World Rally Championship Academy champion and Super 2000 WRC title contender Craig Breen will drive a Peugeot 207 S2000 competitively for the first time when the Circuit of Ireland gets underway later on Friday.
Breen is switching to the Sainteloc-run car from his SWRC Ford Fiesta for the first of several Intercontinental Rally Challenge outings this year, and before the start he talked about his prospects.
Q. Your first IRC appearance of the season and your first in a Peugeot 207 S2000, how did your test go last week?
Craig Breen: It was exceptionally good, the car is very much a Tarmac racer. Straight out of the box it was very, very good, stable and powerful. Having spent time developing my own Fiesta S2000 I'm going to have to drop everything and start from the ground up but I'm sure Peugeot can give me a car capable of winning.
Q. What can drivers competing on the Circuit of Ireland for the first time expect from the asphalt stages?
CB: Ireland is different to anywhere else in the world with big jumps, compressions, dips and narrow roads. In a Super 2000 car it's horrific to try and keep the car in the middle of the road.
Q. So finding an optimal setup isn't easy then?
CB: It's a compromise between gravel and asphalt settings. The biggest thing is you need to have as much travel in your suspension and you will find the left wheel is never doing what the right wheel is doing. The roads are also uneven and you can do six kilometers on narrow lanes and then get onto a wide and smooth road before it goes narrow again. It's a big compromise but a fantastic challenge.
Q. How much will your local knowledge help you?
CB: I've never driven in the region where the stages are but I've done the Circuit twice. The first time was in a completely different area, the second time was quite close to where this year's rally will be but we crashed on the second stage. OK it's home advantage in that I know what the stages can be like but I won't get to see them until I do the recce next week. I just hope it stays dry because if there is rain then it will be very slippery.
Q. What can you achieve on this rally?
CB: I want to win and showcase what I can do in my own country. I want to find a good pace on Friday evening and then push like hell on Saturday and try to get a win. It will be difficult first time in the car but if we put the homework in early in the week and have a good recce it's very possible.