Craig Breen will continue to lead MRF Tyres’ development mission in the FIA European Rally Championship on Rally Fafe Montelongo this week.
This is what the 30-year-old had to say ahead of his trip to Portugal, where he will be in action in a Hyundai i20 R5 co-driven by his fellow Irishman Paul Nagle.
How do you prepare for a new rally?
“It’s difficult really because it’s a big unknown. It’s been a regional rally only so it’s difficult to get onboards and things like that. Thankfully, the organisers worked hard to make the event happen, in what are obviously difficult times. So at least we will get to visit Portugal. It looks like it will be a nice rally as the roads look to have a nice profile.”
Does the fact it’s a new event make the challenge even more exciting?
“I’m always keen on going to new rallies, seeing new places. It does bring a new element to it. No one has any experience of the stages so no one has any big advantage over the other.”
How difficult is competing on a new rally for the first time?
“All the rallies I’ve done this year in the European championship have been relatively new for me so it’s not really anything I’m not used to. Apart from Canarias, I’ve not done any of the other rallies in the past. Obviously I’d done Liepāja before but that was in the winter and it was a completely different event in the summer.”
What have you done to prepare for this event specifically?
“We had a small development test last week to get back on the Tarmac. We are looking to progress forward and try to get even better results in the next few events. It is important as every round in 2020 from now on is on Tarmac. We’re improving and developing the MRF Tyres.”
What’s your plan for today’s official test?
“We’ll try to get into the rally, get back into the R5 mode again. I’m happy with the balance of the Hyundai, happy with everything. We’re still doing some development on the tyres but that’s what we’re here for.”
Have you set a target for the rally?
“Just to continue the development of the tyre, that’s the most important thing. Myself and Paul, the team and everyone have been doing everything we can. We’ve done two perfect rallies from our side, now we have to continue the development as we have done from the first kilometre of the first free practice run in Rome.”
Rain is forecast for the weekend. How difficult can that make a Tarmac rally?
“I haven’t really done so much with the tyre in the wet and that’s something we’ll need to work on. It will be interesting to try the tyre in those conditions and see where we are. It looks like the asphalt is quite grippy so I’m hoping even with the rain it won’t be so bad. But the weather changes so much so let’s wait closer to the event to see what we’re going to do.”
The starting order will be based on championship positions for leg one. How important will road position be if it rains?
“You’ll have some places where you can take some cuts and maybe you can have some pollution on the road running a bit further back. But I don’t think it makes a massive difference unless you have big rain and lots of places where you get mud on the road. I don’t think it should be a huge problem.”
Does your fantastic second place on Rally Estonia earlier this month give you a boost for Rally Fafe Montelongo?
“It’s obviously great but the most important thing is to keep the continuity, the consistency of driving. It gives myself and Paul the confidence that we can mix it with the best in the world. We just have to try to continue to do our job in the European championship and work as hard as we can, try to make the tyre better for MRF Tyres.”
Was Rally Estonia your best drive so far?
“It’s probably our best result on paper but driving wise I don’t feel I took any massive big step in my pace compared to what we’ve been doing recently. Honestly since the season re-started in Rome, both myself and Paul feel we’re in a really good position. We’re working very hard, the whole package is very effective and all the stars were aligned for Estonia. We had all the tools we needed to do a good result. But for sure we’ll go to the next rallies knowing we can do it, we just need to keep our heads down.”