CRAIG BREEN JUST OUTSIDE PODIUM PLACES
The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT crews enjoyed contrasting fortunes during an incident-packed day two at Rally Australia. Now fourth overall, Craig Breen and Scott Martin are the team’s highest ranked crew, whilst Stéphane Lefebvre and Gabin Moreau ended the day in seventh position. Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle were however forced to retire for the day.
- A busy schedule lay ahead of the competitors on Saturday morning: at 7.18am, the first crew set off on the marathon Nambucca stage (48.89km), before tackling Newry (20.87km) and concluding with a short stage held on a rallycross track.
- Despite the substantial distance covered during the loop, overnight rain – with more forecast – meant that the sensible option was to go for soft compound Michelin LTX Force tyres. The C3 WRCs took two spare tyres with them for the morning.
- At the end of the Nambucca stage, there were mixed feelings among the Citroën drivers. Whilst saying he was happy with his time, Kris Meeke lost third place to Latvala. On his first run on this iconic WRC speed test, Craig Breen also lost a position (6th). Still ninth, Stéphane Lefebvre dropped more than a minute after losing confidence following a spin.
- On the next stage, Kris Meeke lost around ten seconds after running straight on at a junction. But like all the drivers, the Briton gained a position following the retirement of the rally leader Andreas Mikkelsen.
- At the mid-leg point, Kris was third overall, 22s behind the leader. Meanwhile, Craig Breen and Stéphane Lefebvre were fifth and eighth.
- After the mid-leg service, the second part of the day took the crews first of all to Welshs Creek and Argents Hill, two speed tests making up the majority of the Nambucca stage. This time, the Citroën drivers went with different tyre options, with five soft tyres for Stéphane Lefebvre and a mix of three hard and two soft tyres for his team-mates.
- On SS12, Kris Meeke damaged the suspension of his C3 WRC after hitting something over a narrow bridge. After trying in vain to perform repairs, he was eventually forced to retire for the day. As the car hadn't suffered any real damage, he will be back in action on the final leg under Rally2 rules.
- Craig Breen and Stéphane Lefebvre therefore gained another position: at the end of SS13, they were in fourth and seventh position respectively.
- After SS14 was cancelled because a damaged bridge had made it unsafe, the day concluded with another two runs on the Coffs Harbour Super Special Stage. On SS15, Craig shared the stage win with rally leader Thierry Neuville, but the overall standings remained unchanged and the two C3 WRCs ended the day without further incident.
Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal: "The issue that Kris had is disappointing. The engineers felt that the damage suffered by the suspension meant that the car wouldn't be able to contest SS14 with the required level of safety and so we asked Kris to stop. But we've really not had the rub of the green again, since the stage was then cancelled shortly afterwards… Kris will be back tomorrow under Rally2 rules, with the sole target of trying some new set-up options on the C3 WRC. Our young drivers have both had a good day, especially Craig who is still within half a minute of the podium places. Stéphane lost more time with a spin, but his other times were pretty decent considering he was running third on the road."
Craig Breen: "We've had another good day. This morning, I found the Nambucca stage particularly difficult. But considering it was our first time on the stage, we didn't do too badly up against the more experienced drivers. The afternoon loop was better, with drier conditions. We have moved up the standings due the misfortune of the others, but that's part and parcel of racing. I'll be ready to grab any opportunities to get onto the podium."
Stéphane Lefebvre: "The start of the day was tricky, in the rain. On Nambucca, I stalled after a spin and then it took some time to restart. After that, I completely lost the rhythm and I struggled until the end of the stage. Running third on the road was a real handicap and that’s what led to me taking a gamble with the soft tyres for the afternoon stages. It wasn't a particularly astute choice in the end, because the tyres lost their efficiency as we went further through the loop."
Kris Meeke: "After a fast bend, there was a narrow bridge and we just touched it with the rear wheel. A few kilometres later, I felt that something wasn't right. We stopped after the time control to try and repair the suspension. I wanted to keep going, but the team asked me to stop. It's frustrating because in the end, the final long stage of the loop was cancelled. We've missed out on a good result."
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
1. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:05:11.6
2. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +20.1
3. Tänak / Jarveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +40.6
4. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:05.2
5. Paddon / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:21.1
6. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:48.2
7. Lefebvre / Moreau (Citroën C3 WRC) +3:00.2
8. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3:25.3
9. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4:20.3
13. Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) +21:41.2