Showstopper Breen has eyes on Hyundai lifeline
Hyundai could provide a World Championship lifeline for Craig Breen and Andreas Mikkelsen and at the weekend they could barely be separated in the Monza Rally Show.
It was Irish Tarmac champion Breen who edged out Mikkelsen by four seconds for fifth place in the end-of-season showpiece in and around the historic Italian Grand Prix circuit but only after the Norwegian had picked up a five-second penalty.
Their duel came amid talk that Hyundai are considering running a 'B' team in the 2020 WRC series with Breen and Mikkelsen, who have played peripheral roles in the Korean squad this year, strong candidates for places.
Both were left out in the cold when new World champion Ott Tanak jumped ship from Toyota to join Hyundai, a shock move which was quickly followed by Sebastien Ogier opting to break his Citroen contract and switch to Toyota.
In a knee-jerk reaction to his departure Citroen announced they were quitting the championship with immediate effect, reducing the number of factory teams next season to just three and leaving a raft of drivers, including Breen and Kris Meeke, who has Toyota seat, on the sidelines.
Hyundai boss Andrea Adamo has said they are looking at the possibility of adding a second team to fill the gap, indicating he is keen to keep Breen involved.
The two-time Circuit of Ireland winner and Mikkelsen joined Dani Sordo in a three-car Hyundai assault on the Monza Rally but it was an Italian, Andrea Crugnola in a Volkswagen Polo, who finished on top, beating Sordo by 11 seconds over the two days.
Breen was fifth with Mikkelsen sixth and Ulster's British Junior champion Josh McErlean finished a creditable 18th from the 80 starters on his debut at the specialised Italian event in just his second outing in an R5 Hyundai.
McErlean heads home to Kilrea with another important date imminent.
He is one of three finalists alongside Andrew Mackarel and David Kelly in Motorsport Ireand's Young Rally Driver of the Year category, the winner of which will be announced in Dublin tomorrow.
The Billy Coleman Award, won last year by another Ulster driver, James Wilson, carries a prize package worth up to 100,000 euros to help progress the winner's career.