Craig Breen may still be the Irish Tarmac champion but his best World Rally Championship results have been achieved on gravel – or snow – in places like Finland, Sweden and Estonia.
Which is why he is back in the Hyundai team for this weekend’s Rally Estonia to partner Ott Tanak and Thierry Neuville.
Breen was second to home hero Tanak last year and he heads into the Estonian forests on the back of his strong runner-up result in the European Championship round in neighbouring Latvia 10 days ago.
The Andorra-based Irish driver is not making any rash predictions but he desperately wants to play his part in a rally which is crucial to Hyundai’s fightback after a string of defeats to Toyota.
Dogged by suspension issues, only Tanak has won for the Korean manufacturer this season, leaving them trailing Japanese rivals Toyota by more than 50 points and raising alarm bells in the Hyundai camp.
In the Drivers’ Championship, Tanak is currently 64 points behind Sebastien Ogier and 22 adrift of the world champion’s Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans.
The Junior WRC contenders return in Estonia having sat out the Safari Rally in Kenya and it is another opportunity for Jon Armstrong and William Creighton to close the gap on Latvian leader Martin Sesks.
Rally games designer Armstrong, from Kesh, won the opening round and led again in Portugal on round two before his R4 Ford Fiesta was hit by punctures and eventually sidelined with engine failure, allowing Sesks to open up a 13-point lead.
Creighton is in his first season at this level but the Moira driver has scored two top-five finishes despite being hampered by transmission issues with his Fiesta in Portugal.
He is also contesting the British Junior Championship and won the opening round, but crashed out of round two in Wales last weekend. He reckons he will have benefited from his first experience of the Fiesta on gravel stages.
Irish representation also includes co-drivers Paul Nagle alongside Breen, Chris Patterson partnering Ford’s Gus Greensmith, Aaron Johnston with Hyundai rising star Oliver Solberg as well as Liam Regan with Creighton. The rally starts from Tartu this evening.