Craig Breen says not “jumping in and out of the current car” and instead starting his 2022 testing program early will put him at an advantage compared to his World Rally Championship rivals.
Breen drove the Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid on asphalt for the first time in Spain on Wednesday, saying beforehand that there was “certainly going to be something to discover” in that run after the team’s latest work on the car.
He was announced as an M-Sport Ford World Rally Team driver earlier this month, but drove the car on gravel in secret in September. In a world exclusive, DirtFish was present at that test.
Talking for the first time since the announcement, and just prior to his asphalt run in Spain, Breen told DirtFish he was looking forward to his preparations for next season.
“It’s a big weight off the shoulders to have the announcement done,” said Breen, who is also due to drive the car on gravel on Friday.
“It was the worst kept secret for months and having to lie to people wasn’t nice. Now we don’t have to hide anything.”
There had been some speculation that Breen might be seen in a current Ford Fiesta WRC for the Monza Rally next month. Breen said that’s wide of the mark.
“It’s a no for Monza,” he said of an appearance at the World Rally Championship season finale.
“I’m completely focused on what I’m doing with the 2022 car and, anyway, there’s no way I could go to Monza with M-Sport and potentially take points away from Hyundai – that would go completely against the grain. No. Not for me.
“I see it as an advantage that I’ve stopped with the current World Rally Car and all of my attention is now directed towards getting settled into the Puma.
“The other guys are going to be jumping in and out of the current car and then doing some testing in Rally1 – that’s not the same for me. I’m completely focused on next year’s car and that’s the most important thing for me, to get switched on for 2022.
“With this time, I can work on the whole regen process and understand completely how to use the hybrid to the best of its capability. It’s going to be a whole new sport from what I can imagine. It’s going to change the sport completely.”
Talking about the impact his two-year M-Sport Ford agreement had at home, Breen added: “Irish people have wanted a tricolor on a Ford rally car for a very long time and so many people have come close to making it happen and finally to do that is fantastic.
“It’s put a bit of a spurt into the sport again back home. A lot of people are talking about travelling to the events now and the number of messages we got from people was just incredible.
“It’s fantastic. It’s brought a real buzz.”