Remembering when… Breen and Peugeot took a double ERC first on the Acropolis Rally
Craig Breen became the third different winner in as many rounds of the 2014 FIA European Rally Championship with an emotional maiden victory on the Acropolis Rally seven years ago today (March 30).
The Irishman’s success on the legendary Greek event marked a debut ERC win for Peugeot’s all-new 208 T16.
Behind Breen and British co-driver Scott Martin, who moved to the top of the ERC standings following their first-place finish in Loutraki, Bryan Bouffier and Xavier Panseri (Citroën DS3 RRC) finished second with Kajetan Kajetanowicz and Jarek Baran completing the podium in their M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5.
Elsewhere, young Russian driver Evgeny Sukhovenko won the ERC 2WD category, while Vitaliy Pushkar secured first place in the ERC Production Car Cup when long-time rival Tibor Érdi retired on the road section heading to the finish. Ekaterina Stratieva took maximum ERC Ladies’ Trophy points for the first time in 2014.
Breen, whose performance earned him the prestigious Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy, celebrated his victory by paying tribute to Gareth Roberts, his best friend and former co-driver who lost his life in a rally crash in 2012. He also remembered his idol, the late Frank Meagher, who was the last Irishman to win a round of the European championship.
“It’s been the perfect weekend,” said Breen. “We showed a lot of speed on the Tarmac yesterday and everything worked just as well on gravel today so hats off to the team and Peugeot Sport for all their hard work. Frank Meagher was my absolute idol. But I remember Gareth and me asking ourselves the day before the accident how long it would take until we could be winning one of these events. A couple of years later and it’s an amazing feeling and thanks to Scott, he’s done a fantastic job.”
Breen started Sunday’s gravel-based final leg leading by 14.7s and remained in control up front as Bouffier and Kajetanowicz fought out a dramatic battle for second place, which Bouffier eventually won after Kajetanowicz elected to settle for third. All three drivers were using Michelin tyres.
“My target, as usually, is to win and I did quite a lot of mistakes this weekend so I’m a little disappointed,” said Bouffier. “But we only discovered the car on Tarmac in shakedown and on gravel this morning so we have to be happy with this result. Now we will try to beat Craig on the next round in Ireland.” For Kajetanowicz, the result maintained his strong start to the season for the LOTOS Rally Team. “It was an incredible rally for us and we are very happy to be on the podium,” he said.
Erstwhile ERC title-leader Esapekka Lappi finished fourth for Škoda Motorsport with Bruno Magalhães overcoming a scare when his Pirelli-shod Peugeot 207 Super 2000 suffered a broken cross member on the third stage of the final day to take fifth on his first international rally in two years.
Emerging Russian star Vasily Gryazin had to settle for sixth after he stopped to change a left-rear puncture on Sunday’s second stage. Jaroslav Orsák overcame suspension and steering dramas to take seventh with Jean-Michel Raoux securing his first points of the season in eighth.
Jaromír Tarabus bagged his first stage win of 2014 with the fastest time through the all-asphalt Super Special Korinthos. But his use of Tarmac tyres infringed the rules and he was handed a three-minute time penalty, which left him in ninth place at the finish.
Robert Consani soldiered on following myriad technical problems to complete the top 10 and score the final leg bonus point ahead of Italian ERC newcomer Giacomo Costenaro and Czech ERC stalwart Antonín Tlusťák.
Sepp Wiegand restarted on day two after retiring his Škoda Auto Deutschland Fabia with broken suspension on Saturday afternoon. After posting several strong stage times, the young German bagged three leg bonus points. However, there was no restart for Kevin Abbring after the Dutchman retired from the lead on stage five with high water temperature on his 208 T16.