Young hot-shots Craig Breen and Stéphane Lefebvre go head-to-head at the same event for the first time in Poland this week aiming to make their case for a place in Citroën’s factory team next season.
Both have the chance to impress team boss Yves Matton at PZM 73rd Rally Poland when they drive for Citroën’s satellite Abu Dhabi Total team in the four-day event, round seven of the FIA World Rally Championship.
With Kris Meeke assured of a 2017 seat and tackling only a part-time programme as he leads the development of Citroën’s new World Rally Car, the spotlight is on who will partner the Northern Irishman next year.
Irishman Breen and Frenchman Lefebvre have a great opportunity courtesy of several outings in a DS 3 World Rally Car with the Abu Dhabi squad. Lefebvre laid down a marker with fifth place at the season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo while Breen finished eighth in Sweden.
Both tested in Poland on Monday to fine-tune their preparations for the lightning-quick gravel speed tests near Mikolajki, 220km north of Warsaw.
“I like the type of fast stages you get here,” said 24-year-old Lefebvre, who won the Junior WRC category in Poland two years ago. “I think I’ll need a bit of time to adjust to the conditions, given that I’ve never competed here in a World Rally Car.
“I’m pleased to team up with Craig. Earlier in the season Kris was a yardstick for me and it was good to measure myself against him. This weekend, we’ll have to work together but I think that will help us to make progress from a technical point of view.”
Breen is eager to return to WRC competition for the first time since Sweden in February.
“I’ve kept myself busy, taking part in testing for the 2017 WRC. It was a fantastic opportunity to work with Citroën Racing’s development team but I’m pleased to be back racing in a round of the WRC,” said Breen who has competed in Poland just once.
“I don’t have a lot of experience in the car on gravel so I’ll need time to build up some. Stéphane and I are competing together for the first time, so I hope we can work well.”
The rally starts in Mikolajki on Thursday evening and competitors face 22 special stages covering 306.10km before Sunday afternoon’s finish.