While his rivals were off chasing victory in Italy, Craig Breen was already well into preparations for the next stop on the calendar: Renties Ypres Rally Belgium.
The Irishman had his maiden asphalt outing in a Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC at Sunday’s Aarova Rally Oudenaarde in Belgium, giving him valuable insight into the car’s performance ahead of next month’s Renties Ypres Rally Belgium.
While Breen has good experience of the gravel-specification i20, finishing second at Rally Estonia last month, the Irishman was short on Tarmac mileage ahead of his outing at the Belgian classic.
The Aarova Rally Oudenaarde was the first of two Belgian events he will do in preparation for Ypres, an event he won in a Rally2 car last year.
“Sunday was a difficult day,” said Breen. “The weather was terrible, it just rained all day long, but we could get that weather in Ypres, so it was useful to get a feeling for the car in those conditions. It would have been nice to get a go in the car in completely dry conditions, just to get a measure of where everything is.
“I was hoping the first loop might be dry and I went out on slicks, but I was being a bit optimistic. It was really tricky on those tyres. But, like I said, it’s all good experience.”
Breen won the event by 1m 24.8sec and was fastest on all but the third stage.
“On stage two, the sticker on the top of the windscreen started to come off,” said Breen. “The rain was getting under it and lifting it, then the wiper blades got caught in the sticker and the wipers stopped. We had no wipers for stage three. That was interesting.
“They were some of the worst conditions I’ve ever driven in. It was just horrendous. We were aquaplaning all over the road. We’d have a 600-metre straight and we weren’t able to get the car beyond fourth gear – it was just sliding from side to side, all over the road.
“It did stop raining a bit later in the day and the road got a bit dirtier, which was good to understand what we can face in Ypres. It was very, very useful to get out there and get a feeling for the car in conditions we could see in Ypres. We changed lots on the car, worked a lot with the set-up, which was good.”
Breen’s next event in the i20 Coupe WRC will be the South Belgian Rally next weekend.