Breen takes FSTi crown as Anglade wins in Wales
The thrilling finale of the Fiesta SportTrophy International lived up to its billing as the race for the championship came right down to the wire at the final round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Rally of Great Britain, in Cardiff with Irish teenager Craig Breen snatching the title from Germany's Patrick Anglade thanks to a series of calculated stage wins.
It was Anglade (21) and co-driver Peter Loth who took victory in the rally along with a class win in their Fiesta ST while Breen (19) and co-driver Gareth Roberts (22) could only manage third in their Fiesta R2, behind Turkey's Emre Yurdakul (27) and Burak Erdener, who took the second class win for the new Fiesta R2 in as many rallies.
Breen, however, showed his out-and-out pace by taking 12 stage wins that gave him a superior points total to that of his German rival after their four best scores from the season were added together. It is the first championship title for the Fiesta R2, which made it's WRC debut on the previous event in Spain.
While the main battle was for the overall title, drivers throughout the field had their own aims for the rally. Bader Al Jabri (24) came out on top of his Team Abu Dhabi team-mates as he took fourth place in Wales with co-driver Steve McAuley. Meanwhile Yurdkul's Castrol Ford Team Turkiye team-mate Burcu Çetinkaya (28) and co-driver Çicek Guney (27) rounded off the finishers in fifth place despite a series of problems. Atte Alanen (22), Majed Al Shamsi (29) and Ahmed Al Mansoori (22) all fell foul of the difficult Welsh road conditions retiring from the rally before the finish.
After a long liaison section from Rally HQ in Cardiff to mid-Wales, the rally kicked off with two passes over a three-stage loop of classic Welsh forest stages. Breen and co-driver Gareth Roberts showed their determination to push for the title from the start, taking the win on SS1 ahead of Alanen and title rival Anglade. He then claimed a second stage-win point on SS2, this time beating Anglade in second and Alanen in third on the muddy and slippery forest roads. Despite picking up a puncture towards the end of SS3, Breen still took victory by over 25 seconds from Alanen and Anglade giving him nearly a one-minute advantage over his championship rival by the end of the section.
The Irishman's form continued on the repeat pass of the Hafren stage (SS4) despite the foul conditions caused by standing water and the rutted roads left after the earlier runners had been through. Again, Alanen picked up second place ahead of Angalde.
SS5 saw the form book go out of the window as the German took his first stage win of the rally ahead of Yurdakul and Alanen. Disaster was to strike for Breen as a wire became disconnected from his ECU, costing him over eight minutes on SS6 and dropping him to the back of the field. Alanen took advantage, winning the stage and taking a 9.9 second lead over Anglade in the FSTi rankings. The German kept up his bid to win with second place ahead of Yurdakul who was coming into his own in the Fiesta R2.
Anglade won the opening stage of Day 2, coming out on top in the 35.75km Rhondda stage, with Breen in second and Yurdakul in third. Breen, with his Day 1 problem resolved, returned to the form he had shown on the opening morning of the event. He won the remaining two stages of the morning, finishing ahead of Yurdakul on both occasions with Anglade taking third place. SS8, however, was to see the end of both Alanen and Al Shamsi's efforts; a broken rear axle putting paid to the Finn's challenge while the Emirati hit a tree trunk and rolled. The Team Abu Dhabi driver was able to return to the road to crawl to the end of the stage, but a smashed windscreen put paid to any hopes of continuing to service. Both cars were later deemed too badly damaged to rejoin the rally on Sunday.
On the second pass, Breen was dominant in taking victory over Yurdakul on SS10 with Anglade again taking third. Like his Abu Dhabi team-mate, Al Mansoori's rally came to an abrupt end on SS10 as he co-driver Killian Duffy (26) rolled off the road. The finish order was the same on SS11 and Breen took his fifth stage win of the day on SS12 with Anglade edging out Yurdakul for second place this time. The high rate of attrition meant that Breen had been elevated into third position, which widened the potential points margin that he held over title challenger Anglade, despite the young German taking a convincing lead in the rally.
Yurdakul proved that he had got to grips with his new Fiesta R2 on Sunday morning as he took victory ahead of Breen and Anglade on the opening stage of the morning, but Breen returned to winning form on SS14, finishing the stage ahead of the Turkish driver with Anglade in third place. Breen went on to repeat that result on SS15 to add to his points tally with Yurdakul and Anglade following in first and second place.
The young Irishman stamped his supremacy on the championship by winning the final stage of the rally to ensure overall victory in this season's FSTi, despite finishing five minutes behind rally winner Anglade.
The result means that Breen and Roberts have added a fourth title to an already remarkable hat trick of titles won this season with victory in the Kick Energy Fiesta SportTrophy UK and Fiesta SportTrophy Ireland, as well as the Irish National Junior Championship.
Breen's prize is an all-expenses-paid test in the latest specification Ford Focus RS WRC with Ford factory driver Mikko Hirvonen. As in previous years, the series winner plus one 'wildcard' will be put forward to the FST International Shootout to compete against drivers from other FST championships around the world in order to win a year's residential contract to work at M-Sport.
FSTi Rally GB winner Patrick Anglade said:
"There was so much rain out there today that the conditions were really bad. On SS15 we just couldn't see anything at all so now I am so happy that we have made it to the finish. Overall we had a better result than Craig [Breen], but he got more stage wins, which were enough to give him the title. That's rallying."
FSTi 2009 Champion Craig Breen said:
"The result is unbelievable. After dropping nearly nine minutes on Friday, I was sure the championship was lost for me. Patrick [Anglade] wasn't going to make it easy for me and the championship battle chopped and changed by a point here and a point there until the mid-point of the rally. It was totally petrifying out there today and I was really just tip-toeing around the stages trying not to make a mistake. It was so nerve-wracking; I kept hearing noises from the car and wondering if it was anything serious. But the car was perfect and I was just trying to drive as slowly as possible without losing concentration and thankfully we didn't have any dramas. I believe I'm the first driver to win a championship -- two championships -- in the Fiesta R2. I'm over the moon."
FSTi Driver-by-driver (Rally GB):
Patrick Anglade (GER) chose to stay with the Fiesta ST that has served him so well this season, but was beaten by the out-and-out pace of Breen. He struggled to find his rhythm on the opening morning, getting stuck behind Cetinkaya on the first stage and a spin on SS4 caused him to lose more time. When a ball joint came loose on SS10 he was forced to slow down and exercise caution to get to the end of the day, but did enough to maintain that position and take his third FSTi win of the year despite only taking two stage wins.
Emre Yurdakul (TUR) found the form that has eluded him in the FSTi so far this season to take an impressive second place in the new Fiesta R2. He made some set-up changes on the first morning to combat a lack of traction on the rain-soaked and muddy Welsh roads, which improved his performance in the afternoon stages. A puncture on the way to SS12 made him two minutes late to time control incurring a 20 second penalty. A stage victory on SS13 was the highlight of his rally.
Craig Breen (IRE) impressively overcame a series of problems to complete the rally in style, achieving 12 stage victories in the Fiesta R2, which proved crucial in taking him to the title. A puncture on SS3 did not lose him significant time, but SS6 nearly ended his challenge as a wire became disconnected from his ECU and he hit a rock forcing another tyre change. Despite losing eight minutes, which led to him being re-seeded behind slower cars which he later caught and could not pass on Day 2, retirements allowed him to climb back through the field and take the third place which was enough to give him the 2009 FSTi title.
Bader Al Jabri (UAE) proved the consistency that he has shown all season to finish fourth. Ahead of the rally he set himself the target of finishing the event and he did that with few major problems; an achievement considering the treacherous road conditions. He lost time on SS10 when he stopped to check that team-mate Al Mansoori was uninjured after his accident, but later had his time adjusted.
Burcu Çetinkaya (TUR) a series of problems prevented the Turkish driver from finishing higher up the field, but she completed the rally despite her difficulties. A mistake in the notes caused a small 'off' on SS3, but she recovered well and continued to battle the wet conditions. She was given a 20 second penalty for arriving late at a time control on Saturday. On SS13, a puncture lost her some time and had the knock-on effect of losing her brakes. She struggled on to the final service with no brakes, sliding off the road on the final stage, but recovering to take fifth position.
Ahmed Al Mansoori (UAE): The youngest and most inexperienced of the Team Abu Dhabi drivers has shown huge improvements over the course of the season combining his natural speed with the consistency needed to achieve good overall results. But his lack of experience got the better of him on the fast, slippery Welsh roads as he rolled his Fiesta ST on Saturday after overtaking a slower competitor and losing visibility in the mud. Both driver and co-driver were unhurt, but the damage was enough to bring a premature end to their rally.
Majed Al Shamshi (UAE) made a cautious start to the rally, gradually picking his pace as Day 1 progressed. A puncture on a liaison section on Friday afternoon did not cause him any major difficulties. While pushing on the first stage of Day 2 he hit a tree stump and rolled the car. He recovered to reach the end of the stage but was forced to retire due to the damage caused. An early end, but with a demonstration of potential pace.
Atte Alanen (FIN): Competing in his first FSTi event since Rally Finland in 2008, the young Finn found the conditions in Wales much rougher than the roads that he is used to at home. He showed good pace early on and looked set to be vital in deciding the destination of the title, but, after his rear axle broke on SS8, he was unable to return to the rally.