Three-year for­est agree­ment signed for Rally GB to go ahead, but costs in Wales are still to be de­cided

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Craig Breen starts an as­phalt World Rally Cham­pi­onship event in a WR Car for the first time this week­end, chas­ing a top-six po­si­tion on this week’s Tour of Cor­sica.

The Abu Dhabi To­tal World Rally Team driver knows his per­for­mance on the French is­land will be scru­ti­nised as he chases a full-time seat with Citroen Rac­ing next sea­son.

Hav­ing demon­strated his abil­ity on the loose with a third place in Fin­land, Breen can’t wait to get go­ing on an event he knows and en­joys.

“I re­ally love this rally,” said Breen. “The nar­row, bumpy roads re­mind me of the ones you get in Ire­land andthat’s why I feel so at home here. We know what to ex­pect at this rally: weather that can make tyre choice dif­fi­cult, manag­ing wear on the brakes, the need to main­tain con­cen­tra­tion on nar­row, twisty 50-kilo­me­tre stages. It’ll be dif­fi­cult, start­ing with recce! I don’t think there’s a bet­ter place for me to con­test my first Tar­mac rally in a World Rally Car.”

Breen ad­mit­ted his lack of ex­pe­ri­ence aboard the DS 3 WRC on as­phalt would lessen the chances of a re­peat of his sen­sa­tional Fin­land re­sult.

“It would be un­re­al­is­tic to try and match the podium from Fin­land,” he said “I would be de­lighted with a top-six fin­ish!”

Breen ad­mit­ted Cor­sica’s unique for­mat of a small num­ber of very long stages would pro­vide a real test.

“The rally for­mat is dif­fer­ent to what we are used to in the WRC,” he said. “And there’s the added en­durance di­men­sion, with the first day with no ser­vice and a lot of miles to cover. We’ll have to adapt to this rhythm, stay­ing calm on the long road sec­tions be­fore in­vok­ing a bit of fight­ing spirit at the start of the stages!”

Citroen has re­mained tightlipped on the pos­si­ble iden­tity of a sec­ond driver along­side Kris Meeke next sea­son, but Breen, along with Thierry Neuville, Stephane Le­feb­vre and Ott Tanak, re­mains in the fold.

Meeke says that he is com­pletely re­laxed about who joins him in a sec­ond C3 WRC next sea­son.

“I don’t mind who it is,” he said. “They can help with the man­u­fac­tur­ers’ cham­pi­onship, but they’re not go­ing to help me be world cham­pion. If it’s Thierry, then fine, I’ve no prob­lem with that. I’ve worked my balls off with this team around me and ev­ery­thing is look­ing re­ally good now – as for the num­ber two in the team, that’s not my de­ci­sion at all.”

Nat­u­ral Re­source Wales and the Mo­tor Sports As­so­ci­a­tion have signed a new three-year ac­cess agree­ment for ral­ly­ing in Welsh Forests, but the long-term cost re­cov­ery struc­ture is still to be de­cided.

Since the old ac­cess agree­ment ex­pired in May, ral­lies have been agreed by NRW on a case-by-case ba­sis, with NRW ask­ing for an in­crease in costs of just un­der 100 per cent, the price it claimed it needed to re­coup its cost for re­pair­ing the da­m­age done to roads through NRW land.

A press re­lease is­sued last week­end cen­tred its at­ten­tion on Wales Rally GB, but in re­al­ity the deal cov­ers ral­ly­ing in Wales.

In the re­lease, Tim Jones, Nat­u­ral Re­sources Wales’ ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of op­er­a­tions for North and Mid Wales, said: “The for­est roads we look af­ter have achieved al­most leg­endary sta­tus in the world of ral­ly­ing.

“We hope this new ac­cess agree­ment sends a pos­i­tive mes­sage to the ral­ly­ing com­mu­nity that NRW and the MSA con­tinue to have a good re­la­tion­ship, and are work­ing to­gether to en­sure this im­por­tant event in the Welsh sport­ing cal­en­dar takes place.”

A per­ma­nent cost struc­ture deal is ex­pected to be re­solved next month, with NRW, MSA and Ral­ly4wales in ad­vanced talks over a deal. The not-for­profit Ral­ly4wales cam­paign has been set up to take care of rally stage re­pairs.

Breen has shown strong gravel pace

GB deal is se­cure for three years

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