A perfectly paced performance in Latvia saw Craig Breen and his co-driver Scott Martin collect the second ERC victory of their career in the Peugeot 208 T16. The Peugeot Rally Academy pair’s result puts them back in contention ahead of the European Championship’s next round in Ireland, at the beginning April. Diogo Gago had a difficult debut in the ERC Junior class with the 208R2 but succeeded in reaching the finish of the complex wintry event.
After posting the second-best time on the pre-start qualifying stage, Craig Breen and Scott Martin chose to start 14th on the road for the first of the two legs. The opening day provided a cocktail of snow and rain which made the conditions particularly treacherous and extremely wet in places, but the challenge failed to faze the Peugeot driver. Craig Breen didn’t put a foot wrong and was rewarded with four fastest times from five, unlike his chief rivals Kajetan Kajetanowicz and Alexey Lukyanuk who both hit trouble. By the end of Leg 1, the Irishman had carved out a safety margin of more than a minute.
The second day of action turned out to be just as delicate when fresh snow hampered visibility for all the surviving crews. However, that didn’t prevent Craig Breen from controlling from in front to secure the second European Rally Championship success of his career after last year’s Acropolis Rally. The result will also serve as a perfectly-timed confidence booster for everyone at Peugeot Rally ahead of the Circuit of Ireland Rally which will take Craig to his native island: “I can’t wait for my home event in Ireland! It’s great to have won this weekend, but the conditions weren’t easy. The snow melted between the two runs on Saturday and the stages were really very tricky. The 208 T16 coped perfectly, though, and proved totally reliable from start to finish. When everything falls into place, it’s easy to be fast and it’s a good feeling to have won again!”
The trip to Latvia was the maiden ERC outing for Diogo Gago and Jorge Carvalho as part of the Peugeot Rally Academy line-up. It wasn’t the easiest of debuts for the Portuguese duo, however, since they crashed on SS2 but were able to get their car back to their service crew for repairs. Thanks to the first class work of their mechanics, who managed to restore his 208 R2 to pristine condition, Diogo Gago went on to complete the event in seventh place in the Junior standings to earn valuable experience for the rest of his campaign: “I’m very happy with my first event as part of the Peugeot Rally Academy. I would like to thank everyone in the team for their great work after my off on Day 1. The aim was to stay out of trouble and reach the finish but it wasn’t easy to find the ideal pace and post some fast times without making any mistakes. I’m globally pleased with my first rally and I can’t wait for my next event so that I can carry on learning.”
Round three of the FIA European Rally Championship will take teams to Ireland where the Peugeot Rally Academy’s ranks will be joined by Charles Martin in a 208 T16. Before then, the 2014 208 Rally Cup winner will have had a chance to familiarise himself with the car on the Rallye du Touquet, the opening clash of this year’s French Rally Championship.
Final positions: 1, Craig Breen/Scott Martin (Peugeot 208 T16), 1h56m49.1s. 2, S. Plangi (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo10), +1m40.7s. 3, D. Butvilas (Subaru Impreza STI), +5m48.6s. 4, M. Svilis (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo10), +6m39.2s. 5, R. Consani (Peugeot 207 S2000), +6m51.5s.