After a streak of straight ERC victories on snow, asphalt and gravel, Craig Breen and the 208T16 failed to make it four in a row in Ypres, despite the front-running roles played by the French make’s representatives. The Belgian event lived up every bit to its reputation, including in the Junior battle. Roll on Rally Estonia!
The 2015 visit to Ypres boasted the highest-quality entry list of the season to date, in terms of both the crews and the cars. With local specialists like Freddy Loix, and experts like Kevin Abbring and Bryan Bouffier at the start, it was always going to be a highly competitive couple of days. But that didn’t prevent Craig Breen/Scott Martin and their 208 T16 from overcoming Friday evening’s stifling heat to appear on top after Leg 1, chased by Bouffier, Stéphane Lefebvre (Peugeot Rally Academy) and Loix who were all covered by a handful of seconds.
The second day provided a more Hitchcock-like scenario. Peugeot Belux’s Kris Princen was unable to restart for health reasons after figuring in overnight fourth place in his 208 T16, despite running 20th on the road during the opening leg.
It looked as though Breen would continue on his momentum when he hit the ground running with the best time on Saturday’s first stage. However, a puncture on SS11 and then an ‘off’ on the following test eliminated the Irishman from the Belgian fixture after it transpired that his radiator had become excessively clogged up in his accident.
Stéphane Lefebvre then appeared as a challenger for top spot, helped by the agility, speed and dependability of his 208 T16 which was clearly at home on the Belgian lanes. The outgoing Junior ERC champion collected four straight fastest times but they failed to compensate for the punctures he collected on SS12 and SS14. Fifth place at the finish did not do justice to the overall level of the 208T16s and their respective drivers. In the end, Portugal’s fourth-placed Bruno Magalhaes concluded his first asphalt outing in eight months as the best Peugeot finisher.
The Junior class provided another entertaining battle. Ypres debutant Diogo Gago (208R2) caused a stir by appearing as high as second in the order before the Peugeot Rally Academy youngster crashed out on the rally’s very last stage.
Craig Breen: “A costly mistake deprived me of any chance of scoring another win. It’s a shame because I had a really good feeling in the 208T16 which was very competitive on these highly specific stages around Ypres. We had a trouble-free run to begin with, with no mistakes whatsoever while still going pretty quickly. It was a really hard fight against a line-up of quality drivers like Kevin, Bryan, Freddy and Stéphane.”
Stéphane Lefebvre: “I would love to come back next year! I really enjoyed the rally and it was very frustrating to come fifth when we had a chance of winning. It’s a shame we had two punctures even though we were paying attention because Ypres is such a notoriously hard rally. I felt comfortable in the 208T16 which had the potential to win. My pace notes were very good, too. We were just down on luck…”
Diogo Gago: “I made a big mistake and I’m obviously kicking myself. About a kilometre into the last stage, I was just too fast into a right-hander. I am so disappointed.”
Final positions: 1, F.Loix (Skoda Fabia R5), 2h21m29.9s. 2, B.Bouffier (Citroën DS3 R5), +1m27.5s. 3, V.Verschueren (Citroën DS3 R5), +2m14.3s. 4, B.Magalhães (Peugeot 208 T16), +2m53.1s. 5, Stéphane Lefebvre/Stéphane Prévot (Peugeot 208 T16), +3m1.9s. Etc.
Championship : 1. Craig Breen (Peugeot 208T16) : 124 pts - 2. K.Kajetanowicz (Ford Fiesta R5) : 108 pts - 3. R.Consani (Citroën DS3 R5) : 55 pts - 4. A.Lukyanuk : 43 pts - 5. B.Magalhães (Peugeot 208T16) : 38 pts…
Next FIA ERC outing for Peugeot Rally Academy: Auto 24 Rally Estonia (July 17-19)
Craig Breen: 208 T16
Diogo Gago: 208 R2
Cécile ESTENAVE: email@example.com / +33 6 72 82 74 08 / +33 1 30 70 20 63
@peugeotsport / #PeugeotRallyAcademy #208T16 #208R2