The Waterford driver has held that ambition ever since the rally had a stopover in his native Waterford City. There is also another reason, somewhat more personal, as Breen explains.
“It’s been a long time since the Castlereagh Trophy was down in Munster, when it was won by the late Frank Meagher (1992). He’s my idol and the biggest spur. To win would be a dream come true, not just for me but my family as well.”
Breen knows that he cannot get caught up in sentiment, with his European opponents and indeed several of his Irish rivals ready to pounce at any available opportunity.
“I will treat it like any other rally, the last time out (Latvia) that was enough to do the job. It is what it is,” added Breen, who singled out his more potent opposition. “Kajetan Kajetanowicz (Ford Fiesta R5) is quick. He’s the Polish champion and the roads there are like here — bumpy and jumpy. Of course the likes of Alastair Fisher, Sam Moffett, Josh Moffett and Robert Barrable will also set a good pace.”
Pressed, Breen picked out Fisher and Sam Moffett as the Irish drivers that could provide the main threat, adding that he had the measure of Robert Barrable on last year’s rally.
“The pre-event test went according to plan and with most of the stages the same as last year, it’s an added bonus. All of Friday’s (today) stages are the same as last year and that is a big help. It makes it easier, we can go back over our notes and we are also able to look at the on-boards to see where we can improve. “With the exception of one or two, Saturday’s route is also similar to last year.” added Breen.
Kajetanowicz arrived in Belfast as European Rally Championship leader and will be quick. How French ace Robert Consani (Citroen DS3R5) will perform remains to be seen while Russian Alexey Lukanyuk (Fiesta R5) has a growing reputation but is also prone to pushing too hard.
Meanwhile, Fisher (Fiesta R5) and Sam Moffett in a similar car albeit in RRC (Regional Rally Car) trim will fancy their chances. Fisher is due a slice of good fortune, something he hasn’t always enjoyed. Moffett is fresh from second place in the West Cork Rally and will respect but not fear his opposition. For Robert Barrable — third last year — the rally will be his first event of the year and it may take him time to get to the speed of his rivals.
Others to watch are Eaun Thorburn (Fiesta R5), Marty McCormack (Skoda Fabia S2000), who could spring a surprise, Josh Moffett in another Fiesta RRC and Stephen Wright (Fiesta R5). Tommy Doyle in an ex-Juha Hanninen Skoda Fabia S2000 should make a dramatic improvement on his seeded position of No. 49.
In the National event, Declan Boyle (Subaru WRC) is the top seed. His season has been blighted with a power issue and he is in need of a strong result to keep his championship bid alive. Derek McGarrity and Kenny McKinstry in Subaru WRCs are his main rivals. In the Modified category Wesley Patterson, Frank Kelly, David Armstrong and Camillus Bradley are the leading quartet. The rally will be based at the impressive Titanic Quarter with the first of today’s eight stages beginning at 10.48am and ending with a double run over the 1.53km Newtownards TT stage.
Organisers of next week’s Munster Moonraker Rally in Ballyvourney, the third round of the Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship, have confirmed that Keith Cronin (Citroen DS3R5) will compete in the event as a shakedown for next month’s Rally Portugal where he will open his WRC2 account. Midleton’s Daragh O’Riordan (Ford Fiesta WRC) is also on the entry list.
The Dunlop British Touring Car Championship begins at Brands Hatch on Sunday. Portadown’s Colin Turkington is the reigning champion and will campaign the Team BMR VW CC. Jason Plato and Dubliner Aron Smith will also drive with the team in similar cars. Meanwhile, Kildare racer Jake Byrne (20) has secured backing from the Punchestown Racecourse to tackle the BRSCC FF1600 National Championship. The Trinity College engineering student will open his account at Silverstone this weekend.