FIA European Rally Championship : Rallye d'Irlande 2014
17-19 april 2014
With a score of two podium finishes from two starts to his name this year, including victory in Greece with the brand new 208T16, the Peugeot Rally Academy’s Craig Breen will be in Northern Ireland this weekend for the next round of the European Rally Championship. Despite stiff opposition, the Irishman is looking for another top finish.
The Circuit of Ireland: a unique challenge
Peugeot Rally Academy’s duo for this all-asphalt fixture are perfectly aware of the potential pitfalls that Northern Ireland’s fast and narrow roads near Belfast can to throw at them. Craig Breen and Kevin Abbring will both drive 208 T16s on the bumpy, tree- and bush-lined stages which twist their way between earth banks. Fickle, cold, rainy weather is frequently an added difficulty. The specialists know that this event’s wide variety of surface types (dust, dirt, mud, low grip, patchy asphalt) makes it a particularly tough challenge for the teams’ technical staff and crews, but it also invariably delivers great spectator value!
Craig Breen in the 208 T16
Craig Breen’s first major victory recently in Greece was a maiden win not only for the Peugeot Rally Academy but also for the Peugeot 208 T16! The Waterford-based winner of two world rally championships (the WRC Academy and the S-WRC titles in 2011 and 2012 respectively, plus third place in the 2013 European Rally Championship) will benefit from a certain degree of local knowledge. Since taking part in a regional rally last weekend, Craig Breen and Peugeot Sport’s development team have been busy working through the data they collected in order to optimise the set-up of the 208 T16 ahead of the ERC qualifier which starts on April 18.
Kevin Abbring: fast and efficient
Kevin Abbring’s prize for winning last year’s 208 Rally Cup France was a six-round programme with the 208T16 in the 2014 FIA European Rally Championship. His debut in the Euro series demonstrated his front-running ability and, although he tends to favour loose stages, he has already shown his skills on sealed surfaces. He is a quick learner, too, as he showed at the end of March in Greece where he topped the leaderboard before being side-lined by a holed radiator. Paired with co-driver Sebastian Marshall, the Dutchman stands out as another potential winner in Northern Ireland.
“I’m looking forward to contesting the Circuit of Ireland with Peugeot Sport and the Peugeot Rally Academy. This will be my fourth attempt at this event but most of the stages are new to me so I will need to learn them like everybody else. There are some extremely wide and fast sections, as well as narrower and slower portions, not to mention the bumps which are a unique feature of this rally. We have prepared as thoroughly as possible and we will see how it goes. Coming here is very important for me because I used to follow the Circuit of Ireland as a spectator when I was a kid. To win would be a dream come true.”
“I am still very focused on familiarising myself with the car and on all the other parameters that can influence how competitive we are in Northern Ireland. We scored four fastest times in Greece but we also improved with every stage and we’ve got a lot of data now. I still obviously lack experience but I had a very good feeling on the Acropolis Rally. I don’t intend to change my approach for the Circuit of Ireland and I will do my best to adapt to the event’s highly specific stages. I have also been working on the way I take notes during recce. Sebastian and I had a chance of winning in Greece and, once you’ve had that sensation, you want it to continue. I hope to be at least as competitive this weekend. Craig will be the perfect benchmark but it won’t be easy to make beat him. We will also need to see how strong the opposition is. I can’t wait!”
Provisional 2014 FIA European Rally Championship Drivers’ standings:
1, Craig Breen/Scott Martin (Peugeot 208 T16), 63 points.
2, Esapekka LAPPI (Skoda S2000), 59. 3, Vasily GRYAZIN (Ford Fiesta S2000), 48. 4, Kajetan KAJETANOWICZ (Ford Fiesta R5), 44. 5, Robert KUBICA (Ford Fiesta RRC), 39. Etc.
Thursday, April 17: shakedown and qualifying
Friday, April 18, and Saturday, April 19: the 2014 Circuit of Ireland