Not a Rallye Sanremo to Remember for Breen
October 13, 2013 by Trevor McGrath
After recording a sixth place finish twelve months ago and the Colin McRae award, Craig Breen was in high spirits as he set out Friday lunchtime to begin ERC Rallye Sanremo. Breen did not however get the rub of the green on this occasion as on stage four he damaged the right rear suspension of his Peugeot 207. The Irish driver had to retire at the end of the stage and was left to ‘Rally 2’ over the Saturday stages. After completing day two Craig said, “We got out today but overall I’m disappointed, luck wasn’t on our side this weekend. I know rallying is sometimes about luck and then there are times when you create your own luck. We’ve one more event this year and a big season next year so we look to the future.”
The Peugeot Rally Academy’s Craig Breen was targeting a strong finish on ERC Rallye Sanremo the penultimate round of the European Rally Championship. The Peugeot 207 S2000 driver began with some solid time of the opening stage to hold 5th position. Breen was quite emotional at the end of the opener stating, “I was worried here last year as it was my first time to be back on Italian roads since my accident in Sicily (where is former co-driver Gareth Roberts got killed) so it’s nice to drive these stages with full confidence and commitment.” Breen was not so happy by the end of stage three however reporting his tyres to be overheating and losing grip early in the stage. In spite of the tyre issue he finished the loop in 4th position just 11.7 seconds adrift of rally leader Paolo Andreucci (ITA).
The focus then turned to the highlight stage of the event ‘Ronde’. The test was originally planned to run as a 55km test to mark the 55th running of the rally but just days prior to the start the event organisers decided to split the stage in two on spectator safety grounds. Part (A) was revamped and now was 33.8km long. Early in the stage Craig’s 207 sustained damage to the right rear suspension, puncturing the tyre in the process. Craig and Lara stopped and changed to the spare and were able to drive to the end of the test. On the roadside before entering section (B) the crew tried in vain to make repairs but could not. Knowing that he was out of the rally Craig said, “I’m absolutely gutted. I really thought this was going to be my weekend but obviously not. It was too dangerous to carry on and I didn’t want to ruin everybody else’s rally if I’d stopped on part (B) of the stage and blocked the road. We will be able to ‘Rally 2’ tomorrow and all we can do is show some good speed.”
Competing on Saturday under ‘Rally 2’ rules Craig is allowed to restart but could not be listed in the final overall classification and thus not be eligible for Championship points, so effectively he was out to gain experience. There was further frustration for the Irishman as he was plagued with issues throughout the day. Firstly on the morning opener his 207 failed to fire up on the start line, eventually when it did Craig complained of a handling problem at the stage end. This was discovered to be a broken steering rack which was replaced in service. The twenty-three year old was far happier as the final loop got underway but yet again on the penultimate stage he lost his breaks and had to drive most of that test and the final stage at a controlled speed.
Craig’s final event of the ERC season will take place next month, November 07-09 on Rallye International du Valais in Switzerland and is again, like Sanremo, on tarmac.