BREEN STARS WHILE CITROEN STRUGGLES
Citroen C3 drivers suffer myriad issues while Breen keeps it clean
Irishman Craig Breen beat multiple 2017 WRC cars and his Citroen teammates to a top five finish on Rally Monte Carlo, scoring the marque’s only points on the French firm’s full-time World Rally Championship return.
Driving a 2016-specification DS 3 WRC, Breen finished fifth, having run fourth, and posted competitive times against the more powerful and advanced 2017-spec WRC cars.
Breen’s team-mates Kris Meeke and Stephane Lefebvre – both in the all-new C3 WRC – hit trouble. Lefebvre made it to the Monaco finish in ninth place, while Meeke crashed on Friday afternoon, and was ruled out by a road accident while heading south out of Gap on Saturday night after returning under Rally2 (see story right).
Breen said: “I’m over the moon with this result. This is something Scott [Martin, co-driver] and I never expected could have happened before the rally. If we were thinking about miracles, this could happen along with some nice stage times, but to be a fighting fifth and still in the mix [for fourth] right up until the last stage, that’s something the two of us are incredibly proud about.”
Breen made the time up in the changeable conditions, admitting there was nothing he could do about his rivals’ 80bhp advantage in the dry conditions.
“When we were getting to the black stuff, those boys were just disappearing a little bit,” said Breen. “For me the big thing is how comfortable I felt on this rally. This is somewhere that Scott and I have really struggled in the past, but it looks like we’ve got what’s needed now. To be sailing over the top of the Col de Turini as a factory driver past all those [Irish] Tricolours is an incredible, proud and humbling moment.”
Breen will replace Lefebvre in the team’s second C3 WRC at next month’s Rally Sweden.
“I’ve been a bit like Billy no mates on the edge of the party here, but next time I’ll be in the C3,” he added. “I’ve taken so much pleasure from the tests we’ve done – especially in Sweden when we were there a few weeks ago. I’ve got a spring in my step that I haven’t had for a number of years and I want to hold on to it. This has been a tough one for the team, but we’re all positive about the next events. They will be better. Monte Carlo’s about luck and unfortunately the dice didn’t roll well for the two guys [Meeke and Lefebvre], but hopefully Sweden will go in our favour.”
Lefebvre’s hopes of challenging for a podium ended on the first night, when he dropped his Citroen C3 in a ditch and burned the clutch trying to get back on the road. He redeemed himself with a fastest time on SS15 and second on the powerstage, scoring four points.
Team principal Yves Matton said: “We were expecting a better result from this rally, especially after testing, which seemed to go well. The main things we can be pleased about are the consistent performance and pace of Craig, and the times set by Stephane on the final day. That shows that the C3 WRC has genuine potential. It wasn’t our rally, but we still feel positive about the upcoming rallies, starting in Sweden.”
Breen’s tired DS 3 managed fifth
Lefebvre: Second on powerstage