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Breen stakes his Hyundai claim with Estonia second

 

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Craig Breen

Craig Breen

Craig Breen

Recalled by Hyundai to do a team job on the resumption of the World Rally Championship in Estonia, Craig Breen did it perfectly and laid down a marker for the future.

The reigning Irish Tarmac champion finished second behind his team-mate Ott Tanak, the World champion, and crucially, kept the Toyota of current championship leader Sebastien Ogier at bay with one of the best drives of his career.

Despite it being Breen's first outing in a WRC Hyundai since Sweden back in February, he shadowed his team leader virtually from the start, setting fastest times on two stages and helping home favourite Tanak close the gap on Ogier at the top of the championship standings.

And his role was vital for the reigning manufacturers' champions after the second Hyundai of Thierry Neuville ran into trouble on Saturday, the Belgian smashing the rear suspension of his i20 when he slipped into a ditch.

Just 30 seconds covered the top three as the championship finally got underway again after the coronavirus-imposed break.

The Waterford driver was, understandably, overjoyed with what he called "an incredible weekend".

"The car was perfect, better than I remembered it from Sweden, and gave me so much confidence," adding "I haven't forgotten how to do it and I can't wait to do it more and more."

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When that will be is uncertain with the third Hyundai due to be taken over for the next round in Turkey by Sebastien Loeb. But team boss Andrea Adamo is never afraid to make hard decisions and Breen's performance will have given him cause for thought.

Behind Ogier, Welshman Elfyn Evans - like Breen an Ulster Rally winner in the past - finished in fourth with Kalle Rovanpera completing a trio of Toyotas in the minor positions.

And in ninth position, winning the WRC2 division, was teenager Oliver Solberg, partnered by Ulster co-driver Aaron Johnston in their VW Polo.

Meanwhile, Andrew Watson was back on the podium in the GT World Challenge, this time on the top step after winning the silver division in the six-hour race at the Nurburgring.

The Tyrone driver shared a Garage 59 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 with Frenchman Valentin Hasse-Clot and Malaysian James Pull who belatedly joined the team after missing their second placed finish at Imola because of Covid-19 travel restrictions.


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