Craig Breen recovers from a puncture to net fifth in WRC 2.
Peugeot Rally Academy driver Craig Breen was in Germany this weekend to tackle the latest round of the 2015 World Rally Championship as part of his WRC 2 season behind the wheel of the SAINTéLOC Racing run Peugeot 208T16. The ADAC Rallye Deutscland (Aug 20th – 23rd) wasn’t original scheduled to be on Craig’s calendar but after the FIA European Rally Championship title contender recorded a non-finish on WRC Portugal earlier this year he changed his game plan as he felt than having been successful on the Trier based event before the chances of scoring high points were higher than that of his intended event.
Even from the short shakedown test on Thursday morning it was clear that Craig and his co-driver Scott Martin were not going to have it all their own way when they compared times with the usual host of championship rivals. With only the ceremonial start to follow that evening it was left until Friday morning and the first full day of rallying for Craig and Scott to see how their times of the would stack up against the other teams on the real stages. Friday saw the cars compete over eights stages in the Eifel region, close to the Luxembourg and Belgian borders along with the Mosel area broken by a mid-day service back in the Trier. Though dry, cold temperatures made for slippy tarmac and not taking any chances on the opening stage of such a marathon event Craig chose caution posting fourth fastest time 13.7 seconds down on stage winner Jan Kopecky. Over the next three stages Craig was consistently amongst the top times and arrived at the mid-day service in third place. Drama could have spelled disaster for Craig and Scott on SS5 when a high speed spin threatened their rally but with Armin Kremer retiring on the previous liaison section the 208T16 remarkably moved up a place and ended the day second in WRC 2. Saturday was a mix of country roads with vineyard tracks and this year drivers faced back to back runs over the daunting Panzerplatter stage where many of the World’s best have been caught out over the years. Although Craig felt he struggled over the faster sections of the opening stage he still managed to start his day by extending his advantage over third placed Eric Camilli through it. With Kopecky slipping further out of reach in front the Peugeot Rally Academy driver found the fight coming to him from behind but despite his tyres going off towards the end of the first pass over the 45km Planzerplatter test he continued to increase his advantage stage by stage. That was until he picked up a puncture on the second run through Planzerplatter which lost him three and a half minutes and demoted him to sixth overnight. Only four stages on Sunday’s final leg meant little chance of a Breen style comeback to the podium. Set up tweaks at the end of day service on the previous night gave the 208T16 a whole new feeling but the best Craig could manage in the kilometers available to him was a step up to fifth.
Craig resumes his Peugeot Rally Academy FIA European Rally Championship duties this week at “Rally Zlin” in the Czech Republic so although Germany didn’t gift him the reward he was so desperately seeking he was very happy to at least complete the rally and gain some much welcome tarmac experience ahead of his next ERC outing.