Contrasting fortunes: Evans and Breen
Mexico will be a lonely old place. After enjoying the company of a brace of frontrunning Brits for the last 26 rounds of the World Rally Championship, MN will be in Leon without Kris Meeke or Elfyn Evans.
Meeke’s absence from the North American stages sits easily with him. The same cannot be said for Evans. The Welshman will contest Monte Carlo and Sweden, but after that his programme has yet to be decided. One thing’s for sure, he’ll start the year in a Ford Fiesta R5, not the RS WRC he ended last season in.
Whether you believe Evans has been harshly treated by M-sport or not, one thing is absolutely certain. His demotion looks to have fired him up like never before.
He will spearhead an M-sport assault on this year’s WRC2 title – something which would help secure more customers for the Cumbrians – as well as fight for the revived British Rally Championship.
For Evans, a WRC2 title would act as a vehicle to, hopefully, return him to the front line of world championship action.
“My priority,” he says, “is to be back in a World Rally Car as soon as possible.”
What is it they say about not missing it until it’s gone? Absence, it seems has already made Evans’ heart grow fonder for what he’s had for the last two seasons.
Evans, his new co-driver Craig Parry, and the revitalised Fiesta versus Esapekka Lappi in a Skoda Fabia R5 does have a tasty ring to it. This year’s WRC2 race has some real spark to it again.
If there’s one man Evans shouldn’t talk to pre-season it’s Craig Breen. The Irishman couldn’t wait to get out of the second division and he couldn’t be more delighted to have landed a big time seat with the Abu Dhabi World Rally Team.
Breen will be driving a Citroen DS 3 WRC as team-mate to Meeke, starting in Sweden and continuing… somewhere.
“I don’t know anything really about the programme,” says Breen, in a tone that indicates he couldn’t care less about the programme, not now he’s got the right set of keys in his hand.
By some distance, this is Breen’s biggest chance. It’s not too much of a stretch to say the Waterford 25-year-old will go head-tohead with Stephane Lefebvre for the second Citroen seat in 2017. Some in Lefebvre’s hometown might quibble with that, but if the team’s top brass was happy with him, why would they have given Breen the shot in the first place? Surely it would be better just to give the seat and as much experience as possible to their chosen one. The reason is, there is no chosen one, yet. It’ll be a toughie for Breen and co-driver Scott Martin though. World Rally Car outings were something of a rarity while they were struggling to find the finish – any finish – in Peugeot’s 208 T16.
That said, this will be Breen’s fourth start in Sweden and he finished ninth overall in a Fiesta RS WRC last time he was there in ’14. The DS 3’s not renowned as easy to jump into, but Breen’s adaptable. Especially when he’s got sight of the golden ticket.