M-Sport managing director Malcolm Wilson says he made it “very clear” to Craig Breen that his priority on the Monte Carlo Rally was to bring his Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid to the finish and bank points.
Breen, who is M-Sport’s de facto World Rally Championship team leader in 2022, finished a lonely third – a minute and a half away from team-mate and rally winner Sébastien Loeb but comfortably clear of Kalle Rovanperä’s Toyota.
He was part of an early scrap for fourth place with team-mate Gus Greensmith and the Hyundais of Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak, ending Friday in sixth, but on the following day he picked up places as Tänak suffered a puncture and Neuville wrestled with a damper issue, then inherited third when Elfyn Evans slid off the road.
Wilson said the fact Breen’s trouble-free run was rewarded with a podium made it “absolutely the dream start”.
“Craig’s done exactly the job that he needed to,” Wilson told DirtFish.
“He’s going to be our team leader and I was very clear with him, he needed to get some points on the board.
“To get a podium is absolutely the dream start for him, especially if you see that both Sébastiens [Loeb and runner-up Sébastien Ogier] will probably not be doing the whole championship.”
Breen said on Friday morning that he was only at “60-70%” of his potential as he increased his understanding of the Puma, and it took him until the end of the Saturday morning loop to score his first outright top-three stage time of the weekend.
Assessing his performance at the end of the rally, he said: “I’ve grown into it at every stage, got a little bit more and more comfortable with the car with every kilometer.
“This morning [Sunday], even more so again, I found some more confidence and I’m really looking forward to the next event.
“I’m not someone to stick my neck on the line all the time. It’s just not in my nature.
“I need to take baby steps, I need to get used to it and feel comfortable with everything and then I can start to push. We’ve done that over the weekend and got better-and-better and we have to be happy with that.”