Craig Breen is very keen on far-flung Azores rally test
It was back in 2009 that Kris Meeke won the Rally Azores and took a major step towards becoming Intercontinental Challenge champion.
The IRC series has since morphed into the European championship with Craig Breen at the top of the 2015 standings following his Circuit of Ireland victory at Easter.
Now he is hoping he can emulate Meeke and consolidate his position by winning one of the most far-flung rallies in the world.
The Portuguese archipelago in the mid-Atlantic is a stunning setting but presents unique challenges for the drivers including the frequent weather changes and the terrifying 28k stage around the rim of the Sete Cidades volcano.
"It is one of the most amazing stages I've ever driven," says Breen who tackled the rally for the first time last year and led comfortably before his Peugeot Academy 208 T16 exited with electrical failure.
"But it is one of my favourite gravel rallies and I would dearly love to become only the second Irish driver to win it."
Buoyed by back-to-back wins on the previous two rounds in Latvia and at home in Ireland, which have taken him three points clear of Polish challenger Kajetan Katetanowicz, Breen will also have concerns after his Peugeot retired from the World Championship Rally Portugal two weeks ago with engine failure.
"It was disappointing but better there than in the Azores because the European title has to be my primary target," he added.
The rally, which starts today, is a new adventure for three other Irish drivers - brothers Josh and Sam Moffett, and Jon Armstrong.
The Moffetts, who took their first ERC points with third and fourth places on the Circuit of Ireland behind Breen and Kajetanwicz, line-up in their matching RRC Ford Fiestas while Armstrong, from Kesh, contests the Junior division in his R2 Peugeot.