It was always Craig Breen’s plan to be in action on the Circuit of Ireland when the Easter event makes its debut in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge championship.
Few expected the Waterford-man would be driving a Peugeot.
Breen is the reigning WRC Academy champion, current leader of the World S2000 championship and the 2010 winner of Rally NI — all in Ford Fiestas. He even spent a year working at Ford’s M-Sport base in Cumbria.
However, for the Donnelly Group Circuit on April 6-7, the 22-year-old will join forces with the French Sainteloc team and switch to an S2000 Peugeot 207 for the first of four appearances in the Intercontinental series.
Sainteloc were the team behind Ulsterman Marty McCormack’s successes in last year’s British championship, but Breen’s move has come as a major surprise.
He explains: “When I won the €500,000 prize in the WRC Academy series last year part of the deal was I had to use the money to further my career in the SWRC and I had to listen to pitches from the various manufacturers.
“Peugeot were one of the manufacturers we talked to and although in the end we decided to stick with my own Ford team and my own S2000 Fiesta — mainly because it is the car I am most familiar with — we remained in touch with Peugeot.
“We talked again at the Monte Carlo Rally in January and came up with this plan to link up with Sainteloc and fit in some rounds of the IRC — initially four — along with my World championship programme.
“As well as the Circuit I will also do the Tour de Corse, the Ypres Rally in Belgium and the Mecsek Rally in Hungary.
“I’m really excited about this opportunity. I’ve driven in a couple of IRC rallies before and enjoyed them, especially the fact everyone is in S2000 cars and you are competing for overall placings, not just category wins.
“And to have the support of Peugeot Sport as well as working with a team like Sainteloc is massive for me.”
Breen will be part of a two-car Peugeot team on the Circuit with Sainteloc running a second Evo 207 for rising French start Mathieu Arzeno, a prodigy of eight times World champion Sebastien Loeb.