CRAIG BREEN PUSHING FOR A PODIUM PLACE!
Craig Breen and Scott Martin produced one of the performances of the day as they fought their way up to fourth overall, just 1.7s behind the third-placed crew and only 13.5s adrift of the leaders! Meanwhile, Mads Østberg and Torstein Eriksen were also in impressive form as the pair moved up into fifth position, claiming a stage win and two consecutive second fastest times in the process.
The longest leg of the rally (150.24km) and contested with no midday service, day two always looked like it would be the decisive part of the weekend. Featuring damp, muddy stages this morning that gradually dried out during the afternoon loop, that is precisely what it turned out to be.
Lying sixth overall, 17.5s shy of the podium this morning, Craig Breen produced a superb attacking performance on the Welsh roads that he enjoys so much. By the end of the day, the Irishman had moved a lot closer to the top of the standings! Third fastest on the opening stage of the day, Craig immediately moved into fifth overall, before consolidating his position on the next speed test with the joint second fastest time. Another two second fastest times in the afternoon loop (SS15 and SS18) meant that he ended the leg in fourth place, just 1.7s off the third-placed driver. Clearly, there can be no doubting the competitiveness of the C3 WRC in these very tricky and changeable low-grip conditions. The retirement of one of his rivals meant that he moved to within just 13.5s of the new leader.
With further adjustments to the set-up of his C3 WRC, Mads Østberg equally showed strong pace during Saturday's leg, whilst demonstrating the array of qualities of his car. A stage win on the famous Sweet Lamb Hafren stage (19.95km) took the Norwegian into sixth place. He then consolidated his position with three consecutive second fastest times (SS12, SS13 and SS14), before also benefiting from the retirement of the then leader to end the day in fifth overall.
Tomorrow's final leg, during which the podium places will be very much up for grabs, will see the competitors tackle five stages and a competitive distance of 55.64 kilometres. The main difficulties will certainly arise on Elsi (10.06km), which is completely new this year, and the two runs on Great Orme Llandudno (8.03km), held exclusively on tarmac but contested by the WRCs in gravel configuration…
WHAT THEY SAID
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
"Given there was no proper midday service today, despite this being the longest leg of the weekend, the first challenge was about reliability and we did a superb job on that front. We also produced a very high level of performance, which means that we now go into the final day challenging at the front. We are going to do all we can to secure the best possible result."
"I'm really pleased to be right in the mix for the podium after an incredible day. We just kept pushing. I can't wait for tomorrow, I really enjoyed it today and I hope we can keep up the momentum on Sunday. Tomorrow's leg will be pretty short, so we'll need to be on it right from the word go. But one thing's for sure, we'll be going flat to the square right!"
"I really enjoyed driving my C3 WRC today, especially this morning. Although I had to contend with some understeer issues this afternoon, we are definitely in the running for a decent result. We're going to keep on pushing to build on today's good performance. Tomorrow's final leg promises to be interesting, with the new sections and the stage held on tarmac."
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
- Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2:31:22.5
- Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4.4
- Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +11.8
- Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) +13.5
- Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) +34.1
- Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +36.5
- Paddon / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) +45.4
- Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +55.5