Craig Breen scores his maiden ERC win on the Acropolis Rally.
March 31, 2014 by Leo Nulty
Now in his second season as a Peugeot Rally Academy driver Craig Breen arrived in Greece to round three of the championship ERC Acropolis Rally with a hunger for his maiden European Championship win and with it the chance to give the new Peugeot 208 T16 a win on its debut ERC event. On Friday’s qualifying stage Craig and his co-driver Scott Martin set second fastest time only 0.6 seconds down on his team-mate Kevin Abbring. The pair started the tarmac stages of leg one full of confidence. It was French man Bryan Bouffier that went fastest on the day’s opening stage, but the Peugeot pair weren’t far behind. Near the end of the second stage Bouffier picked up a puncture which saw him drop back the leaderboard. On stage three Craig went fastest by 3.8 seconds tightening the gap overall to Abbring down to just 2.9 seconds with Kajetan Kajetanowicz in 3rd going into the mid-day service.
In service it was all about tyre choice as the clouds darkened overhead and it was going to be vital to make the right decision. The rain fell in parts of stage four and Abbring posted another fastest time. Craig seemed to suffer more allowing Kajetanowicz to slot into second fastest time and splitting the two Peugeot Rally Academy cars. On stage five Abbring’s luck ran out as his 208 T16 suffered a punctured radiator which saw him retire at the end of the stage. Craig took over the rally lead by 12.7 seconds from Kajetanowicz, but a hard charging Bouffier demoted Kajetanowicz to third on the last stage of the day before the cars returned to service to change into gravel specification for Leg 2.
Craig began the second day with a 14.7 seconds lead over Bryan Bouffier going into the seven iconic stages that lay ahead which were all gravel except one new tarmac spectator special in Korinthos mid-morning. The Peugeot Rally Academy driver was on form straight away posting fastest time on the first stage of the day and while Bouffier and Kajetanowicz swapped places on the leader board Craig pushed on in true champion form and that saw him awarded the “Colin McRae Flat out Award” but also win the rally by 8.1 seconds from Bouffier.
It was a dream result for Craig, the Peugeot Rally Academy team and the ERC debut of the new 208 T16. All the hard work developing the car over the last twelve months got off to the perfect start. Craig is also the first Irish driver to win an ERC event since his idol Frank Meagher on the 1995 Manx International Rally. Craig and the 208 T16 will compete next weekend on the Fel’s Point Circuit of Kerry Rally in Tralee as a high speed test for round four of the ERC, The Circuit of Ireland Rally on Easter weekend. You can keep up to date by visiting www.craigbreen.com