BREEN STARS AT CHATSWORTH RALLY SHOW AND DEBUTS NEW FIESTA R2!
Rising Co. Kilkenny rally star, 19 year old Craig Breen, once again produced a winning performance, driving his Fiesta ST to victory in the Fiesta ST Challenge at the Chatsworth Rally Show at the weekend. The Kel- Tech Engineering team, with Kirsty Riddick in the co-driver's seat, performed in front of thousands of spectators over the two days of this rally show spectacular, and for Craig the Sunday stages provided an opportunity of a dream drive, debuting the new M-Sport developed Fiesta R2 rally car.
The Saturday shoot-out was a knock out competition, and with five of the top six FST UK Fiesta runners entered it was going to be a tough competition over the mixed surfaces of the Chatsworth Estate, on a special stage that was famous in the 80's on the RAC Rally. Wet weather too made the conditions extra slippery, but Craig and Kirsty in the Dairwood Design Fiesta, immediately set fastest time on the first run, by a full two seconds over just 1.5 miles, and Craig was really enjoying himself. "It was really good fun, the stage was such that you were able to slide the car around, and the car felt good. I was very happy with my first run on the stage and things just improved from there" commented Craig. Indeed he did improve as Fiesta runners Kris Hall, Barry Greer and Mark Donnelly were knocked out of the shootout on the first three stages, and Craig was fastest by an impressive 3 seconds on both stages 2 and 3. The final stage was a repeat of the second test and Craig was up against Matt Edwards, the pressure on not to make a mistake on the estate lanes and scoop the superb prize. But Craig and the Tom Gahan prepared Fiesta ST withstood the pressure once again, and took victory on the stage by 2 seconds, winning him the dream prizes for Sunday. "I really enjoyed the event on Saturday. Despite the weather there was a great atmosphere at Chatsworth and then when we won the shootout it was brilliant firstly to get a passenger run with Mikko Hirvonen in the Focus WRC. That was fantastic but to get the chance then to drive the new Fiesta R2 was even better."
Indeed the Ford Fiesta R2 rally car is all new and Craig was very impressed with the machine. "The car felt brilliant, very different to the ST Fiesta. After driving the Group N based ST for a while it was great to set into a car with a sequential gearbox, and a high revving 1600cc engine. It really wanted to be driven, and felt like a proper rally car." Craig is hoping to use the new R2 Fiesta in Ireland this year for the National Junior Championship rounds, which will be an exciting prospect for the spectators at home.
For now his next event in an extremely hectic calendar is a round of the National Junior Championship in Ireland before the Donegal International, a round of the Fiesta Sport Trophy Ireland. It's an event he is very excited about. "Donegal is just a massive rally. The stages are so fast and flowing in places, and it's one of the real gems of the Irish rallying year. I can't wait to start off in Letterkenny, especially as there are a lot of new stages this year."
The young Kilkenny driver has had a string of excellent results and Craig who learnt his motorsport skills firstly as a top European Kart racer, is trying his utmost to climb the rallying ladder. "I have always loved rallying, and it's always been my aim to rally. I really want to do it, and I would love to go as far as my abilities will take me. Every event presents a new challenge and the Fiesta Sport Trophy events provide good challenges each time." After Donegal it's the over to the forests for the Scottish International before the flat out Manx tarmac for the Rally Isle of Man. With more WRC outings also planned, it's a serious season for the teenage rally hopeful.