I'm forfeiting points to go for Donegal joy: Breen
Winning the Joule Donegal International Rally outright this weekend is taking priority over the Irish Tarmac Championship for a number of drivers, including Craig Breen.
Along with the likes of Declan Boyle, Sam Moffett, Donagh Kelly and Desi Henry, Breen has elected to drive a WRC car which he believes gives him a better chance of winning the three-day event but makes him ineligible for points in the premier Irish Championship.
After four wins in a row in obligatory R5 cars, the former Citroen World Championship driver leads the series by 18 points and feels he can afford to miss out this time if it means winning one of his bucket list of rallies.
In a reference to the contentious rule which still allows the older but more powerful two-litre WRC cars to take part - and win - rounds of the Championship but not score points, Breen commented: "Perhaps it's an unfortunate situation, but in order to be at the sharp end of Donegal, especially this year with the huge contingent of WRC cars, you need to have WRC power under your right foot.
"So we will forfeit our Tarmac points, but there is still plenty of time for us to re-focus on the Championship later in the year."
However, Breen's decision to drive a WRC Ford Fiesta has eased the door open slightly for Alastair Fisher, who has been his closest challenger over the first four rounds.
He will stick with his Dom Buckley-run R5 Fiesta, and if he can 'win' the Championship battle, Fisher will close the gap to Breen to just one point heading into his home round of the series, the Ulster Rally, in August.
Reigning champion Josh Moffett, rumoured to be switching to an R5 Hyundai instead of his regular Fiesta; Callum Devine, the former British Junior champion who has made impressive strides since he stepped up to R5 this season; and Manus Kelly, overall winner for the past three years, should be Fisher's main rivals for the Tarmac points.
But Breen, despite his comparative lack of experience of the Donegal stages, will start as overwhelming favourite for outright victory even though he lines up against drivers steeped in this rally like past winners Boyle, Sam Moffett and Garry Jennings as well as Donagh Kelly, all former Tarmac champions.
For them, winning the rally is more important than points.
Jennings, who is chasing a third victory in his S12 Subaru, said: "Standing on the top of the finish ramp on Sunday night is all that matters when it comes to Donegal."
But it highlights the flaw in the Tarmac regulations which allows WRC cars from a past generation - Breen's Fiesta is a 2013 car - to steal the limelight and headlines away from the Championship contenders.
Breen admits he would have preferred to see all the top drivers appearing in R5 cars as they have done on previous rounds this year, but has reluctantly adopted an 'if you can't beat them, join them' attitude in an effort to add Donegal to his string of successes this year.
Wins in Galway, West Cork, Easter Stages and the Rally of the Lakes have come on the back of virtually flawless performances by the Waterford man, whose only aim is to get back to the World Championship.
It all kicks off from Letterkenny tomorrow morning with a capacity entry list of more than 200 crews facing all the classic Donegal tests such as Knockalla, Atlantic Drive and Fanad Head over the next three days.