Craig Breen and his co-driver Scott Martin will chase back to back victories on the iconic Circuit of Ireland rally this week. The Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team driver although competing in the 2016 World Rally Championship has pulled out all the stops to repeat his dream win on last year’s Circuit. Driving a Citroen DS3 R5 backed by Lakeland Tyres, Michelin and David Greer Motorsport, the number one seed will take on his old European Rally Championship rivals as well as a whole host of British Rally Championship and Irish Tarmac Championship drivers that will descend on Belfast during the week long activities.
A record breaking 77 cars which includes a staggering 38 R5 and S2000 cars will start the 85th running of the event. Consisting of fourteen stages run over 209 kilometres, the action kicks off with a short qualifying stage on Thursday (April 7th) afternoon where road order will be decided before the ceremonial start in Lisburn that evening.
Friday the real fight gets underway when the cars head north of Belfast where they will tackle five stages that include the mammoth 31 kilometre “Glens” stage before a less demanding street stage around the Newtownards will wind the day down prior to the overnight halt back in Belfast.
Saturday (April 9th) is made up of a four stage loop repeated twice but broken by mid-day service. Classics like “Hamiltons Folly” and “Bucks Head” will thrill drivers as well as draw thousands to a spectacular finish to the rally.
Craig is very aware that the competition will be strong and the car new to him but he felt he couldn’t miss the opportunity to take another win on this dream rally. Doing everything in their power to stop him will be big names like Alexey Lukyanuk, Kajetan Kajetanowicz, Keith Cronin and Elfyn Evans.
Whilst testing for the event yesterday, Craig took the opportunity to take Lakeland tyres backed superbike racer Lee Johnston for a spin in the DS3 R5!
“It was brilliant!” said Lee. ” It was scary enough over the first few crests, then i got the feel of it and saw how well Craig was steering the car. I couldn’t believe the grip it got in the wet, it was what i was expecting in the dry. It was a brilliant experience, something that i would like to do more of. Thanks to everyone who made it possible.”
Spirits were high between the Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team driver and East Coast Racing rider Lee, as they compared disciplines. “I’ve offered Craig a run as a pillion on the back of my bike at the Ulster Grand Prix to get my own back” said Lee. “The only way i’ll get on the back of that bike Lee, is if they ratchet strap me to you!” said Craig.
The serious business of the test was to sort the set up and for Craig and co-driver Scott Martin to acclimatise to their DGM Sport run Citroen DS3 R5. It was clear from early on in the test that Craig was happy. “The car felt good, it’s been a good test today and we are more and more looking forward to what promises to be an epic event” said the Waterford driver.
Images from Roy Dempster