Citroen Racing’s Craig Breen capped off a great weekend for the outfit as he claimed his best WRC career finish with a second place at Rallye Sweden.
The Waterford native finished the event 19.8s behind rally winner Thierry Nueville. Breen was absolutely delighted with his performance after what he described as a tough season in 2017.
The result means that after two WRC events in 2018, the Citroen Racing WRC team are in third place in the manufacturers championship.
Speaking following the event in Sweden, Citroen Racing Team Principal Pierre Budar was asked:
Were you expecting Craig to be in such good form at this event?
I don’t think many people expected him to do quite so well, perhaps including Craig himself! Obviously, we have always had great faith in him, but he really blew us away here by being both very quick and incredibly consistent. What he did this weekend was quite simply extraordinary! He claimed second place in normal racing conditions, showing control and race craft befitting that of a much more experienced driver. It’s definitely another big step forward in his development. He clearly loves racing in Scandinavia because after finishing third at Rally Finland in 2016, he has now recorded the best result of his WRC career to date in Sweden!
This result also confirms the progress of the C3 WRC…
Yes, it shows that our car has serious potential! It also confirms that the work done on gravel since last year’s Rally Sweden has been valuable and effective, especially on the suspension geometry, the dampers, the torque distribution and the settings of the active centre differential. Although we had to work hard in order to widen the car’s operating window, we have also been constantly improving and fine-tuning the set-up of the C3 WRC, and this result illustrates this perfectly. Lastly, it’s just rewards for the team: the guys put in some really long hours in pre-event testing, probably putting in five days’ worth of hours in four days of testing!
What did you think of the performances of Kris and Mads?
Mads certainly made a positive return to the team: he had a consistent race, despite his lack of experience in the C3 WRC, and secured precious points for us. He also provided us with a different approach to set-up options. He undoubtedly also gave Craig some interesting ideas in terms of defining his own set-up. We’ll now look together at the possibilities of repeating the experience. As regards Kris, his race was hampered from the start by his road position on day one. However, he was fulfilling his role of team leader perfectly, trying to secure a few points when he suffered his misfortune. He was really unlucky because such a minor mistake shouldn’t have had such serious consequences. But let’s focus on the positives: he’ll have a good position in the running order in Mexico, where he won last year!
Budar was asked about his highlight of the weekend:
Going into the final leg only 9.3s clear of the third-placed driver, Craig Breen sealed his runner-up spot on Likenas (21.19km), gaining 1s on his rival on the first pass and then 3.1s on the second run, meaning he began the final stage (9.56km) with a 13.4s lead. Scott Martin witnessed it all first hand…
Sunday’s opening stage was really decisive. We knew that Likenas was going to suit us. Craig absolutely loves the stage and we really enjoyed it in 2017. And the road conditions were perfect. Half of the distance covered is extremely fast and throughout the weekend, this was precisely the kind of stage where we were most comfortable. We knew that if we kept it clean and tidy, we would set a good time. In the car, we didn’t go for a massive push but Craig immediately set a good pace and maintained it right to the end. He was both really focused and relaxed. The first pass confirmed that we had the pace to hold off Mikkelsen!
Kimi Raikkonen may be the Iceman in Formula One, Scott Dixon is the IndyCar Iceman, but on Sunday in Sweden it was Craig Breen who kept his cool to become the Irish WRC Iceman.