Craig Breen says taking a more relaxed approach to his preparation helped him recapture some World Rally Championship form on last weekend’s Acropolis Rally Greece.
After enduring four difficult events blighted by accidents, Breen’s Acropolis began well with him running fifth overall, 8.4 seconds off the lead, after Friday morning’s second stage.
But he lost two minutes changing a punctured tire on the next stage which put him to the back of the Rally1 field.
That forced Breen to run first on the road through Saturday’s 92 miles, the longest leg of the rally.
Breen’s an emotional man who wears his heart on his sleeve. That setback hit him hard, particularly because, as the only Rally1 driver to suffer a puncture on Friday despite the rough terrain, it seemed like a genuine case of bad luck.
After a good night’s sleep, Breen regained his composure and focused on making the best of the situation.
While his M-Sport team-mates Sébastien Loeb and Pierre-Louis Loubet, who had been lying first and second overnight, both hit trouble on Saturday morning, Breen quietly plugged away.
He had a problem-free day and had risen to sixth by the end of the leg, leaving him much more upbeat.
“Honestly, from first on the road I was happy with our speed and we have to be happy with that,” he told DirtFish after Saturday’s stages.
“It’s probably the most positive day we’ve had in three or four months, to be honest with you. Which is strange when you say a day when you’re fighting at the front [on the road] is a positive day, but still the car felt good, I felt confident.”
Breen benefited from Elfyn Evans’s retirement on Sunday morning to take fifth position, where he stayed until the end of the rally.
He ended his rally with three consecutive top-four stage times including third on the powerstage, to bring home the event’s fourth biggest points haul. It was his best result since finishing second on Rally Italy in June.
Reflecting on the rally, Breen said: “It’s strange to be going away from a rally positive with the result we have, but ultimately it’s better than the last couple of rallies.
“We have to try and keep that in mind. It’s been a tough old couple of months; ever since sort of after Sardinia it’s all been unravelling slowly but surely, so it’s nice.
“This rally, at least we had no big problems, obviously apart from the puncture. After the puncture everything went perfect, no moments at all. I really just need to try to keep that momentum going now.”
Asked if he had altered his approach to the weekend, Breen told DirtFish: “I tried to be not as tense, not as anxious, because honestly I tried every single type of approach in the last couple of rallies and none of it seemed to make any difference.
“So I tried to not concentrate too much on it and just go away and drive the rally and let all the other factors look after themselves.
“And OK, apart from Friday, that’s kind of worked so we’ll be going forward with that attitude.”