Confidence was high for Peugeot Rally Academy driver Craig Breen ahead of his fifth World Rally Championship outing this year on the “Tour de Corse” rally (Oct 1st – 4th). The island of Corsica which plays host to the rally famous for its 10,000 corners has always tested car and driver to their limits but a seven year absence from the WRC meant it was also unchartered territory for many of the current driver line-up. Not so for Craig though as during its absence from the WRC the rally was part of the IRC and ERC where Craig has been a key player. A very strong pre-event test left the 208T16 driver and the whole team in no doubt that they had the perfect package for the island’s narrow twisty stages that wind their way in and around legendary mountain passes but as Craig and his co-driver Scott Martin brought the SAINTéLOC Racing run Peugeot 208T16 over the start ramp in Ajacio on Thursday evening relishing the opportunity to get out on the stages little did they know that the weather was about to play havoc with their plans.
Torrential rain overnight meant the crews woke up to some pretty treacherous driving conditions for the three long Friday tests but Craig even after testing in the dry reveled on the soaked asphalt and posted second fastest time in WRC-2 just 2.6 seconds down on his fastest rival on the day one opener. The road to SS2 was so flooded and the stage itself so damaged by the overnight storms that the organizers were unable to run it so after only one stage albeit 29km the cars headed into service. Despite a spin on the third stage Craig was relieved to be leading WRC-2 at the end of day one and looking forward to a much dryer Saturday going by all forecasts. The first stage of day two was due to be a re-run of Friday’s cancelled stage but there was so much storm damage it was still unusable and the cars went straight to SS5. Craig being cautious on the slippy asphalt chose not take any chances and he duly suffered by dropping to third as he arrived into service. Lady luck dealt the Peugeot Rally Academy driver an even bigger blow when the Peugeot 208T16 picked up a puncture on the near 50km stage after service. More than four minutes down on leader Julien Maurin Craig and Scott started day three in sixth place with fire in their bellies determined to prove was it not for the puncture they had indeed the package to win. Between them stopping the clocks second fastest and an accident for Armin Kremer on the first stage of the day the Peugeot Rally Academy pair instantly had fifth in their pocket. Topping the times on SS8 saw them grab fourth just 7.9 seconds off the podium, but there simply wasn’t enough stage distance to put them that bottom step they were hunting.
Only for some bad luck again it could have been a very different result but Craig takes away signs of great progress and speed ahead of his remaining rallies this year.