Craig Breen has revealed he was battling without the use of his 100kW hybrid system for three of Saturday afternoon’s four Rally Sweden stages.
Breen has been locked in an intense fight for his first World Rally Championship victory with the driver that took the seat he vacated at M-Sport Ford for this season, Ott Tänak.
Breen headed Tänak by three seconds before Saturday afternoon but suffered across the four-test loop to end it 8.6 seconds shy of the lead.
The Hyundai driver’s biggest problem appeared to be a delaminated tire that robbed him of a few seconds towards the end of SS13, and then a wild moment into a snowbank which Breen was lucky to emerge from on the day’s final stage, SS15.
But it turns out Breen was dealing with a broken hybrid unit too.
“We’ve been carrying an issue for basically the whole afternoon, unfortunately we lost the hybrid on the second stage out of service,” Breen told DirtFish.
“We’ve been trying to get around that, did some changes to the car just before the last stage and I had a surprise quite early into the stage and lost the rear.
“We lost a bit of momentum in that part but otherwise just damage limitation – we were trying our best not to lose so much time but obviously not easy without the hybrid.”
Breen’s hybrid issue explains why Tänak was able to make such healthy gains on Breen as the afternoon progressed.
Tänak took the lead from Breen on the penultimate stage of the day despite a tire delamination of his own, while he took another 6.3s out of Breen on the final stage of the day.
The M-Sport Ford driver’s afternoon wasn’t without its complications either of course – that tire delamination ruining a premeditated bid to save tires and then attack at the end of the loop.
“Obviously it was just about tire management this afternoon,” Tänak told DirtFish.
“So not too much pushing and yeah, we were unfortunate to have the tire issue as well, but other than that it seems like Craig had more issues.”
When it was put to him that it had been a strategic drive Tänak responded: “Yeah, but unfortunately we didn’t score points for that.
“So we got the puncture, we lost the time on that one, that was not the plan today. And on the last one we didn’t have anything to put on the car, so we were running on basically a teethless tire.”
Ahead of Sunday’s final stages, he says he has “no strategy”.
Tänak explained: “You just keep going in the rhythm we’ve been doing so far. So like I said, I have nothing much more to put so I keep going the same way.”
Breen is aware that overturning an 8.6s gap will be a big ask, but he’s promised to give it his best shot.
“For sure we can put pressure, we’ll not lie down that easy,” he said.
“It’ll be a big push in the morning to see what we can do. I feel confident with the car for sure, we’ll get it back all working again like it was this morning and there’s no reason why we can’t at least put on a charge.
“But to take that sort of time back I would say is nigh on impossible, but we’ll never lie down.”