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Breen forced to retire in Ypres
28 Jun 2015 12:12
Craig Breen has been denied his fourth successive season victory in Ypres as he was forced to retire in the Belgian event.
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Peugeot Rally Academy driver Breen went to round five of the FIA European Rally Championship with a hat-trick of wins under his belt and intent on making it four in a row.
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The championship leader wouldn’t have it easy though. Despite the absence of his main title challenger, Kajetan Kajetanowicz, a host of rivals old and new made for tough competition.
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Breen and his co-driver Scott Martin posted the fourth fastest time in Thursday evening’s 4.79km qualifying stage.
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Although this didn’t allow them first choice of their road order position for leg one, Breen was able to choose second on the road at the start selection ceremony on Friday afternoon.
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On each visit to this rally in the past Breen has had trouble of some kind on the opening loop. This time out he came to the end of the opening stage second fastest by 1.4 seconds to Dutchman Kevin Abbring.
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Breen had struggled with the following stage in the past, failing to finish it without picking up a puncture, so he adopted a clean middle-of-the-road approach that delivered him another second-fastest time ahead of local legend Freddy Loix.
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As the crews reached the mid-leg service Breen’s mature approach helped him to a 7.8 second lead.
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Rain showers made tyre choice very difficult for the following loop and it was the local Loix that faltered by picking soft compound rubber believing the rain would persist but that was not to be the case.
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In stage six, Abbring made a mistake and rolled out of the event at high speed, starting a fight for overall honors between Breen and the chasing Frenchman Bryan Bouffier, but it was Breen who led overnight by 4.6 seconds.
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In leg two, Breen drew first blood in the battle at the very top, stopping the clocks a mere 0.3 seconds ahead of Loix and a valuable 5.4 seconds ahead of Bouffier.
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Breen was happy to manage his lead even if that meant losing a second here and there.
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However, the plan began to go sour on stage 11 when the Peugeot Rally Academy 208T16 picked up a front-right puncture near the end of the test demoting Breen one place overall by just over half a second.
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Thereafter, Breen was unfortunately one of those that made an excursion into a field and although he was able to get back on the road and to the stage finish he had damaged the radiator overheating his engine too badly to continue.
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The local master Loix went on to take the rally win making it his tenth Ypres Rally victory.
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Breen keeps his lead in the European Championship, but no doubt it was a great opportunity to extend it lost.
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