Inspired Breen takes command in title defence
Waterford rally ace Craig Breen in his Lakeland Tyres Citroen DS3 last night led the opening day of the Discover Northern Ireland Circuit of Ireland International Rally after five stages in Co Antrim, with a clear advantage of 36 seconds over his old rival Kajetan Kajetanowicz in a Ford Fiesta.
Twelve months ago, these two duelled for top place for most of the rally, with the Irishman triumphing by six seconds, although the Pole went on to take the European Championship ahead of Breen.
Welshman Elfyn Evans set the early pace, opening out a 12 second lead over Breen on the two opening stages. However, his Fiesta had to retire with damage on stage 3, while Breen had an inspired drive over the longest test of the rally, trouncing his nearest challenger by 24 seconds.
Fermanagh driver Alastair Fisher held third place last night. Among the day's casualties were Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Championship leader Keith Cronin, whose Citroen's radiator was damaged on the opening stage.
Today, another eight stages in Co Down will decide the winner, with Breen and his English co-driver Scott Martin the firm favourites to make it two victories in succession.