Breen makes light of mishaps to retain Circuit title on day of firsts
Craig Breen won the Circuit of Ireland for the second year in a row, but this was a rally of firsts and winners all round.
The €7,000 cheque Breen picked up wasn't what he came for, but it was a nice little bonus as, despite his numerous European championship wins in the past, this was his first as a privateer.
It was desire and determination which got him over the line in another dramatic finish.
Driving an R5 version prepared locally by the DGM team, Breen (right) seemed to have laid the foundations for his second victory when he decimated the field with a stunning run through the Glens on the north Antrim coast on Friday.
But a lead of almost half a minute was gradually eroded via a spin in the soaking wet Ards TT stage, allowing Kajetan Kajetanowicz to narrow the gap. Then he hit a rock which had been dragged onto the road on the Hamilton's Folly stage, the impact knocking a rear tyre off the rim and the gap was down to just five seconds.
"I haven't put my heart and soul into this rally to lose it now," he said heading into the final two stages.
True to his word, he held off Kajetanowicz's Ford Fiesta to win by 10.6 seconds and record the first ERC victory for an R5 Citroen.
There was also a first podium for Alastair Fisher, who took maximum points in the Irish Tarmac championship. Josh Moffett in fourth was another winner, first of the British championship finishers and leapfrogging Keith Cronin to take over the lead of the Irish series.
Derek McGarrity won the separate national rally for the second time in a row, his WRC Ford Fiesta finishing just over a minute ahead of the Proton Satria of young Englishman Ollie Mellors. Wesley Patterson was third in his Ford Escort.