For Peugeot Rally Academy driver Craig Breen his second outing of the season to the World Rally Championship was back to the familiar terrain of Portugal at WRC Vodafone Rally de Portugal (21st to the 24th of May). However a shift from its more recent host area in the Algarve to its original roots up North made it a completely new event for the current generation of WRC drivers. Craig saw the opportunity as a level playing field and his ideal chance to top up his points scoring account by going one step higher on the podium than his second place finish at WRC Monte Carlo in January.
After a successful test on Monday he and the SAINTéLOC Racing team felt they had found the perfect car set-up for the region’s stages and were feeling confident ahead of the Thursday start. Their reasons to be confident were confirmed when Craig and his co-driver Scott Martin tackled the pre-event shakedown stage on Thursday morning when the Peugeot pair featured amongst the top times in their 208T16 offering a glimpse of what was to come over the weekend. After the ceremonial start in Guimarães the crews headed for a short opening super special stage in front of thousands of spectators at the Lousada Rallycross circuit. Taking no chances on the short stage Craig stopped the clocks 2.4 seconds down on his fastest WRC-2 rival and relishing the long stages that the first full day of the rally would bring. Friday dawned and overnight drama for the organizers was the headline. High temperatures recently had encouraged some hill fires on the opening stage so as well as dust the drivers would now have smoke hanging in the air to also contend with. Running fifth on the road Craig unleashed the 208T16 into the stage and his determination was obvious by his times at key points through the early part of the stage. Just seventeen kilometers in Craig and Scott were dealt a devastating blow when the car ground to a halt with engine trouble and caused their retirement. Naturally unable to hide his disappointment Craig said “The Splits were really good until that point, but just wasn’t to be. We will come back stronger, that’s for sure!” Craig resumes his European Rally Championship duties next time out with his Peugeot Rally Academy team at the SATA RALLYE AÇORES from the 4th to the 6th of June.