Ireland's Craig Breen finishes fifth in Monte Carlo rally
Ireland’s Craig Breen has finished a credible fifth in the Monte Carlo rally.
French driver Sebastien Ogier won the event which is the opening round of the 2017 World championship.
Driving a Ford, the World champion was handed the lead during Saturday’s leg when then leader Thierry Neuville broke the suspension in his Hyundai.
While Breen dropped one place in today’s final leg, his debut performance as a works Citroen driver was still the focus of attention as he was the only leading contender driving a 2016 car.
He was just 12 seconds away from the fourth placed finisher Dani Sordo in a Hyundai and he was also the leading Citroen driver in the event.
Fellow Irishman Kris Meeke, the Citroen team leader, had an eventful rally. He crashed on Friday; spent an hour parked with an ignition problem on Saturday and eventually was forced to retire when another car crashed into him on the road section back to Monaco on Saturday night.
Citroen’s other driver Frenchman Stephane Lefebvre had transmission problems on the first night but he eventually made in back into ninth spot and took a fastest stage time on Sunday morning.
But it will hardly have gone unnoticed in the Citroen team that both Meeke and Levebvre were driving their newly launched 2017 World rally car while Breen’s was more competitive in the slower, albeit more reliable 2016 model.
Breen is due to get his chance in the 2017 car in round 2 of the World championship – the Swedish rally which begins on February 12.
One of today’s final stages was cancelled due to concerns over crowd safety and there was late drama at the top of the leaderboard when Ogier’s Ford team mate Ott Tanak dropped from second to third place after his car developed engine problems.
This allowed Finland’s Jar-Matti Latvala take second place in a Toyota in his first top class rally appearance since 1999.