Craig Breen says he can’t wait for the Acropolis Rally and it’s not just because he’s a fan of the legendary Greek event, round three of the 2014 FIA European Rally Championship.
Instead, the reason for Breen’s keenness to tackle the Loutraki-based rally from 28-30 March is because he is due to drive a new-generation Peugeot 208 T16 in competition for the first time when the mixed-surface event gets underway.
“I can’t wait for the Acropolis and I desperately, desperately want to win a rally soon,” said Breen. “I tested before Christmas in Sardinia and I’m testing again in the south of France on some rough gravel stages soon. We’re really starting to make big progress with the car.”
Dutchman Kevin Abbring will partner Breen in a second Peugeot Rally Academy-entered 208 T16.
Al-Attiyah plans ERC double
Multiple Middle East rally champion and Olympic medal winner Nasser Al-Attiyah is planning to tackle two FIA European Rally Championship rounds in 2014.
The Qatari driver, a former Dakar winner, will combine his ERC programme with several cross-country events and a Middle East title bid.
“I will contest two rounds of the European Rally Championship in Cyprus and Greece,” he said. “Cyprus is part of the Middle East Rally Championship as well. We’re trying to contest most rallies.”
The Acropolis Rally takes place in Greece from 28-30 March. The Cyprus Rally, which Al-Attiyah won in 2010 and 2012 when it counted as a round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, runs from 19-21 September. Both events feature a combination of asphalt and gravel stages.
New Bronte Homeland stage for Circuit of Ireland Rally
Circuit of Ireland Rally bosses have revealed details of the exciting Bronte Homeland stage, scheduled to be run twice on day two of the FIA European Rally Championship round on 19 April.
Measuring almost 30 kilometres in length, the stage is the longest of the all-asphalt spectacular and will link the towns of Banbridge and Rathfriland. Banbridge will also host a fan-friendly regroup on the afternoon of Saturday April 19 as part of a three-hour festival of family-based activities.
The Bronte Homeland stage will run through the area where Patrick Bronte, the father of celebrated novelists Emily, Charlotte and Anne Bronte, grew up. Stuart Allister and Joanne Magennis, dressed on Bronte period costume, joined Chairman of Banbridge District Council, Councilor Olive Mercer, and Rally Director Bobby Willis to launch the stage.
Italian duo shine on ERC Junior Championship opener
Fabrizio Andolfi and Andrea Crugnola overcame their lack of experience of driving on snow and ice to score points on the inaugural FIA ERC Junior Championship round in Latvia earlier this month.
The Italians were among 15 fellow young stars representing 11 different nations on Rally Liepāja. Crugnola finished fifth in his Napoca Rally Academy Peugeot 208 R2 with Andolfi ninth in his Gliese Engineering-run example.
Afterwards, Crugnola said: “We reached our target and scored some points. That is the most important thing.” Andolfi added: “It was not easy but I now have experience in these conditions.”
Jan Černy was the top ERC Junior in Latvia with Risto Immonen and Petter Kristiansen completing the podium in second and third respectively.
Q&A: Hermann Neubauer
Austrian FIA ERC Production Car Cup star reveals life can be tough at the top following Rally Liepāja, where he extended his impressive point-scoring run in a Stohl Racing Subaru Impreza R4 STI.
You finished seventh in class on Rally Liepāja and are five points from the top of the ERC Production Car Cup standings. But was it a good or bad trip to Latvia for you?
“It was really disappointing to be honest. I was happy before the start to be a priority driver but I could not do a test before the rally and that meant I could not push in shakedown because I had no feeling for the studded tyres. When you are one of the first cars on the road for the stages in the snow, the disadvantage is really big and you cannot do anything.”
How difficult were the conditions?
“On the first loop we were the third car on the road and there was a lot of snow. You have to change your pacenotes a little bit because the snow makes you much slower. Then for the second loop it’s difficult to find the limit because the grip level is higher. It was difficult and I was fighting to stay on the road.”
You also had a few problems with your Subaru Impreza R4 STI?
“The exhaust was broken and I had no power. Then on one stage I was really, really lucky because I was flat out over a crest, some snow had been blown onto the road and we went off into the woods. We were lucky not to have a big accident but we lost one and a half minutes. I hope to go to Greece next for the Acropolis and maybe a new rally will bring me new luck.”