Contesting their first rally with the Abu Dhabi Total WRT, Craig Breen and his co-driver Scott Martin produced a solid performance on the frozen roads of Rally Sweden. With recce reorganised and the shakedown and eight stages cancelled, the Rally Sweden schedule was radically changed at the start of the week. In fact, the weather conditions were so mild for February that there was prolonged uncertainty as to whether or not the event would actually go ahead!
After the Thursday evening’s ceremonial start confirmed the undiminished enthusiasm of the Scandinavian crowds, the competitors left parc ferme on Friday morning for a leg featuring six stages, contested in Norway and in the Swedish province of Värmland. Embracing his status as the Abu Dhabi Total WRT lead driver, Kris Meeke wasted little time in getting among the leaders. As Kris went quickest on Svullyra, Craig produced an impressive performance with the third fastest time. A spin on the next test, the he continued to take the fight to local hero Henning Solberg. Craig made it back to parc ferme at Karlstad in eighth position, less than two seconds behind his rival saying “The conditions were better than we had been expecting, especially this morning. The afternoon loop was more complicated with all this snow. It’s pretty incredible to say that there was too much, when we have been waiting for it to fall all week! I won’t forget the feeling at the end of SS7 in a hurry! I couldn’t believe it when I was told that I had just set the third fastest time… It’s been a fantastic opening day with the Abu Dhabi Total WRT, even though I made a couple of minor mistakes on the last two stages. In total, I must have lost about thirty seconds but I couldn’t be happier this evening. Tomorrow, my goal will be to keep learning and improving.”
Overnight snowfall made for good conditions on day two of Rally Sweden, providing the Abu Dhabi Total WRT crews with an opportunity to showcase their skills. After a highly consistent performance on day one, Craig continued to learn about rallying at this level with a series of top-ten times. Despite having to cope with the rapid deterioration of his studded tyres throughout the afternoon, he managed to stay within two seconds of the experienced Solberg before the super special stage that evening. The gap slipped to 3.6sec after the day’s final test, when Craig was forced to put his spare wheel back on – which had lost its studs earlier in the day. The conditions were different to the previous day but Craig felt he was able to manage them.
With just one stage to run on Sunday only 15.87km was all that stood between Craig and him completing his first event with the Abu Dhabi Total WRT. Taking no risks he arrived at the stop line relieved and sealing his eight spot on the leader board.