Peugeot Rally Academy driver Craig Breen had his sights set high this weekend when he brought his SAINTéLOC Racing run Peugeot 208T16 to WRC Rally Finland (July 30th – August 2nd). As it was Craig’s fourth trip of his career to this legendary gravel event it was the perfect opportunity to put his mark on this year’s WRC2 championship. Unlike his FIA European championship campaign where Craig and his co-driver Scott Martin hold second place in the championship standings after three back to back victories this season Craig’s 2015 WRC2 campaign has been slow to start. This was only their third World Rally Championship event this year and with a second place finish in Monte Carlo along with a non-finish in Portugal, Finland was a real chance to catch up in the points standings.
Event shakedown where drivers get a last chance to set up the car and test their own pace took place on Thursday morning. Craig was right on par with his rivals. Faster on his second run through the short stage Craig returned for a third but disaster struck when a front tyre detached from the rim in the middle of a bend causing the 208T16 to roll heavily. With Craig and Scott uninjured the race was on to get the car fit for competition as the first stage was just hours away. Like a big jigsaw the SAINTéLOC mechanics put the car back together piece by piece until it was almost new and on the road to the SS1 Harju City stage.
Competition was so tight on the opening 2.27km spectator special that the top time was shared by two drivers with Craig bedding himself back in just 3.7 seconds down. As the first full day of rallying dawned the cars headed out into the forest and some classic Finnish stages. From the start of SS2 it was clear that Craig would have to work hard for any victory as local driver Esapekka Lappi and Pontus Tidemand set the pace out in front. Craig could only manage to keep in touch with his Scandinavian rivals through the following stages that included the iconic 34.39km Ouninpohja stage and it was clear from his stage end interviews he was nursing a problem. With no service at all during the day there was only a regroup for fuel and tyres at the mid-day point and it was there that Craig and Scott were forced to retire due to what transpired to be an oil pressure issue with the 208T16’s engine. It was devastating for Craig, Scott and the whole team to have worked so hard to make the rally start and then retire with an unrelated issue when it was so important to get some much needed championship points. Craig’s tweet on retirement read “We are all devastated, again good speed but not a finish.. “. They will move next to the all asphalt WRC Rallye Deutschland in a few weeks’ time.