M-Sport Ford World Rally Team leader Craig Breen says he’s in a “much better place” arriving into Zagreb for next week’s Croatia Rally, compared with the same event last season.
Last year, the Irishman struggled to make any impression on what was his first full asphalt World Rally Championship round in three years. He finished eighth after stopping to change a puncture on the second day, but ultimately he couldn’t find the feeling with Hyundai’s i20 Coupe WRC.
Breen told DirtFish: “It was a bit of a disaster last year. The whole set-up for the rally was a disaster. I’d never driven the car on Tarmac before and I was the first of the drivers to test [in Croatia], so I was struggling to find a set-up and I just started the whole rally on the back foot.
“I’m in a completely different place this time with the car and with everything. I start from a much better place.”
And it’s never a bad thing to start a rally which has the feeling of home.
“The stages are really nice in Croatia,” Irishman Breen added. “It’s got that sort of undulating roller coaster thing that we have a bit back home. In theory it’s a rally I should enjoy, it’s relatively similar to back home.
“The level of grip is much lower in Croatia than most other rallies in the world and how dirty and polluted the road gets can be really tricky to understand. The amount of cutting is quite high in the corner – it is a big challenge that rally.”
The Croatian rally was largely dry last season and Breen will be hoping for more of the same this time around.
“I don’t think I’ve done anything with the Puma in the wet,” he said. “My test [for Croatia] was absolutely bone dry. We’ll still have a bit to learn from that side. Let’s see. The good thing is that we go to Croatia with confidence in the car from Monte.”
M-Sport Ford enjoyed a dream start to the season with a winning double podium for Sébastien Loeb and Breen in third on the Monte Carlo Rally.
“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel going to Croatia,” said Breen, “we know the car works well and starting the test last week it felt relatively good from the Monte set-up. We know more or less what to expect when we go to Croatia.
“If Monte Carlo is anything to go by, it’s all really positive heading to Croatia. The test we did [for Croatia] felt really good and I felt really comfortable in the car straight away. I’m definitely looking forward to it and hopefully we can spring back up again and try to score some good points there, that’s definitely the objective.”