Craig Breen believes a lack of experience with Pirelli’s hard tire cost him dearly on last week’s Rally Portugal, as he struggled to just an eighth place finish.
The M-Sport driver encountered a number of problems throughout the weekend including dust seeping into his Puma Rally1, two punctures, an off on Friday afternoon and brake issues on the final day.
The lack of stopping power was particularly costly as it relegated Breen down from a certain sixth place to eighth.
But Breen believes one of the key reasons he struggled to make a huge impact was his lack of experience on more technical gravel rallies in the World Rally Championship.
Since 2019, the only remotely technical gravel event he did was Rally GB with most of his outings coming on the lightning fast roads of Estonia and Finland. All three events are rallies where the soft compound tire is almost exclusively used.
“For sure there’s some things that I missed this weekend in terms of experience, making not the best decisions with tire choice and what not, going on what my idea was,” Breen told DirtFish.
“For the last four years I’ve only driven on soft tires, I’ve only driven on fast, soft gravel rallies and been using soft all weekend so I don’t know how to make it work, I don’t know what’s the best way to make the hard tire work and it’s not so easy.
“I expected a lot here honestly,” he added, “and I started the rally with those expectations and it was going to the expectations, honestly. I was incredibly happy with how everything was on Friday.
“Once we got onto the back foot I was ready to give it another go on Saturday morning but we really made a big cock up with the tire choice on Saturday morning [taking two hards].
“We probably made a mistake on Thursday as well going on the softs for the superspecial and burning a set of them so we were always trying to compromise, always trying to mind our softs for today [Sunday].
“Just inexperience from my side in these type of roads, these types of conditions. I messed up really.”
Breen’s frustrating result dropped him from third to sixth in the drivers’ championship but that will at least give him a far better starting position for Sardinia.
And the tough lessons that Breen learnt through Portugal has given him “food for thought” ahead of next week’s event.
“I’ve learned a lot this weekend about these kinds of rallies, these types of conditions, I definitely feel better going into Sardinia,” he said.