Saturday 18 November 2017

Breen claims first podium finish

Irish driver Craig Breen. Photo: Roni Rekomaa/AFP/Getty Images
Irish driver Craig Breen. Photo: Roni Rekomaa/AFP/Getty Images

Paul Phelan

Kris Meeke claimed victory in the WRC Rally Finland, setting a new average speed record for the event as Waterford man Craig Breen finished third.

Meeke and his Killarney co-driver Paul Nagle led virtually all the way from Thursday's start, beating holder Jari-Matti Latvala's VW Polo by 29 seconds yesterday.

They led Latvala by 18 seconds on Friday evening, increased their advantage to 41 seconds by Saturday evening, and eased their pace on the final day to avoid taking any unnecessary risks.

Behind them, Craig Breen and his British co-driver Scott Martin completed the Irish joy by finishing in third position in another Abu Dhabi Total Citroen.

Breen battled all weekend with regular World series contenders Thierry Neuville and Hayden Paddon, with less than seven seconds between them at the finish.

Breen's achievement was his first finish on the podium in a World Rally Championship event.

"It's a red letter day in my career and still all a bit surreal, hard to believe. I'm still trying to take it all in what happened this weekend," he said on KCLR FM afterwards.

Breen also paid tribute to his late co-driver Gareth Roberts, who died in 2012 after a tragic accident while competing at a rally in Sicily.

"It's something I'm hugely proud of. Lots of emotion. Probably a lot of people know my story.

"It's been such a road to get here. I'm missing my main man and I know he's looking down on me."

"I've had, let's say, a tragic path that shaped my career from then on but to arrive at the end of this stage and to get to this milestone, it was a big thing for me."

"Gareth was by my side through all the difficult parts of my career so to not have him here was hard but at the same time, I knew he was there with me in spirit."

Breen and Martin also had to overcome a crash in pre-event testing last Monday before their weekend rally.

On the home front, defending Naylor Engineering Hillclimb champion Joe Courtney added another weekend double to his collection in Limerick, winning both days from Rory Stephens near Kilmallock to increase his points lead in the exciting chase for the title.

Irish Independent

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