HIGGINS AND BREEN JOIN THE ISLE OF MAN TRAIL
ACES QUEUE UP TO TOPPLE CHAMP ELFYN EVANS
Next month’s British Rally Championship finale, Rally Isle of Man, will boast a stellar entry, with the addition of WRC podium finisher Craig Breen and TT record breaker Mark Higgins set to take on new champion Elfyn Evans.
The September 15-17 event will be Breen’s first outing since his incredible Rally Finland podium and his first asphalt event since winning the Circuit of Ireland back in April. Breen will contest the Isle of Man in the same David Greer-run Citroen DS 3 R5 he used to win the Belfast-based event.
Breen admitted, however, it was potential upcoming World Rally Championship commitments that were the main driver in his entry. Citroen sources confirmed earlier this year that Breen will contest October’s Rally Corsica WRC counter.
“The primary reason for doing the Manx is to get myself back into driving on asphalt,” Breen told MN. “It’s been a while since the Circuit and when you have an opportunity in the World Rally Championship, you really have to make the most of it; doing the Manx will give me seat time on Tarmac in a great car on a proper, proper asphalt rally.
“Having said that, one look at the route for the rally and I was in. It’s fantastic. Just like it always was. And, of course Frank [Meagher, Breen’s hero] won it, so the chance to put my name alongside his on a trophy is so important to me. When I was thinking about doing it, I was a bit worried the entry might not be so strong if the championship was sorted, but Elfyn and Mark doing it is brilliant news.”
Triple British Rally champion Higgins joins Evans in the DMACK squad for the first time this year, for an event he knows well – but one he hasn’t competed on since 2009.
“Mark’s got such good experience of those roads,” said Breen. “Even if he hasn’t done it so recently, he’ll still have the experience of the stages in the dark and if the weather turns he’ll know where the grip is on the shiny Tarmac. Sure Elfyn and I are on top of our game in terms of making and committing to notes, but there’s no doubt Mark will be in there as well. We certainly can’t discount him.”
Evans was of the same opinion, adding: “The Manx is certainly somewhere where experience counts and Mark has some really good knowledge of those roads. It’s going to be a great end to the BRC season and I’m sure there will be a really big battle. I’ve only done it once, but I know all about the Manx and just what a big event it is, it’s one of the ones we want the most.”
Higgins said: “It’s a great opportunity to be in the same team as Elfyn Evans.
“I’m relishing the opportunity to compete against the top current BRC drivers on such a special event – even if I’ve been out of the car for a while. The Manx is a special event and it would be fantastic to help the DMACK team end the BRC with another great result.”
For Evans and Breen, this will be a continuation of the battle they began on the Circuit of Ireland in April. Evans led for two stages before the alternator belt came off on The Glens stage. He was consistently on Breen’s pace when he returned under Rally2 on the final day of the event.
“It’ll be good to carry that [Circuit of Ireland pace] on,” said Evans. “I had the upper hand before we had the problems, but there’s no doubt Craig’s going to be quick on the Isle of Man.”
All three of the drivers have talked about the return to the classic Manx format of a Thursday night start and Saturday afternoon finish. Next week’s event will include 20 stages and 167 competitive miles. After shakedown on the morning of Thursday, September 15, the
crews start the first of three stages in the opening loop – Douglas’s Villa Marina stage – at 1900hrs. Friday means 11 stages, with six in the first section and a further five running into the evening. Saturday is a further six tests before the finish at 1700hrs.
Recent history for the BRC on the Isle of Man has been mixed. There was no BRC to visit the island last year and 2014 was a poorly supported and overly complicated double-header.
Prior to that, Keith Cronin was the last man to score maximum points in the British Rally Championship on the island in 2010 – when the event was still running in an unfavoured July date.
The 2011 event was cancelled in September. At the government’s behest, it had been scheduled for late October – a time when out-of-season travel to the island from both mainland UK and Ireland was expensive and infrequent.
The BRC organisers made it clear an October event would not form part of the 2012 calendar.
The first incarnation of this year’s BRC calendar didn’t include the Isle of Man, but once Wales Rally GB’S date was nailed down in late October, a return to Douglas was inked for the British series.
Higgins won the Manx back in 2009
BREEN EVANS HIGGINS