Last year Craig Breen fulfilled his childhood ambition of winning the iconic Circuit of Ireland Rally. The Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team driver and his co-driver Scott Martin were able to secure a last minute entry to this year’s event driving a Citroen DS3 R5 backed by Lakeland Tyres, Michelin and David Greer Motorsport.
The 85th running of the event (April 7th – 9th) would host not only the FIA European Rally Championship but the Irish Tarmac and British Rally Championships would provide stiff competition too. The rally got underway on Thursday with a short 4.22km qualifying test that would decide the road running order for leg one. Having posted fourth fastest time Craig chose as he qualified at the start order ceremony that evening and was relishing the opportunity to take on the narrow winding Friday stages.
It was Welsh driver Elfyn Evans that topped the time sheets on the opening stage just 6.4 seconds up on Craig in his unfamiliar DS3 R5. Through the roller-coaster like 31km “Glens” stage Craig amazed everyone with a blistering time 24.1 seconds faster than anyone else bringing him to the first service of the day holding a healthy lead. With Evans having hit engine trouble before the midday break Craig found himself now in an old familiar battle with his 2015 ERC rival Kajetan Kajetanowicz. Revelling on the bumpy Irish tarmac Craig stretched out his lead to a staggering 36.1 seconds until the final stage of the day when he spun on the Newtownards TT special gifting Kajetanowicz 11 seconds.
Saturday was a much drier day but Craig haemorrhaged time right from the off. The choice of tyre was too soft for the now mostly dry roads and it was making him suffer stage by stage. Nothing was going to stop Craig from putting his name on the Circuit of Ireland trophy twice and with the correct rubber for the repeat loop he went off into battle. Not even a rear puncture after clipping a rock on SS12 could distract him from his mission and he took Circuit of Ireland win number two by 10.6 seconds over Kajetanowicz.
Craig was so grateful to those people that gathered around him to make rally actually happen saying “I have to thank everyone, for a while it looked like it wouldn’t happen, it all came together finally in a matter of minutes. I just couldn’t let this event go and I was determined to be there, I wanted to win so badly.”