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Mon 06 Jun 2022

Fresh mindset unlocks Puma pace for Breen

M-Sport Ford lead driver Craig Breen believes his Rally Italia Sardegna pace was helped by a fresh approach to his driving.

The Irishman recorded his best-ever result for the British team by finishing runner-up to Ott Tänak on the Mediterranean island. 

He faced an uphill battle having not competed in Sardinia since 2018, but consistently posted top-three stage times while appearing much more at ease with his hybrid-powered Puma Rally1. 

Breen’s demeanour at each stage end was a far cry from Vodafone Rally de Portugal last month, where, at times he seemed defeated after fighting punctures and brake issues. 

Speaking to WRC.com following the event, however, he confirmed that the biggest changes between the two rallies came from within himself.

“I think it was more of a change in my own approach to be honest,” Breen explained. “We haven't really done anything massive since Portugal. 

“It's just been a case of me settling into it and not getting too carried away. I suppose it was something I knew myself that needed to be done, and with the people around me also, of course. 

“That's been the key, I think. It’s been a difficult couple of rallies since Monte-Carlo, and including Monte-Carlo, actually. 

“I never really felt fully at home, but this weekend it all just seemed to click. I got into a rhythm, found the car much easier and I felt confident. The car is getting better and better - it's taken a bit of time, but she's some yoke,” he added. 

Rally Italia Sardegna is a special event for Breen. Originally from Waterford, he now spends a lot of time in Italy. He’s popular with the locals, and believes that may be another reason why he felt so at home on the rock-strewn stages. 

“I spend a lot of time here - I've got an Italian girlfriend and I speak the language a bit as well,” he smiled. 

“Obviously, there's not an Italian driver at the top of the World Rally Championship at the moment. 

“I guess the people kind of find a bit of respite in having someone that at least speaks the language and it definitely helps me feel comfortable and very good.