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Latvia win launches Craig Breen's Circuit of Ireland bid

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Cool customer: Craig Breen won on the Latvian ice

Cool customer: Craig Breen won on the Latvian ice

Cool customer: Craig Breen won on the Latvian ice

Craig Breen already has his sights set on Easter and the Circuit of Ireland.

Just back home from Latvia and a convincing win on the Rally Liepaja which propelled him to joint second in the European championship, Breen says his "mind is already on the Circuit" as he bids to overhaul series leader Katjetan Katjetanowicz.

The Pole, who won the opening round in Austria, crashed during the first leg in Latvia, but came back on day two to gain six points and stay top on 45 while Breen has joined Frenchman Robert Consani in second place.

The former World S2000 champion from Waterford was naturally ecstatic to follow up his initial ERC victory in hot and dusty Greece last year with a second in the icy, slippery conditions in Latvia.

"When was the last time a Paddy won a snow rally?" he asked. "Am I the first?"

Probably not, but we may have to look back all the way to Paddy Hopkirk to find another.

Now attention switches to an event once dominated by Hopkirk and one which Breen is desperate to win after the disappointment of 2014 when his Peugeot Academy 208 T16 suffered overheating problems and he was forced to retire. It was one of a number of reliability issues suffered by both him and team-mate Kevin Abbring during the season.

Breen reports these problems have been sorted out and the car ran faultlessly in both Austria and Latvia, leaving him in a positive mood heading for his home round of the series.

Looking forward to Easter, too, is Jon Armstrong who made an impressive ERC debut in Latvia.

He finished 13th overall and fifth in the Junior division in his R2 Peugeot.

All the drivers ahead of him were locals or from Scandinavian countries and well used to the icy conditions whereas 20-year Armstrong had only been able to take advantage of the snow that fell in Fermanagh just days before he headed off.

He described Rally Liepaja as an "amazing experience" adding "so happy to be near the pace of the Scandinavians".

He was particularly pleased to finish ahead of England's Chris Ingram who has the backing of Peugeot UK for his ERC campaign.

Belfast Telegraph