweden and with only a couple of hours sleep Craig and his co-driver Scott Martin began recce the following morning at 6am.
The event got underway on Wednesday evening and began with a short 1.9km spectator stage that was very tricky in places and nobody including Craig was going to risk damage or even retirement so early in the rally.
On the first full day rallying it was never going to be easy for Peugeot Rally Academy driver as he made his competitive debut in full WRC machinery. The Day 2 (Thursday) schedule saw the crews tackle six stages that crisscrossed the Norwegian and Swedish border and with no service during the day it was all about survival. Craig had a good time through the opening 7.03km stage despite reporting a misfire on gear change throughout the test. Craig was 9.9 seconds down on stage winner Sebastien Ogier but the competition was so great that Craig’s time only saw him slot into eleventh place overall. Through the next stage Craig still hampered by the misfire put in another solid time to go twelfth fastest but a brief visit to a snowbank on SS4 saw him down 38.8 seconds to fastest man this time Andreas Mikkelsen and that dropped Craig to fifteenth overall at the mid loop regroup. When the crews went out to tackle the stages for the second time they were greeted by stages that were now more gravel than snow in places but ever consistent Craig still learning how to drive his unfamiliar WRC car posted another very good time climbing up one place on the leader board to fourteenth and returned to the evening service eager to find whether or not he himself had caused the misfire with his S2000 car driving style.
Freezing overnight rain made conditions very difficult on the first loop of the Day 3 (Friday) stages and the Peugeot Rally Academy driver with a full competitive day behind him knew now how he had to adapt his driving to suit a turbo charged WRC car and with nine stages during the day he was going to have plenty of time to practice. Craig now running fourth on the road was unaware of the drama unfolding behind him that saw front runners Sebastien Ogier and Thierry Neuville in trouble. Craig now up to twelfth had his own drama having a spin on the following SS9 and he complained that his rear suspension was so harsh it was hurting his back enough to prevent him pushing on the rougher parts of the stage. Unusual for Rally Sweden the rain came down later in the day and cleaned all snow from the gravel roads. With conditions worsening Craig moved up another two places to 10th but as the hard charging Ogier fought back into the top ten the Peugeot Rally Academy driver found himself demoted to 11th on the next stage. As the day drew to a close Craig felt unwell and was questioning whether or not it was flu or fatigue brought on by his lack of sleep leading up to the rally.
The final day began early and with running order reversal based on rally positions overall Craig dropped to 5th on the road making conditions very difficult for him as he cleaned and helped define the racing line for those coming behind him.   Craig kept out of trouble and consistently posted times throughout the day’s eight stages to eventually come home 9th overall. At the rally finish Craig said “It’s my dream since I was a boy to compete on a WRC event in a WRC car and to finish 9th on my first try especially on a tough Rally like this, is really a dream come through.” Craig returns to his Peugeot Rally Academy duties in March behind the wheel of the all new Peugeot 208 T16 at the ERC Acropolis Rally in Greece.