Irishman Breen was on course for an emotional comeback victory on the Jyvaskyla-based round when he left the road and rolled several times on the penultimate stage. It was his first start in the SWRC since his close friend and former co-driver Gareth Roberts lost his life in an accident on the Targa Florio Rally in Sicily, a non-championship event, back in June.
Roberts, who was from Wales, co-drove Breen to the inaugural FIA WRC Academy crown on Rally GB last November and Breen says that he always enjoyed a great reception from the Welsh spectators.
“Competing alongside Gareth meant I was always made to feel very welcome in Wales and it’s the closest thing I’ve got to a home round of the WRC,” said Breen, who drives a Ford Fiesta S2000. “I had hoped I’d go there off the back of a strong result in Finland because it would have given me a lot of confidence but I’m back to step one after my crash.”
Breen knows a win in Wales would fire his SWRC title ambitions. After four appearances he trails title leader P-G Andersson by 25 points, the score on offer for first place on Rally GB.
“I’d welcome a win and I’ll be pushing as hard as I can without doing any big risks,” said Breen. “If I can build up the same speed I showed in Finland then I will be okay. But P-G and Hayden will be difficult to beat. They’ve gone well on the event in the past and we know what their speed is like. But I have high expectations.”
Factory PROTON driver Andersson, who will be partnered in the Malaysian squad by Briton Tom Cave, arrives in Wales confident that he can repeat his Finland victory.
“We had a really good test for this event last month and the speed we showed in Finland gives me confidence,” said the Swede. “This car is really close to the top now, all the time the team is doing a great job in finding more and more speed. I’m sure it will be a good battle and, as usual, we are starting for the win.”
Budget constraints have prevented Paddon, currently four points behind Andersson in the SWRC title chase, from conducting an independent test for Rally GB but the New Zealander’s Skoda Fabia has undergone a major overhaul following the engine failure that led to his exit in Finland.
“We will, quite literally, be firing on all four cylinders with the car now fixed after the inlet valve failure that stopped us in our tracks in Finland,” said Paddon, the outgoing Production Car world champion. “That mechanical failure was a little unlucky as it’s a very rare thing to ever go wrong with these cars.”
British wildcard Alastair Fisher, Polish ace Maciej Oleksowicz, a strong third in the points after four starts, and Saudi star Yazeed Al-Rajhi, who holds fifth in the table, complete the entry in their Fiestas.