Breen, in a Ford Fiesta S2000, moved in front when Hayden Paddon suffered an ignition glitch on stage two. And the Irishman has remained in the lead ever since, holding an advantage of 1m24.0s over Yazeed Al-Rajhi after six stages.
“I’m quite pleased,” said Breen. “I’ve backed off the pace and I’m just trying to be neat and tidy now so I don’t get any punctures or make mistakes. You have to drive in a different frame of mind when you have a lead like this.”
While Breen could reflect on a solid effort in his Fiesta, Paddon and fellow title rival P-G Andersson both had days to forget. Paddon, in a Skoda Fabia, was eventually able to continue after his stop on stage two - albeit having lost some 12 minutes - but reached the end of the third stage with no second gear. With only a remote service halt available to carry out limited repairs, the New Zealander was unable to make it through stage four.
Works PROTON driver Andersson was 4.4.s slower than Paddon through the first stage but hit trouble on stage two, first picking up a puncture before tearing off a wheel on his Satria-Neo. Like Paddon, Andersson is expected to restart under Rally 2 rules on Saturday.
Al-Rajhi made it through the bulk of the day with damaged front suspension to hold second with Tom Cave third on his debut in the SWRC for PROTON Motorsports. “I was trying to get through without any problems and that’s what we’ve done,” said the Welsh driver.
Maciej Oleksowicz is fourth after losing ground with a puncture this morning. Alastair Fisher was 9.9s behind Breen after two stages but dropped out with broken front suspension on the third stage.