Craig Breen warned to be prepared for Bryan Bouffier revenge
Craig Breen has been warned – Bryan Bouffier is coming to the Circuit of Ireland Rally seeking revenge.
Even as he celebrated his maiden European championship win on the Acropolis Rally at the weekend, Breen was made aware that he will again be up against the highly experienced Frenchman, a Monte Carlo Rally winner no less, when the ERC series resumes in Belfast in three weeks' time.
Bouffier finished in second place on the Greek round, his Citroen DS3 RRC (a slightly scaled down version of the WRC Citroen used by Kris Meeke in the World championship) losing out to Breen's new Peugeot 208 T16 by just eight seconds.
"I was a bit disappointed," he said. "My target is always to win and I had quite a lot of mistakes at the weekend.
"But really the positive point is we only discovered [tried] the car for the first time at shakedown on Friday, which is a difficult situation. And we hadn't driven it on gravel until the first stage on Sunday morning, so we have to be happy to have finished second."
Then he added: "My target now is to go to Ireland to beat Craig."
And there is little doubt Bouffier will be a major threat even though 24-year-old Breen will be back on home territory.
A former winner of the French and Polish championships, he won the 2011 Monte Carlo Rally and came close again this year when he took second place behind World champion Sebastien Ogier and ahead of Ulster ace Meeke, who finished third.
He also has past experience of Northern Ireland roads, having been entrusted by Citroen to introduce their new DS3 R3 on the 2010 Ulster Rally where he finished fifth overall and won the two-wheel-drive division.
Bouffier, who is attached to the French PH Sport team, will line up against Breen and his Peugeot Academy team-mate Kevin Abbring for the April 17-19 event, which will be based at Belfast's Titanic Quarter.
Heading to Belfast, too, Skoda Motorsport have confirmed, will be Esapekka Lappi and Sepp Wiegand. Lappi, who won in Latvia earlier in the year, finished fourth in Greece and has now lost his lead in the European standings to Breen – 63 points to 59. Bouffier is sixth on 31 points.
The young Finn was disappointed in his performance. He said: "We gave it everything against the guys, but this weekend anything better than fourth place was simply not going to happen.
"Even my puncture on the eighth special stage didn't change anything.
"Our next outing in Northern Ireland poses a completely different kind of challenge; a purely asphalt rally, where the weather has often played a decisive role in the past. I'm looking forward to it," added Lappi.