Citroen Racing’s Craig Breen heads to Sweden, round two of the 2017 World Rally Championship, following a promising start to the year where he finished the opening Monte Carlo Rally in fifth place using the old Citroen DS3 WRC.
In Sweden, Breen will join team mate Kris Meeke in the C3 while Stephane Lefebvre will drive the DS3.
Ben Johnston of Paddock Eye caught up with Breen before the rally.
How did you feel finishing the Monte Carlo Rally in fifth place ahead of your team mate’s while still using the old DS3?
Obviously it was a surprise really. We thought that we could do something special with the conditions that were at the rally, everybody was thrown in new cars. It was an honour, it was a great was to start the season, of course it’s ok to come home ahead of the other two guys but in reality it’s not what we wanted. We needed a strong event for the rally with the new car but it was a bit of a lottery, a gambling match the cards didn’t play in our favour - but anyway we were happy with our result.
Heading to Sweden next week you will be driving the new C3, how does that car compare to the DS3 and have you had to adapt your driving style to the new generation of WRC car?
It’s a completely new dawn for the WRC with the regulations changes and with it brings a new style of driving, firstly, these cars are a lot more powerful, secondly, they have a huge upgrade on the aerodynamic package and thirdly they have an active differential which I have never experienced before so these cars need to be driven a little more cleaner, a little bit more like circuit racing style compared to the older generation cars but it’s ok, I’ve done a few days testing in the car (C3) we had one day in Sweden at the start of January and I have another day on Saturday so I am confident enough that we can be in the best position possible, ok we won’t have experience over our competitors but at the end of the day it’s a unique opportunity and if you don’t take it with both hands you’ll regret it.
The new car had a difficult debut in Monte Carlo, how has the feedback been from Kris and Stephane in relation to the car?
Ok, I suppose I was a little bit of an outsider in Monte as far as with the old car so it was up to Stephane and Kris, it was their rally but of course I sat in on the debrief and we can some positives, Stephane had a fastest time on the last day of the rally which definitely something we needed, you know Monte is never really a true indication of where our car is at, it’s such a difficult event and with so many variables that can perhaps camouflage the cars true potential. Sweden is a completely new event next week and I think that will give us a truer reflection of where we’re at.
Looking ahead to Sweden, do you think the C3 will perform better than it did in Monte Carlo?
I can’t see why not, the whole thing was a bit of a disaster in Monte but as like I said there were so many different factors that were out of our control so I think in the Sweden the weather is taking a bit of a turn in a good way so hopefully we’ll have conditions that we can work on and I think we will start to get a real reflection on everybody’s packages especially by the test and with all the effort the guys back at the factory have put in, I can’t see why our package won’t be one of the best so I am really looking forward to it.
The conditions in Sweden will be very similar to those in Monte Carlo with the possibility of a bit more snow, are you looking forward to those conditions or would you prefer to have clearer weather conditions?
Well, Sweden is completely to Monte in so far as it’s a full winter surface and it’s on gravel, on gravel stages so you want a full gravel set-up with far bigger studs than you would in Monte so the more snow and the more ice you get in Sweden the better grip you have the better to drive with so in a winter rally like that we wish for a -20, -30 figure, with high snow banks, to be honest it’s one of the greatest driving experiences you can get. In Monte it’s a little bit of the opposite you have a variable added with a tarmac surface so it doesn’t add much grip but it’s the scariest racing and to be honest I prefer Sweden because with the cold temperatures it really bonds the ice and it looks like the temperatures are heading that way so it should be a good race.
Do you every get nervous having fans so close to the road on each stage?
They are human beings at the end of the day and I’m a human being and with the action at the side of the road of course for the action but the FIA and the organisers are trying their best to bring the sport forward and to try and make it as safe as possible but it is a dangerous game, not only for ourselves but for the spectators, but I think everyone will definitely look for a positive way following that accident although it hard to stay positive after a fatality like that I hope that from Sweden onwards the whole spectator side and how people stand at the side will be improved but you know it’s a dangerous sport and things can happen very quickly and we all just want to go and have fun and watch at the side of the road but hopefully things will move forward in the right way.
For any young drivers wanting to get into rallying, what advice would you give them?
I was extremely lucky because I was able to come through the lower ranks and to get on the ladder lets says but it all depends on what the budget is. If you are in school or leaving school there’s not a lot of money there. Become a volunteer become marshal become a co-driver whether it’s in Ireland or the UK and try and get on to the Billy Coleman Award or win the Billy Coleman Award - that’s what I would suggest.