A promising shakedown stage for Peugeot Rally Academy driver Craig Breen on Thursday morning got his (October 22nd to Sunday October 25th) off to the perfect start. After been deprived of a podium finish on all but one of his WRC 2 events this year Craig and his co-driver Scott Martin were determined to put their bad luck behind them and take win number one in the Spanish sunshine.
A spectacular opening stage around the streets of Barcelona got the rally underway on Thursday evening but Craig arrived at the end disheartened after feeling down on power through the tight 3.20km stage. With a time 9.7 seconds down of championship leader Nasser Al-Athiyah as the cars headed back to their rally base in Salou Craig knew he would have to get straight to work when he brought his SAINTéLOC Racing run Peugeot 208T16 to the tough gravel stages on Friday. With no service during the eight stages of the first day it was going to be a balancing act between pace and preservation to survive but Craig started a little too cautiously posting ninth fastest time on the opening stage. It was a different story entirely on the next stage when the Peugeot Rally Academy ace stopped the clocks just 3.0 seconds down on the new pace setter Pontus Tidemand. A similar time gap on the stage that followed saw Craig and Scott slip into 5th spot in WRC 2. As all too often this season when things are progressing Craig has been hit by bad luck and on SS5 the 208T16 picked up a rear puncture and damaged a front right shock dropping him down outside the top ten. With only re-group and tyre change during the day Craig had no option but to struggle on without losing too much time and at least ensure he made it to the end of day service.
Transformed from gravel spec into an asphalt racer the Peugeot 208T16 took to the perfectly flat tarmac of SS10 on Saturday morning. Now eight, Craig was on a mission to swiftly move up the leader board on stages he had previous experience of but early into the first one he developed some front differential trouble that forced him to retire at the end of the stage. Although Craig’s team could have repaired the car to start the final day under rally two rules, regulations meant that they would have had to use their gravel differential set-up which would have been a pointless exercise. On retirement Craig tweeted “Someday soon our speed and luck will cross paths, but until then we will have to wait!”
Another disappointing outcome in what has been a year of highs and lows for the Peugeot Rally Academy driver. Next weekend Craig and Scott resume FIA European Rally Championship duties at the final round in Switzerland where you can be in no doubt they will be aiming to finish off their ERC championship in style by taking their fourth win of the season.