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Craig Breen and Elfyn Evans can stake claim for a WRC place at the Manx Rally

By Sammy Hamill

Published 14/09/2016

Mission: Craig Breen is out to impress
Mission: Craig Breen is out to impress

It was the eagerly anticipated duel that never quite got off the ground on the Circuit of Ireland but this weekend Craig Breen and Elfyn Evans have a second chance to go head-to-head on the Rally Isle of Man as they push their claims for places in next year's World Championship.

On the surface, the final round of the British Championship - Evans is already champion - should have no bearing on the make-up of the WRC line-up but a Manx win, especially against a potential 2017 rival, would be another tick in the CV box.

Both are desperate to secure WRC careers but with no more than a dozen seats available with factory teams next season, Breen and Evans are two of a number of drivers on the periphery.

It was Breen who won the Circuit of Ireland after early pace-setter Evans retired and he is currently part of the Citroen set-up, alternating on WRC rounds with Kris Meeke and Stephane Lefebrve as team boss Yves Matton assesses his options.

Meeke will drive one of their new C2 cars but the second seat remains up for grabs and Breen gets another chance to impress on the Tour de Corse.

Third behind Meeke on the gravel of Rally Finland, it was the call-up to replace the injured Lefebrve in Corsica at the end of the month which prompted him to head for the Isle of Man as he seeks tarmac practice.

Evans, meanwhile, has been doing all he can to prove Ford were wrong to drop him after two seasons at the highest level. The young Welshman stepped down to WRC2 - which he leads - and returned to the British Championship too, clinching the title by winning the Ulster Rally.

But will it be enough to make Ford boss Malcolm Wilson re-think or will Evans have to look elsewhere, to the new Toyota team perhaps? Or will there be an opening at Hyundai, where there is persistent talk that Thierry Neuville may leave?

If the Belgian does depart it will be because he is heading to Citroen to join Meeke - and that could be bad news for Breen.

The Rally Isle of Man, where the field includes multi-Manx winner Mark Higgins as well as Ulster drivers Jonny Greer and Desi Henry, presents an opportunity to both to impress.

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