Circuit of Ireland.
Waterford’s Craig Breen (Citroen DS3 R5) is perfectly placed to achieve back-to-back victories on the Circuit of Ireland Rally that concludes today.
After yesterday’s six stages, he leads last year’s runner-up Kajetan Kajetanowicz (Fiesta R5) by 25.1 seconds. Tyrone’s Alastair Fisher (Fiesta R5) is just 2.5 seconds further behind in third.
Welsh ace Elfyn Evans (Fiesta R5) led through the opening stage, Cairncastle near Larne where he was 6.4 seconds ahead of Breen, with Fisher just 1.5 seconds further behind and followed by the Skoda Fabia R5 of Antrim’s Desi Henry.
Cork driver Keith Cronin (Citroen Ds3 R5) made an early exit, soon after the stage start as he slid off on a right hand bend and hit a bank.
Although he continued for a brief distance, the impact damaged the radiator and with a soaring temperature gauge, the Ballylickey driver was forced to abandon his effort. Meanwhile, Kajetanowicz and Josh Moffett (Fiesta R5) rounded off the top six.
Topping the time sheets on the second stage and despite some concerns about the power steering of his Fiesta R5, Evans stretched his lead to 12.4 seconds.
Breen remarked that he struggled with muddy conditions. Kajetanowicz made some changes and moved into third. Fisher and Henry followed.
By the conclusion of the third stage near Torr Head, there was a new rally leader, with Breen taking over following the demise of Evans, who bowed out with steering troubles.
At the remote service in Ballymoney, Breen led Kajetanowicz by 25 seconds, both drivers remarking on the superb quality of the 31-kilometre stage.
Fisher, admitting that his tyre choice was a little too cautious, was third — 4.6 seconds further behind. Sweden’s Fredrik Ahlin (Fiesta R5) held fourth with Derry’s Marty McCormick (Skoda Fabia S200) and Josh Moffett (Ford Fiesta) next in general classification.
Meanwhile, Henry broke a rim on the second stage, punctured on the third and retired on the road section with a broken wheel bearing.
On the repeat of the pair of stages — Knockboy and Glendun — Breen powered ahead as he mastered the wet conditions. He did admit to having a moment towards the end of the penultimate stage.
At the King’s Hall service halt prior to the evening’s final stage he said, “The stages were absolutely fantastic, at least we got one dry run over the stage at Torr Head, I will never forget that. I was disappointed that Elfyn (Evans) didn’t get to the end of SS 3 because I think it would have put a more clear picture on the whole morning.
“We had played a good tyre choice for the loop, we knew we would haemorrhage time on the first two and would get in back on last one, but that’s the way it goes.”
On the Ards TT stage Breen lost more than 10 seconds when he spun and hit a barrier that damaged the lamp pod of his Citroen.
Fisher was quickest on the stage to close on Kajetanowicz.
Circuit of Ireland Rally (Overnight Positions) Belfast:
1. C. Breen/S. Martin (Citroen DS3 R5) 47m. 51.3s; 2. K. Kajetanowicz/J. Baran (Ford Fiesta R5) 48m. 16.4s; 3. A. Fisher/G. Noble (Ford Fiesta R5) 48.18.9s; 4. M. McCormack/D. Moynihan (Skoda Fabia S2000) 48m. 49.4s; 5. J. Tarabus/D. Trunkat (Skoda Fabia R5) 48m. 56.6s; 6. J. Moffett/J. Rowan (Fiesta R5) 49m. 08.0s.
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