When Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team driver Craig Breen arrived on the island of Corsica for his fourth outing of 2016 using a Citroen DS3 WRC he was very realistic in his ambitions for round eleven of the 2016 World Rally Championship. Even after his successful third place podium finish at WRC Finland back in July he was very aware that it would be a whole new learning experience behind the wheel of the Citroen DS3 WRC on tarmac. Having been forced to retire from Rally Isle of Man a few weeks earlier, Craig was eager to get as many kilometres as possible under his belt before the event got underway. The Tour de Corse (Sept 30th – Oct 2nd) consisted of 390.92km of timed stages taking in Ajaccio, Bastia and Porto-Vecchio. With the exception of the Power Stage, the stages are notable for their length, all lying between 30 and 50km.
At shakedown on Thursday Craig and his co-driver Scott Martin were on the pace of many WRC regulars posting fifth fastest time on only their third ever timed run in the car on asphalt. On Friday morning it was time to get serious and it was the near fifty kilometers of SS1 that ensured the crews were wide awake for the day ahead. Having admitted that it was hard to find a rhythm on the first stage the Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team pair pushed on and checked into the morning re-group in eight place overall. After passing team-mate Kris Meeke who had picked up a puncture on SS3 “it was a little distracting to see him closing in the rear view mirror at times” but Craig stayed focused and despite killing his tyres through the last stage of the day held a confident fifth spot on the leaderboard overnight.
As day two beckoned so did the rain, it wouldn’t appear until the second loop but it would keep teams and drivers on edge as they tried to anticipate what tyre combinations would be likely should the worst happen. Craig, Scott and the DS3 WRC never missed a beat. Only rain for half a stage could slow them a little but a fourth and third fastest times bookended their afternoon and maintaining position heading into the final day. With only two stages to tackle on Sunday morning it was luckily back to the sunshine as the Craig and Scott set off on the mammoth 53.78km SS9. Craig quickly discovered that using a section of pace notes from last year’s rally was the wrong thing to do and although the right piece of road the notes were much slower than necessary for the car and the faster speeds they were travelling at. Notes amended the final stage was a sprint to the finish in fifth overall and yet another showing from Craig and Scott of their potential for the future.
After the rally Craig was really happy how the event went, saying “This week has been pretty intense and tough, but we’re obviously delighted to finish in the top five at the Tour de Corse. We have got a bit more experience under our belt, both in a World Rally Car and at what is undoubtedly the most difficult tarmac rally. Fifth overall is very much in line with the target we had set ourselves before the start. And we’ve also improved with every kilometre and set some really good times. I’d like to thank everyone who has made it possible for me to compete here and who have supported me throughout this rally!”