Waterford’s Craig Breen won the World Rally Championship Academy title in dramatic circumstances at the Rally Great Britain on Saturday evening.
He needed to win four of the final day’s six stages to take the title. Championship rival Egon Kaur actually won the first stage to put the former Motorsport Ireland Young Driver of the year under even greater pressure but he responded magnificently winning all of the last five stages .
As WRC confirmed later , although victory on the rally was secured when Breen completed the final Myherin stage with a dominant margin of 4m36.1s over Kaur, he had to wait for the Estonian to complete the 27.88-kilometre run before he could celebrate the title in case Kaur went faster than him and deprived him of the final bonus point he needed to draw level with Kaur in the standings. Bren paid special tribute to his co-driver, Welshman Gareth Roberts : “He’s kept my feet on the ground this weekend, which is not an easy job”.
With the title decided in favour of the driver with the highest number of fastest stage times during the course of the year, Breen had done enough to take the title and the 500,000 Euros scholarship prize handed out to the winner.
“I can’t find words to describe this moment,” said Breen, who reported a small gearbox problem this morning. “For sure it’s the most amazing feeling to finally get here after all the effort we’ve put in all year, all the ups and downs we’ve made it to the finish. We’ve finished level on points but we’ve got it on stage wins so we’re absolutely thrilled.”
Kaur said he lost time stuck behind a slowing car on the final stage. “We pushed on the last one but we lost time and we lost the title because of this,” he said. “But Craig has done a really good job. He pushed very much, we used a strategy to keep our car safe but it was not enough.”
Northern Ireland’s Alastair Fisher finished third overall to claim third overall in the final standings despite a fraught finish to the event. “We had a broken steering column for the last stage so we had strap the steering column to the roof for the last stage using a ratchet strap,” explained Fisher. “We got through it okay and to be third in the championship is what we deserved after the problems we’ve had this year.”
WRC.com was there at the finish to interview the likeable young Waterford man and ask about his future plans :-
“Craig, you’re the inaugural FIA WRC Academy Cup champion. How good does it feel?
“I can’t find words to describe this moment. For sure it’s the most amazing feeling to finally get here after all the effort we’ve put in all year, all the ups and downs we’ve made it to the finish. We’ve finished level on points but we’ve got it on stage wins so we’re absolutely thrilled.”
You had to win all three stages this afternoon to get enough bonus points to take the title. How hard was that?
“I’d got into quite a good rhythm so I wasn’t thinking too much about the stages. I was just trying to be fast and carry good speed.”
Did you believe you’d leave here with the title?
“We were 100 per cent committed when we came here. We knew what we had to do and I never lost the faith. I didn’t lose it in Portugal, in Sardinia. We kept it going all year and I think belief is the main thing here. I’ve got a fantastic group of people back in Ireland that follow me and believe in me just about as much as I believe in myself. We left until the last stage of the last rally to get that finally. To do it is just amazing.”
You’ve not only won the title but you’ve also claimed the 500,000 Euros scholarship to invest in the next stage of your career. How important is this?
“It means onwards and upwards but this is a very small step on a big ladder and I can’t wait for next season. It’s been one of the most important afternoons in my driving career and we’ve done exactly what we needed to do, nothing more, nothing less. A perfect day.”
And what is the plan for 2012?
“We’re going to be at the start line on Rallye Monte-Carlo in the S2000 ready to win. The prize has given me most of next year’s budget and I can put my own budget to the following year so it’s guaranteed two more years in the sport I love so what better prize could there be.”
And what about your co-driver Gareth Roberts. What role has he played in your success this year?
“He’s kept my feet on the ground this weekend, which is not an easy job. Having to leave service for the last three stages knowing there was no possibility other than to win them all was very difficult. But he’s really kept me on the straight and narrow so it’s all credit to him. He’s the littlest Welsh wizard but the best of them for sure.”