“We needed that,” is what Craig Breen said after finishing second on last weekend’s Rally Italy.
There’s no doubt pressure was beginning to build on the M-Sport driver, whose World Rally Championship season hasn’t been the plainest sailing this season.
Breen finished eighth in Portugal, the rally preceding Italy. He was a long way off the pace, unable to match his rivals. When asked at the end of the rally what he needed to do to get his year back on the right track, his response was “not reinvent the wheel.”
Well, it certainly worked.
Breen had a slow start to his rally in Italy, but he quickly kicked up the gears and by the end of the opening stage on Saturday he was sat in second, the position he’d eventually finish the event in.
His position was helped by some of his rivals having problems, of course. Nonetheless, he still had plenty of work to do to hold on to it, and he was regularly setting similar stage times to eventual victor Ott Tänak.
He had managed to rediscover the form shown on the Monte, scoring a second podium of the year. Naturally, he walked away from Sardinia both happy and relieved.
“It’s been a couple of difficult rallies that I struggled with and was maybe heading down a rabbit hole that I didn’t want to be heading,” Breen told DirtFish.
“So we managed to turn it around.
“Already from the start of the rally here I just felt confident. Just tried to relax a bit more and let the car do the job.
“We’ve known from day one that this car is fast. I’m literally just scratching the surface these last couple of days and trying to get around, not make any mistakes, and definitely feel confident going forward.”
Breen’s excited. With the car dialed in, in the right conditions, he’s been reminded of the true pace of his Puma. And with another rough gravel event on the horizon, he’s hoping he can go on to score more big points.
“I am excited going forward, especially going to Kenya.
“I felt like on the rougher stuff here we performed better and I’ve never quite had the confidence in those conditions before. So it’s looking fruitful for the next couple of rallies.
“Obviously off to Kenya, it’s into my kind of rallies that I have experience on.
“So definitely it’s a great way to finish this part of the championship and looking forward to the next one.”
Italy will have no doubt given Breen plenty of confidence. Having sampled what he can do when he gets everything right, the M-Sport driver is now wondering just how competitive he can be going forward.
“I’ve not been in a position like this before to be honest with you.
“I can see it moving on and I can see it progressing all the time. It leaves me wondering just how far we can get it.”