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GP Week : Issue 176
Craig Breen is only 22 two years-old but has now won two major FIA rally titles. In 2011 he was the winner of the celebrated half million euro prize WRC Academy series, and this year he has become the latest and final FIA Super 2000 World Champion, a title which is now going to disappear from the sport after this season. 2012 has for Craig been a year of extreme emotions, with sadness beyond measure befalling him earlier in the year, then this amazingly successful fight to the SWRC. The exhilaration of winning the Academy series had given him such high hopes, most particularly his chance to broaden his programme for 2012 beyond his planned SWRC challenge to include various additional rounds of the IRC, which led to the tragic accident in Targa Florio that cost the life of his long term co-driver and friend Gareth Roberts. Craig continued his career with heavy heart but with the support of countless friends of himself and of Gareth, and eventually his second title came at the end of Catalunya Rally, when he beat his closest rival PG Andersson. It was a success right out of the fairy tales. His three year-old Fiesta S2000 held off the challenge of the works Proton team driver, and in the end Craig gained an accolade to beat them all. He had become Ireland’s first ever motorsport world champion. You’re a private driver and you beat a works driver! That’s not bad. That’s one way of looking at it. I’ve never looked at it that way but its true I suppose. Yes we were a very successful private team, we did very, very well and it is something that we are all very proud of. And we did it all in the same old car rebuilt after our scary high-speed end-over-event crash in Finland. The Ford Fiesta S2000 cars have proven to be very successful. It was the second time in three years a Fiesta had won the SWRC. It’s a good feeling for M-Sport also and for me. Something I’m happy with. You have had the chance to drive the Peugeot 207 S2000. How does the Fiesta compare? They are both good cars and they have different characteristics. I enjoyed driving the Peugeot which I’ve only rallied on tarmac. It’s very stiff, like a go-kart where I originally came from so it’s a nice feeling for me. On the other hand the Ford is exceptionally good on gravel and some good characteristics which I like on tarmac. It likes to change direction very quickly and it has good power. Both cars have good and bad points but on the base the two are quite equal. You’ve had a lot of opportunity to learn things first in karting, then with the WRC Academy and the WRC Institute. What has taught you the most? I spent 10 years karting and that taught me a lot on how to do tarmac driving. Then of course I have had years of experience. 2012 is already my fourth year in rallying. I went straight on in to the world championship with a small car to learn the rallies and I think that’s one of the biggest advantages that I have. What have you learned from other drivers? I’m a new-age rally driver! I like to watch lots of on-boards and think about them. Studying the smoothness of other drivers and recall some of the things that I’d forgotten from karting that I need to bring back in to my driving. Things like getting quickly back on the throttle, remembering it’s all about your exit speeds and especially in Catalunya which is so much like a racetrack you need to be very smooth. One of the biggest things I’ve picked up on is smoothness and the attention to detail, even sometimes before I even leave to go to an event your attention to detail needs to be at peak. Yes, attention to detail is probably one of the biggest things. On this final rally PG (Andersson) was ahead of you at the beginning of the rally. Was that a policy of yours or did it just happen like that? That was policy. We wanted to go at a steady pace while PG went for an early push on the gravel stages. Perhaps PG knew we should have the advantage on the later tarmac stages. I was feeling very confident until the shakedown but then when the weather changed for the worse it was a different story. When we saw PG taking some risks I let him go and in the end he broke a driveshaft and then he made a mistake. Perhaps we didn’t plan all that, and maybe it was a risk to let him go too far in front as he did, but in the end it worked out and we won the title. I knew even if he had a big lead on Friday evening we should be able to pull it back in on the tarmac. Any idea what’s happening next year (2013)? Last year when you won the Academy you said now you can also do some IRC rallies. Do you have any plans for what you want to do next year? I’d do anything next year but I have no budget. I’m starting again at zero. Last year I was starting at 500,000 euros and working on top of that, but this year I’ve got nothing. We just need to try and work very hard over the winter and see if we can get some finances together and if we can’t then its back to normal work. Did the 500,000 euros really make all the difference for you for this year? Okay we probably already had the budget to do the 2012 SWRC but we wouldn’t have had the chance to do the IRC, and maybe some other events also, and have the chance to learn about quick tarmac driving. That prize fund was a massive, massive part of this year. I don’t think it would have been as successful at all if we didn’t have it. It was fantastic winning the SWRC this year, but I think I have set myself up for a fall next year... But in the end I must say that Paul Nagel, who stepped in to be be my co-driver, has done an incredible job. He came into our team in mid season under particular circumstances which were even more difficult but he never questioned anything; we moulded it to each other and he improved the situation. It takes someone special to come to the rescue like he did, and it has all been a massive credit to him. Craig Breen – 2012 Super 2000 WRC Champion WRC >>> FEATURE Craig Breen (left) and PG Andersson 45 GPWEEK.com // 45 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: