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Thu 21 Jul 2022

Gritty Breen digs deep after Estonia blow

Craig Breen remains unbowed after his bid for a third consecutive podium at Rally Estonia ended in disappointment last weekend.

M-Sport Ford’s lead driver finished second on the superfast roads in 2020 and 2021 with Hyundai Motorsport and his sights were set on a repeat in the first of three favoured rounds at which he hoped to shine.

That aim got off to a perfect start when he won Thursday night’s curtain-raising speed test on the edge of Tartu.

But his dream was shattered early on Friday’s opening leg when he slid wide on a left corner and smashed his Puma’s front left suspension against a pole hidden in the grass. He was fourth at the time.

“It’s been a bad run of it unfortunately,” Breen acknowledged. “We have been on the bad side of luck too many times. It’s a pity what happened on Friday, it knocked the wind out of everyone’s sails.”

His early exit followed a similar blow at last month’s Safari Rally Kenya. He ran as high as fourth in the opening leg before retiring with steering damage in the day’s final speed test.

Breen returned for the final two legs in Estonia when he opened the road, posting strong times in constantly changing conditions that sometimes favoured the first car into the stages and sometimes proved a disadvantage.

His start position meant the Irishman was unable to make any direct comparisons with the top three drivers who started 20 minutes later and six cars further down the order.

“It’s difficult to compare when you are so far away, especially yesterday and today [Saturday and Sunday] when our road position is so far from the others,” he admitted. “But honestly I feel confident and the car feels good so we will take that to Finland now.”

Breen finished third at Secto Rally Finland last year on the equally quick gravel roads amid the forests and lakes near Jyväskylä.

The Finnish fixture (4 - 7 August) is followed by the tricky asphalt lanes of Ypres Rally Belgium (18 - 21 August), at which he claimed second last year and won in 2019 before it was promoted onto the WRC calendar.

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