For round three of the 2015 FIA European Rally Championship, all three Peugeot Rally Academy drivers will be in action in Ireland, with Craig Breen and Charles Martin in 208 T16s, plus Diogo Gago in a 208 R2. The team has its sights set on victory at the season’s first all-asphalt clash. The spectacular Circuit of Ireland Rally is notorious for its fast, bumpy, narrow lanes. The stages, which are all within striking distance of the host city Belfast, feature a number of big jumps which are a natural draw for spectators. And as if the event wasn’t tricky enough in the dry, it becomes exceptionally treacherous in wet weather.
The Peugeot 208 T16 – which has triumphed four times this year already in the hands of Alessandro Perico in Italy, Kris Princen in Belgium (in the colours of Peugeot Belgium-Luxemburg), Juha Salo in Finland and Craig Breen in Latvia (ERC) – is increasingly establishing itself as the R5 benchmark. Following his victory in Latvia in February, Craig Breen is feeling particularly upbeat ahead of his favourite event on his home island. With Scott Martin sitting alongside as usual, the Irishman is keen to get his bid to earn the 208 T16’s third ERC success started:
The Circuit of Ireland is the best rally in the world to my mind! Even so, it won’t be easy because the likes of Kajetanowicz and Lukyanuk are very fast. I’ve got a significant amount of experience in the 208 T16 now, though, and my intention is to win this weekend and also go on to win the championship.
The 2014 208 Rally Cup winner Charles Martin kicked off his programme with the Peugeot Rally Academy a few weeks ago at Le Touquet in France. Along with co-driver Thierry Salva, he came fourth overall and first in ‘R5’ to provide further evidence of the affordable 208 T16’s competitive potential on all types of terrain. The Paris region-based driver caused a surprise by beating the class’s established names thanks to a well-paced run that combined speed and caution. The trip to Ireland will be his first appearance in an FIA-sanctioned event, but he is unfazed by the prospect:
It will be my first time in an ERC event and only my second in a four-wheel drive car. But I feel confident because I am part of a very strong team which has the experience to set up the 208 T16 as competitively as possible. It’s a potent car but I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to drive on the Rallye du Touquet. You just need to keep a cool head and think about your lines. I couldn’t wish for anyone more qualified to give me tips than my team-mate Craig Breen who knows the Irish stages so well. I can’t wait.
Diogo Gago and Jorge Carvalho will be in Ireland for their second outing of the year in the 208 R2. Asphalt isn’t necessarily his favourite surface, but the Portuguese driver has been doing some intensive fitting training since Latvia to be in perfect shape for the Belfast-based round. He has also been able to take advantage of the videos provided to him by team-mate Craig Breen. “I love the team spirit at the Peugeot Rally Academy. Thanks to Craig, I’ve been able to familiarise myself with all the big hazards with his on-board camera footage. There are around 20 entries in the ERC Junior category, so it’s going to be very close. I’m aiming for a top-five finish because there will be a lot of drivers who are familiar with the Irish stages. I will also try to use the rally as a confidence booster ahead of the trip to the Açores which is my personal home event. I’m counting a great deal on the team which has the experience to find the best set-up for the Circuit of Ireland,” said Diogo Gago before joining his Peugeot Rally Academy team-mates for a pre-rally test.
The 19-strong entry for the 2015 Circuit of Ireland Rally’s Junior class features no fewer than 12 208 R2s, a pointer to the success of the car, 170 of which have been sold to date! Meanwhile, in France, the Easter weekend will mark the start of the 2015 208 Rally Cup which kicks off with the Terre des Causses gravel rally. The series has attracted no fewer than 29 crews, while Cyril Despres – a factory driver for Peugeot’s Dakar programme – will be in the ‘zero’ car, so it’s going to be a busy weekend for the French make!
Provisional 2015 ERC standings ahead of the Circuit of Ireland Rally (round 3/10)
1, Kajetan KAJETANOWICZ (Ford Fiesta R5), 45 points. 2, CRAIG BREEN / SCOTT MARTIN (PEUGEOT 208 T16), 40. 3, Robert CONSANI (Peugeot 207 S2000 / Citroën DS3 R5), 40. 4, Alexey LUKYANUK (Ford Fiesta R5), 32. 5, Siim PLANGI (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X), 28. Etc.
Provisional 2015 ERC Junior standings ahead of the Circuit of Ireland Rally (round 2/6)
1, Emil BERGKVIST (Opel Adam R2), 39 points. 2, Steve ROKLAND (Peugeot 208 R2), 29. 3, Ralfs SIRMACIS (Peugeot 208 R2), 24. 4, Mattias ADIELSSON (Peugeot 208 R2), 21. 5, Jon ARMSTRONG (Peugeot 208 R2), 14. 6, Chris INGRAM (Peugeot 208 R2), 11. 7, DIOGO GAGO / JORGE CARVALHO (PEUGEOT 208 R2), 6. Etc.
Tuesday, March 31, and Wednesday, April 1: recce
Thursday, April 2: qualifying
Friday, April 3: Leg 1
Saturday, April 4: Leg 2