BREEN STARS WHILE CITROEN STRUG­GLES

Citroen C3 driv­ers suf­fer myr­iad is­sues while Breen keeps it clean

Motor Sport News - - Headline News - By David Evans

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

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