HIG­GINS AND BREEN JOIN THE ISLE OF MAN TRAIL

ACES QUEUE UP TO TOP­PLE CHAMP ELFYN EVANS

Motor Sport News - - Front Page - By David Evans Pho­tos: Jakob Ebrey, LAT

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

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