Belfast Telegraph

Breen has rally to forget, but he'll be in the driving seat for Germany

 

By Sammy Hamill

After what he called the worst World championship weekend of his career, Craig Breen's mood will have been buoyed slightly when he learned he will not after all miss Rally Germany next month.

Rally Poland turned out to be a total disappointment for two-time Circuit of Ireland winner Breen who finished in 11th place and some 12 minutes behind winner Thierry Neuville after his C3 Citroen broke a driveshaft on the first of the Friday stages.

It had been reported Breen would be standing down for the German round as the struggling Citroen team rotate their drivers to make room for new recruit Andreas Mikkelsen.

Stephane Lefebvre was left out in Sardinia and then the controversial decision to bench team leader Meeke for Poland at the weekend was followed by word that Breen was out of the line-up for Germany.

But in a post-Poland announcement, team boss Yves Matton said it would be Lefebvre who would sit out the next two rounds in Finland and Germany despite a highest-ever WRC finish yesterday.

The French rookie took fifth place with a virtually error-free drive in the difficult Polish conditions which saw most of the leading group hit trouble at some point.

But as it was revealed that Citroen Racing's technical director Laurent Fregosi has been moved on and replaced by Christophe Besse, there were only small signs that the troublesome C3 was improving and Mikkelsen finished back in ninth, more than four minutes off the pace.

He was the one Citroen driver to benefit from newly homologated differential parts but they couldn't prevent him from hitting a tree on Friday and twice careering wildly across fields on Saturday. Mikkelsen did, however, finish strongly, setting the third fastest time on the final Power Stage.

Meeke, who sent the weekend far from Poland by taking part in a charity cycle ride with co-driver Paul Nagle down in Kerry, returns for Rally Finland, where he and Breen finished first and third last year in the older generation DS3 Citroens.

They will now be together again in Germany where Mikkelsen is scheduled to join them at the expense of Lefebvre. Right to the end, Poland proved one of the most dramatic rounds of the WRC series.

Ott Tanak, leader going into the final leg, crashed out yesterday morning and handed victory to Hyundai's Neuville, his third of the season.

The Belgian closes the gap at the top of the standings to 11 points behind Sebastien Ogier, who finished third for Ford. Hayden Paddon was second and Dani Sordo fourth in a one-two-four finish for Hyundai.

Meanwhile, John Morgan won the Enniskilen Club's Erne Trophy Sprint at St Angelo airfield, setting fastest time in the Pilbeam MP82 he shared with brother Richard.

Although he was only able to complete one run, John edged out the OMS of NI hill climb champion Chris Houston by less than a second. George Stevenson was third in his Jedi.

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