The Peugeot Rally Academy produced another top performance on the Circuit of Ireland Rally where Craig Breen and the 208 T16 rounded off a solid display with top prize on home soil which takes them into the championship lead! There were solid runs from the other Peugeot Rally Academy drivers, too, since ERC debutant, Charles Martin (208 T16) was rewarded for a carefully-paced run with fifth place. Last but not least, Diogo Gago (208R2) achieved the goal he was set by coming fourth in the Junior order. Craig Breen and Scott Martin claimed nine fastest times from 18 to provide further evidence of the 208 T16’s speed, although it was no stroll in the park for the Peugeot Rally Academy pair. Intent on winning his home round of the FIA ERC, Craig hit the ground running to appear in the lead after SS2, and none of his rivals could prevent the Irishman from completing Friday’s action on top. Saturday’s scenario proved different, however, when Craig dropped time and saw the lead switch to compatriot Robert Barrable. But the Peugeot crew rapidly re-assessed the situation and successfully clawed back their eight-second deficit thanks to two consecutive stage wins. With three stages remaining Barrable recovered the lead again, but Craig and Scott maintained constant pressure on their opponent who ended up making a mistake.
n theory, that left the path clear for the N°1 208 T16 to cruise to the Belfast finish without taking any further risks, but there was more drama to come when Craig span on the penultimate test, allowing second-placed Kajetan Kajetanowicz to close to within five seconds with one stage remaining. The Peugeot driver kept a cool head to improve by eight seconds over the decisive last 14km of ‘Gregorlough’ compared with his first attempt. At last, he was free to savour the victory he has dreamed of for many years! “This is one of the best days of my life,” he admitted at the finish. “So many top Irish and foreign drivers have won this event over the years and now my name joins theirs on the list! At the start of my career, winning the Circuit of Ireland was one of my big aims. It’s also our second victory in a row and we’ve taken the lead in the championship. Perfect. I’m so proud of the work we have accomplished with the Peugeot Rally Academy and the 208 T16.” The 2014 208 Rally Cup winners Charles Martin and Thierry Salva kicked off their 2015 ERC campaign this weekend. After a cautious start, they picked up pace and were soon posting top-five times despite this being their first visit to the Circuit of Ireland and only their second outing in a four-wheel drive car. By the middle of Day 2, Charles was in the swing and succeeded in scoring two top-three times at a moment when the scrap between Craig Breen, Robert Barrable and Kajetan Kajetanowicz was at its fiercest! The French youngster was particularly upbeat after completing the rally in fifth spot: “I took things cautiously. I will need to simplify my pace note system but I’m beginning to get a good feel for the handling of the 208 T16 and I don’t think it will be long before I can start making more of its potential. It was a very complex rally with only two passes during recce which was new for me, so I’m pleased with my result.”
The other Peugeot Rally Academy crew in action was Diogo Gago and Jorge Carvalho who faced a tough weekend in Ireland in their 208 R2 because of the high level of the Junior entry. Yet the Portuguese pair stuck studiously to the game plan, which was to learn and get as many kilometres under their belt as possible. They ended up fourth in their category: “It was very hard for me because I wasn’t really in my element on the fast, unique stages. My confidence in the car increased as the conditions dried, however, and I managed to post some decent times. This experience will come in useful for later and I’m very happy with our position.”
he Peugeot Rally Academy will now turn its attention to the SATA Rallye Açores in Portugal on June 4-6 which will be the first gravel round of the 2015 FIA ERC.
Final positions: 1, Craig Breen / Scott Martin (Peugeot 208 T16), 2h4m4.5s. 2, K. Kajetanowicz (Ford Fiesta R5), +6.4s. 3, J. Moffett (Ford Fiesta RRC), +1m42.3s. 4, S. Moffett (Ford Fiesta RRC), +2m24.1s. 5, Charles Martin / Thierry Salva (Peugeot 208 T16), +2m41.2s. Etc.
Next round of the FIA ERC for the Peugeot Rally Academy: SATA Rallye Açores (June 4-6)