By midday on Saturday Craig Breen accepted he was never going to be able to outpace Kalle Rovanpera in the Finn’s adopted country of Estonia and resigned himself to doing the best team job for Hyundai he could.
And he did it superbly, finishing second behind the World Rally Championship’s youngest-ever winner and equalling his two previous runners-up results in the series.
But it left the Andorra-based Irish driver fretting over the fact he remains a “part-time” member of the Hyundai team, alternating with Dani Sordo in their third car, and wondering what he might have been capable of given it was on the same Rally Estonia in 2020 that he last drove an i20 WRC on gravel, also finishing second.
The two-time Circuit of Ireland winner put on a smiley face saying: “It’s been a nice weekend, I’ve enjoyed it immensely from start to finish,” but adding “I would just like that extra [seat] time to be able to go that extra one or two per cent I know is within us, but I’m pleased.”
Breen and co-driver Paul Nagle had traded times with the Toyota of Rovanpera throughout the Friday leg, finishing just eight second down. But the Finn stepped up the pace on Saturday morning, widening the gap to 22 seconds on the opening stage of the day.
Breen had no answer and, with the Hyundai No.1 Ott Tanak a first day casualty, concentrated on bringing home a much-needed points haul for the team.
He finished almost exactly a minute down on winner Rovanpera and 12 seconds ahead of Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville in third with World champion Sebastien Ogier a subdued fourth for Toyota who, nevertheless extended their manufacturers championship lead with a sixth win in seven rounds.
In the Junior WRC category, Jon Armstrong put himself right back in the thick of the battle for the title with second place behind Finland’s Sami Pajari.
On a tense final day, the Fermanagh driver, who had missed out in round two when his R4 Ford Fiesta suffered engine failure, fought his way ahead of JWRC leader Martins Sesks to make it a three-way fight going into the final two tarmac rounds.
William Creighton continued his consistent run of finishes in sixth place.
Meanwhile Andrew Watson record his best result to day with D’station Racing, he and his the Japanese team-mates Satoshi Hoshino and Tomonobu Fujii finishing third in GTE/am in the third round of the World Endurance Championship at Monza.