FIA WRC Academy Penultimate Test

Monday, 26 September 2011 18:15


Craig Breen Rallying: WRC Academy France Event Preview

"The title fight is wide open" stated Irish WRC Academy participant Craig Breen in a recent interview for,  “I was determined to win in Germany after the second place finish in Finland and the victory became even more important as we have halved Egon’s (Kaur, EST) lead”.

We now move to the penultimate round in this inaugural season of the FIA WRC Academy and the second Tarmac event of the year, Rallye de France Alsace. Craig again requires a top result if he is to keep the pressure on the Estonian driver and bring the championship to a winner take all on Rally Great Britain. Before taking to the Tarmac on Rally Deutschland, Breen faced a 52 point deficit but now the Irish drivers arrears is 26 and the mountain looks a lot more scalable.

Craig's confidence was sky high after is victory in Germany and he carried that form to the Czech Republic the following week where the Irish Ace quickly adapted to the four wheel drive pace at the Barum Czech Rally Zlin (IRC, round 7) and recorded a fantastic 7th overall in his Kel-Tech Engineering Fiesta S2000.

Craig has been concentrating on his physical fitness at home in the intervening time since his last event. He has been working in the gym, in the pool and on the bike. Craig then traveled to PRO Performance in the UK last week to put the finishing touches to make sure he’s in top shape to take on the French stages.

Round five of the Academy season is based on the outskirts of Strasbourg, close to France’s border with Germany, the event features a wide variety of stages of differing surfaces, widths and gradients in vineyards, mountain regions and town Centre’s. With gravel sections also featuring on the competitive route, the world rally hopefuls will be required to overcome a tough test in their Pirelli-equipped Ford Fiesta R2s.

To ease the task facing the competitors, which is increased by the likelihood of inclement weather, Pirelli, the official tyre supplier of the WRC Academy, will make available 16 P Zero RX5 tyres and 12 P Zero RE7 tyres to each crew. They are permitted to use a maximum of 18 tyres once the event gets underway on Friday morning (September 30). Two spare tyres are made available for the pre-event shakedown on Thursday afternoon but cannot be used on the rally proper.

The hard compound RX5 is designed for optimal performance in warm and dry conditions. Conversely, the RE7 was developed to provide improved grip in the event of rain and cold temperatures, a feature of last year’s Rallye de France.

By offering crews two choices of tyre, Pirelli engineers hope to be able to provide more vital experience when the WRC Academy runners make the step up to the World Rally Championship in future, as well as teaching them about correct tyre usage.

“Our involvement in the WRC Academy is part of our continuous plan to help develop the next generation of world championship stars,” said Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery. “With a level playing field created due to the fact all drivers have to use the same Ford Fiesta R2s and Pirelli control tyres, our young talents can discover just how pivotal tyre choice can be to the outcome of a rally.”

Another challenge the WRC Academy runners will face in France is the problem of mud, stones and other debris being dragged onto the road by the drivers at the head of the field taking ‘cuts’ through corners.

“This is always a concern,” added Hembery. “But we saw on ADAC Rallye Deutschland, where we experienced similar conditions, how well our tyres, that are of a standard construction for weight and cost benefits, performed with just four failures reported by drivers running over rocks.”