Craig Breen back to make up for his short circuit
Craig Breen will hope to put the heartbreak of the Circuit of Ireland behind him when the European Championship resumes with the Sata Rally Azores tomorrow.
Breen led the ERC series going into his home round, but had to retire on day two when his Peugeot 208 T16 stopped with an engine problem that was never fully explained. It followed the retirement of team-mate Kevin Abbring after his Peugeot overheated for the second rally in a row.
Their exits allowed Skoda's Esapekka Lappi to take his second win of the season and move to the top of the ERC standings, but the Finn misses the Azores round, presenting Acropolis Rally winner Breen with the opportunity of regaining the championship lead – provided Peugeot have sorted out the issues which sidelined both cars in Northern Ireland.
They will have been encouraged by the weekend win of Paolo Andreucci on the Targa Florio but the Rally Azores, on the mid-Atlantic island of Sao Miguel, represents a totally different challenge.
"The weather can play a big part, but hopefully the move to a later date will mean we don't have the torrential rain which caused so many problems last year," said the former World S2000 champion from Waterford.
Although Lappi is absent, Breen, who was second last year, will have strong opposition with the return of Rally Poland winner Kajetan Kajetanowicz, Russia's Vasily Gryazin and local hero Bruno Magalhães, as well as Abbring who led in Greece and was ahead of Breen on the Circuit before bowing out.
The rally, which was won for Peugeot by Kris Meeke in 2009, starts with a non-competitive sprint around the seafront of the capital Ponte Delgado tonight.