Craig Breen insists his testing crash earlier this week hasn’t affected his confidence ahead of his M-Sport Ford debut on the Monte Carlo Rally.
Breen and co-driver Paul Nagle left the road on Wednesday as they were completing their final test ahead of the first round of the 2022 World Rally Championship.
The M-Sport mechanics did an incredible job to recover and repair the car to allow Gus Greensmith’s test to go ahead as planned on Thursday, but the moments before he went off will remain the last Breen will have in the Ford Puma Rally1 before the Monte Carlo shakedown this coming Thursday.
Asked in a press conference that swiftly followed the official launch of the 2022 WRC season in Salzburg on Saturday if his confidence had been knocked by the crash, Breen jokingly replied: “Sky high, nothing happened, doesn’t exist!”
Although the tone of his remark was jovial, the sentiment was accurate.
“No, honestly speaking I still feel quite good, perhaps famous last words. Literally the last comment I made to Paul before we set out on that run was ‘everything feels amazing, I feel really confident’ and then that happened,” he said.
“But honestly the accident, as much as it was a bit gut-wrenching knowing the effort that had gone in to prepare, it was something very, very unlucky and it wasn’t like I arrived into a corner a gear too high and ran out of road or something, it was just a series of unfortunate events that led to us going off the road. But confidence is still high.
“The work that’s gone in has been so intense by everybody behind the scenes, both from M-Sport and from Ford Performance, everybody involved in the program. I think the excitement is still keeping that confidence high, the anticipation.
“I still just can’t wait to get going, can’t wait to get started, so I still feel good.”
Breen is a new M-Sport hire for the new hybrid era of the WRC but both Greensmith and Adrien Fourmaux have been retained for this season. However nine-time world champion Sébastien Loeb’s services have been required for the opening round at least.
I don't want the whole limelight to be focused on that area of the teamRichard Millener on Loeb's Monte appearance
Speculation remains as to whether Loeb could appear on further rounds throughout the year, but M-Sport team principal Richard Millener confirmed on Saturday that there currently isn’t any agreement for Loeb to drive the car beyond Monte Carlo.
“Currently it’s just Monte Carlo,” Millener said.
“We have to see where we are, we didn’t expect it, this time last year we wouldn’t have known this was going to happen so to be in this position for one it’s great and it’s produced a partnership with Red Bull.
“So it’s fantastic they were able to realize the conversation we had a while ago as a bit of a crazy idea that maybe Séb would want to do Monte Carlo and now look where we are.
“But having him in the car to help develop [it] is good, he’s got such an incredible history and career, he can certainly tell you if a car’s good or not and the feedback has been positive from him.
“He knows how to drive sensibly on rallies, get results and that’s what he’ll want to do and he loves driving, he wants to drive everywhere. He’s just done 12 days in Dakar and now he’s going to do four days in Monte Carlo so it’s a real big challenge for him.
“Incredible to have him onboard but personally I don’t want the whole limelight to be focused on that area of the team,” Millener added.
“We’ve got three very good drivers in the team that we feel can do very well and they’re the drivers that we’re using for the whole season so for me it’s great to have Séb there, but I’m also very excited by what else we’ve got in the team.”
Despite Millener’s support of M-Sport’s full-time line-up, Greensmith revealed that he wouldn’t be scoring any manufacturer points on round one – leaving that responsibility to Breen, Fourmaux and Loeb.
“I can concentrate on myself which makes things quite a lot simpler for me,” Greensmith admitted.
“I feel like I know this car as well as the Fiesta – and I spent two years in that – after one day, so I think that is a testament to how well this car’s been prepared. Now it’s our job as drivers to get the results for the car.”