Craig Breen has admitted his maiden WRC podium came as a huge surprise at the weekend, particularly as Neste Rally Finland is one of the toughest events in the WRC.
The Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team driver was making only his third appearance in Citroën’s DS 3 WRC, but his lack of experience didn’t show.
A confident and brave performance in Finland not only secured a maiden stage win but also a third-place finish – the best result of the Irishman’s limited WRC career to date.
Talking about his first podium finish, Breen said: “I never envisaged this being a reality so soon, especially here at probably the most difficult rally on the calendar. This was something that I hoped for a long way down the line. For it to happen so early and so calmly and naturally, I’m absolutely ecstatic about it.”
Breen’s preparations for Neste Rally Finland were hampered by a pre-event testing accident shortly before taking the start, but that didn’t stop him and British co-driver Scott Martin finding the pace that allowed them to move up the Finland leaderboard from fifth place to an eventual third.
“You set goals but it’s amazing how the goalposts change as the weekend goes on,” Breen explained. “It just felt so natural to push when I needed to. It’s been the most enjoyable, fantastic weekend of rallying I’ve ever had.”
Breen’s success in Finland has given Citroën Racing boss, Yves Matton, plenty to consider as he works towards selecting a second driver to partner Neste Rally Finland winner Kris Meeke when the manufacturer makes a full-time return to the WRC in 2017.
“We knew that Craig had done a very good rally in Poland and I was confident he could be fast here in Finland, but to be fast and efficient is quite a bit more difficult,” Matton said.
“We will have to think hard about this (Breen’s WRC future). He showed me in only three rallies that his potential is really high. But he still has some rallies to do this year and then we start to think about drivers for next year.”