Ace Breen driven for Academy success

THE ambition to succeed in the new World Rally Championship Academy series has prompted young Irish rally star, Craig Breen, to alter his plans for the forthcoming season.

The Waterford ace is due to take possession of a Ford Fiesta R2 — similar to what he will campaign in the six-round series — today. Although he will drive his Ford Fiesta S2000 in next month’s Rally Sweden, the opening round of the WRC, it is likely to be his last appearance in the car before it is offered for sale.

Breen said: “We looked at the bigger picture of this whole Academy series and wanted to maximise ourefforts to win the prize.

“The main aim now is to get as much mileage as we can in the R2 car, I need to get back to a front-wheel drive car, so as I can get every drop out of it in competition.

“It’s going to be an exciting year and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Having campaigned a Fiesta R2 a few seasons ago, Breen’s latest R2 car has come from Belgium and will be run by his regular engineer, TomGahan.

Meanwhile, the Fiesta R2 that Breen and the other drivers will use in the Academy series will be on an “arrive and drive” basis with the cars returning to M-Sport after each event. As a consequence, Breen will now contest more events in Ireland and some in the UK

He added: “The car is coming in tarmac specification and we willprobably compete in the first round of the national series in Abbeyleix in late February and then the Carrick on Suir Forest Rally the following week.”

The former Billy Coleman award winner, who will again be partnered by Welsh co-driver, Gareth Roberts, has retained the support of Kel-Tech, Suirway Forklifts, Castrol EDGE, Speedline Wheels and Kick Energy.

However, he ruled out a full assault on the British Rally Championship:

“I won’t be going to Rallye Sunseeker, while the Ulster Rally clashes with Rally Germany. I will probably do the Bulldog Rally as it has fantastic stages and I would like to do the Isle of Man.”

The WRC Academy series begins alongside the third round of the WRC, the Vodafone Rally of Portugal (24-27 March).

All drivers will compete with identical Ford Fiesta R2s prepared by M-Sport.

It’s the first step on the WRC ladder for young drivers and will give the stars of the future a unique opportunity to develop their talent on the world stage in a very cost effective way.

The prize fund includes a scholarship worth €500,000 to the winner.

Meanwhile, Breen and Alastair Fisher, who is also Academy bound, were amongst a number of Irish drivers that also included Alan Ring that availed of the opportunity to test the new Mini Countryman WRC at Prodrive in recent weeks.

Seeding for next week’s Safety Direct Galway International Rally, the opening round of the Irish Tarmac Championship, was released earlier this week.

The top 10 is as follows: 1. Tim McNulty (Subaru WRC); 2. Kevin Barrett (Subaru WRC); 3. Derek McGarrity (Mitsubishi EvoX); 4. Alan Ring (Mitsubishi EvoIX); 5. TBA; 6. Aidan Bourke (Mitsubishi EvoIX); 7. William Mavitty (Mitsubishi EvoIX); 8. Tom Flaherty (Ford Escort) 9. Sam Moffett (Mitsubishi EvoIX); 10. Ross Forde (Mitsubishi EvoIX).

The Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team was forced to drop their planned debut of the Fiesta World Rally Car in the Arctic Lapland Rally that begins in Finland today.

During the second day of the final part of their pre-season test programme in Sweden last weekend, Jari Matti Latvala and co-driver,Miikka Anttila, crashed at 150kph.

Luckily, both were unhurt, however, the Fiesta was extensively damaged. Latvala admitted it was his error: “I tried to use the snow banks to slow the car, but it rolled in the road before vaulting the snow banks and hitting some trees.”

The prizegiving ceremony for the Top Part West Coast Rally Championship takes place at the Abbey Court Hotel in Nenagh tomorrow night.

Monaghan’s, Shane Maguire will receive the top award.

As announced in last Friday’s Irish Examiner, organisers of the Valvoline National Forest Championship have confirmed that the top two drivers in the Junior category will be eligible for the 2011 Billy Coleman award.

The series will commence with the Sean Conlon Memorial Rally in Mitchelstown on February 13 next. Sunday’s Cavan Autocross at Latton Quarry on the outskirts of Cootehill begins at 10.30am.

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