Très belle performance de Breen sur Rally du Var
November 27, 2012 by Trevor McGrath
Rallye du Var, based in the Côte d’Azur region of France formed a fitting finale for Craig Breen as he rounded off another sensational season. Breen fulfilling his commitments with French team Sainteloc Racing brought the curtain down on his 2012 schedule with 3rd overall after a dramatic three days in the French Riviera.
Driving a Peugeot 207 S2000 the newly crowned SWRC Champion showcased all his capabilities and with two fastest stages times over the closing tests the Irish driver climbed from 6th to seize the third podium position.
At the finish ramp in Saint Maxime, a pleased Breen said, “I’m really delighted, this has been a hectic rally and I’m thrilled to finish 3rd and get on the podium. We knew this morning that fourth was possible, so we decided to for it. I’m sorry for Robert (Kubica, long time event leader, crashed out); he had a great drive all weekend.”
Talking about the rally, Breen went on to say, “It’s been an up and down event for us, overall I’ve really happy with my speed. The stage here are fantastic, they allow you to get into a good rhythm. But for two punctures, one on Friday and one again yesterday it could have been the perfect result. Even suffering time wise from them I managed to keep my concentration and I think that was important. Setting fastest time on stage 11 this morning was great and then on the final stage the opportunity was there to go for 3rd and it worked, it’s been a fantastic rally. I want to thank all the Sainteloc team. I’ve really enjoyed my time all year with the team and have learned a huge amount. It’s perfect to finish the year here in France. I began the season just up the road on the Monte (Rallye Monte Carlo) in January and Rallye du Var bookends another big season for me.”
“Très belle performance de Breen” was one French Journalist’s description of Craig’s drive over the three frenetic days. Back with the Saint-Étienne team for the fourth occasion this year Breen began the weekend in relaxed mood “I can drive with no pressure this weekend,” said Craig and that’s the way it looked on Friday afternoon as the rally began. Third fastest on the opening stage, slotting in 16 seconds behind Robert Kubica (Citroen C4 WRC) and Freddy Loix (Peugeot 307 WRC), it already looked as if the new SWRC Champion was out to make a statement.
The twenty-two year olds assault took its first curtailment however on stage four, when he was hit by his first puncture. Dropping 2min 39sec, the setback saw him end the day in 13th.
Day-Two Saturday saw the rally take on five stages and Breen was immediately on a charge jumping to 6th as the tarmac event resumed. There was another position clawed back on SS6 but then on stage seven the Kel-Tech Engineering, Peugeot suffered its second puncture. Again over 2 minutes were lost plunging Craig down to tenth. One constant throughout the weekend and it could be said about Breen’s career is that when he is hit with adversity he comes back event stronger and yet again he showed this on the final test of the day (SS9) claiming second fastest time concluding the day in 6th.
On Saturday evening the Irish man spoke about his seesaw day, “I suffered with another puncture earlier but overall it’s been good. When I get an unhampered run I’m really enjoying myself. The stages are fantastic and I’m happy with my speed. I’m 6th overnight but only 28 sec off 5th (Charles Zuccarelli) so we’ll see tomorrow if it’s possible to gain the extra position.”
Three stages made up the final morning’s action and there was always going to be a final push from the Irish driver. On stage 10 Breen cut the deficit to Zuccarelli to just 11.1 sec.
Stage 11, the penultimate was next and more drama when long time rally leader, Robert Kubica crashed out. Breen went on to record his first fastest stage time of the event and in doing so he overhauled Zuccarelli and by virtue of Kubica’s exit he also gained another position to 4th.
This brought it down to a grand finale on the 32 Km’s stage, Breen with the bit between his teeth pulled out all the stops and with his second fastest stage time in succession managed to overhaul a 35 second gap to Gillies Nantet to claim 3rd overall and cap an unbelievable drive.