Wednesday 19 September 2018

Breen 'on top of the world' after historic feat

 

Breen: Impressive display. Photo by Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile
Breen: Impressive display. Photo by Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

Craig Breen is "on top of the world" after achieving a career-best second-placed finish in Rally Sweden.

A native of Slieverue on the Waterford/Kilkenny border, the 28-year-old guided his Citroen C3 WRC over the final three stages to achieve the second podium finish of his career.

"I'm not going to cry this time," said an emotional Breen as he exchanged a congratulatory handshake with his British co-driver Scott Martin. "It's awesome. I'm absolutely on top of the world - a big stepping stone this weekend. I have to thank every single person around me.

"It's been difficult this past year but the boys have make this thing work."

This is the highest finish achieved by a driver from the Republic of Ireland in a World rally event. His Citreon team-mate Kris Meeke from Dungannon - with Kerry-born co-driver Paul Nagle -has won five world rallies in the last three years

The Sweden rally was won by Belgian driver Thierry Neuville in a Hyundai, while Breen held off the challenge of another Hyundai driver Andres Mikkelsen in the contest for the second spot.

The Irishman clearly enjoys the challenge of the snow and ice as his previous best finish in a World rally was a third at Rally Finland in 2016 - a performance which ultimately secured him a full works drive with the Citroen team.

He finished fifth in last year's Rally Sweden. Overall the car underperformed in 2017 but even though he finished ninth in last month's Monte Carlo rally, Breen's speed was eye catching.

He realised that potential in Sweden, posting fastest times on three of the 19 stages, and at one point on Saturday afternoon it looked like he would challenge Neuville for the leadership.

The Belgian sensed the danger and eventually opened up a gap of 19.8 seconds on the Irishman, who was 8.5 seconds ahead of Mikkelsen.

The points he secured in Sweden will push him up near the top of the early leaderboard in the drivers' championship.

Next stop for Breen, who first competed in a world rally event in Portugal in 2009, is the Mexican rally on March 8-11.

Indo Sport

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