Craig Breen Rallying: SWRC Finland Preview
July 30, 2012 by Trevor McGrath
On his fourth visit to the World Rally Finland, Craig Breen is set for an emotional return to rallying after the death of his co-driver and best friend Gareth Roberts in June at IRC Targa Florio Rally.
Speaking about his return Craig said, “Next stop Jyvaskyla, this day had to come. It will be very emotional, stepping back into the car and not having Gareth with me will be extremely hard but we started this book three years ago, two careers coming together, moulded by friendship into one goal. Now I must see that goal through to fruition. The book stays the same; the goal stays the same it’s just time for a new chapter.”
SWRC Finland heralds the second half of the Super 2000 campaign. The opening half of the year yielded a handsome quota of points for the WRC Academy Champion and Craig currently shares second place in the standings with Swede, PG Andersson on 43 points.
The adventure began with a baptism of fire or a better description rain, snow and ice on the famous Rallye Monte Carlo, where Breen took a maiden victory, the lead in the championship and a maximum 25 points.
The championship moved to Scandinavia next for SWRC Sweden and round two of the series. The Swede, PG Andersson driving on home ground took top honours with Breen backing up his Monte result with a fine second place (18 points) to lead the championship on 43 points.
For round three the championship was staged in the picturesque setting of the Algarve for SWRC Portugal. The expected sunshine event did not materialise as heavy rain on day one turned the gravel stages into a mud bath. Breen suffered his first non-finish after being caught out by a water splash, damaging the engine in his Kel-Tech Engineering Ford Fiesta S2000 sending him into retirement. The up side of the rally being the Irish drive still held the championship lead leaving the Faro Resort.
The 2012 SWRC consists of eight rounds with seven counting towards the title. Competitors contesting the championship were required at the beginning of the season to nominate one round to drop, Breen choose round four in New Zealand. On the event the Kiwi, Haydon Padden took the victory and a maximum 25 points score moving him into pole position in the overall standings on 62 points. PG Andersson also had a rewarding rally scooping second place and 18 points. This moving the Swede level with Breen on 43 points in the championship standings.
“We had an incredible start taking victory on the Monte. It was a marathon five day rally contending with all types of weather. Our win was a little muted as I was the only finisher in the category but I was delighted with my composure. We then backed up that performance with a great result in Sweden. Round three in Portugal was turned on its head by the weather, I was hoping to continue my good form but the rain turned the stages into a mud bath and the engine in my Fiesta cried enough after hitting a water splash. After deciding to drop round four in New Zealand, I knew my rivals would close the gap. Including myself all the main challengers have all dropped the one mandatory event so we’re all going to be contesting the final four events and it’s a straight fight for the title.” Said Craig as he looks ahead to the remainder of the season.
Now after a very entertaining first half of the season the second half looks even more mouth-watering as the top contenders for the title engage in a straight fight for SWRC glory. Wales Rally GB, Rally France and Rally Spain sees the second half of the year all being based in Europe and it all begins with what is known as the Finnish Grand Prix next weekend.
Neste Oil Rally Finland is based in the city of Jyväskylä, about 270 km north of the capital Helsinki. The most popular WRC rally of the season runs a slightly different format than that of the other WRC events. In place of the usual three day Friday,Saturday,Sunday schedule Finland tackles the first stages on Thursday evening. Friday’s schedule comprises of nine stages with six special stages to wrap up the event on Saturday.
“This is my fourth time to take on the event and my second time to drive the Fiesta S2000 in Finland and I’ve achieved a good result on every visit. Last year I had a great battle in the WRC Academy with Egon (Kaur) and I expect an even greater fight this year. There are nine registered crews in the SWRC field and this is further enhanced with Sébastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen also entered in S2000’s. The nature of the rally dictates that the pace will be hot from the first stage. The start for me will be emotional; taking on that first test on Thursday will be very sensitive. It will also be my first event with Paul (Nagle). He has been very modest about entering the team under the circumstances; he has a lot of experience at WRC level. We will have a big work load from the time of getting to Finland, we can say that we will be using the event to bed together but both of us are very determined and 100% committed to getting a good result.”