Fri 10 Mar 2023

Breen tops ERC Qualifying Stage in Fafe

Craig Breen is the driver to beat in the FIA European Rally Championship after he went quickest on the Qualifying Stage for Rally Serras de Fafe, Felgueiras, Boticas, Vieira do Minho e Cabeceiras de Basto.

Having set the pace in Free Practice with a 2min 14.969sec, Breen went faster still on the Qualifying Stage, which uses an identical 3.61-kilometre layout, with a 2min 13.769sec attack to start of the ERC’s 70th-anniverary season on top form in his Pirelli-equipped Hyundai i20 N Rally2.

Mads Østberg, starting his first full ERC campaign, was second fastest in his MRF Tyres-equipped Citroën C3 Rally2 with a time of 2min 14.456sec, as Michelin-shod Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 driver Miko Marcyck demonstrated his ERC podium pedigree with a 2min 14.510sec, which was good enough for third.

Finnish champion Mikko Heikkilä, driving a Michelin-equipped Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo for local team The Racing Factory, was a strong fourth on a 2min 14.532sec. Georg Linnamaë was fifth, one place ahead of Hungarian federation-supported Miklós Csomós

French Gravel champion Mathieu Franceschi, on his first ERC appearance in a Rally2 car, set an impressive seventh fastest time, a 2min 15.375sec, aboard his Michelin-equipped Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo.

New Zealander Hayden Paddon began his first full ERC campaign with the eighth best run for Hyundai-powered BRC Racing Team with Pirelli-equipped Tom Kristensson ninth with Bernardo Sousa 10th on his ERC comeback.

Josh McErlean was next up in his Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy Hyundai followed by Mārtiṇš Sesks and Portuguese champion Armindo Araújo.

Robert Virves, co-driven by Fafe resident Hugo Magalhães, was 14th with Breen’s team-mate Ricardo Teodósio 15th. Simone Campedelli was 16th ahead of Erik Cais, who rolled his Škoda Fabia RS Rally2.

Efrén Llarena, who is launching the defence of his ERC title this weekend for Team MRF Tyres, could only manage a 2min 17.700sec after he stalled at a junction. The Spaniard was 19th behind Pontus Tidemand. Like Cais, Gregor Jeets also rolled his Škoda.

There was early drama for Rachele Somaschini when the Italian crashed on her first run in Free Practice. Somaschini and co-driver Nicola Arena were uninjured but the extent of the damage to their Citroën has yet to be determined.

SSS Fafe is the first of 17 stages and uses a combination of Tarmac roads and cobbled streets in the centre of Fafe from 21:05 local time today.

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM