Craig Breen (207 S2000) and Stéphane Lefebvre (208 R2) kicked off the new Peugeot Rally Academy’s programme this weekend in Latvia, home of round two of the 2013 European Rally Championship. Despite the snowy, icy conditions, the two young recruits kept a cool head as they challenged for supremacy in their respective fights for overall and ‘two-wheel drive’ honours.
Craig Breen: mission accomplished
Craig Breen and his co-driver David Moynihan set the pace from the outset. Fastest times on Day 1 saw the factory pair figure at the top of the leaderboard in their 207 S2000. The Irishman then claimed two more stage wins on the Saturday to celebrate his 23rd birthday before enjoying a thrilling fight all the way to the finish with Jari Ketomaa (Ford S2000 Turbo RRC). “We suffered a handicap of around 30kph a penalty in terms of top speed,” notes Craig Breen. “On these extremely fast stages, that soon adds up, but we were always aware of that. We consequently just kept up the pressure. Our aim here was to finish on the podium, and that’s exactly what we did…” Craig and David posted no fewer than six fastest times from 14 to complete the rally just 31 seconds behind the eventual winner, despite being slowed by an alternator connection problem towards the end. “It still feels like I’m in a dream. It was great to have the opportunity to contest this rally and its magnificent stages. I can’t wait for my next outing in the colours of the Peugeot Rally Academy.” Next rally: Rallye Açores (gravel), April 25-28.
Stéphane Lefebvre: a remarkable debut
Stéphane Lefebvre and Thomas Dubois produced a strong run in their Peugeot 208 R2 to emerge among the stars of the Latvian snow. Despite the fact that this was only their first rally on ice, they proved a match for the established two-wheel drive runners. Their opponents were amazed to see them string together a number of fastest stage times from the outset. The 20-year old from northern France even led the class until the final day when he was forced to lift because of a transmission issue that played into the hands of rival Risto Immonen who was only seconds behind the Peugeot Rally Academy driver at the time. “It was fantastic fun,” reports Stéphane Lefebvre. “The conditions were entirely new for me, but I found them to be quite similar to gravel. As a result, I felt comfortable straight away and I thoroughly enjoyed the incredibly fast icy stages, and our reward was six fastest times.”
Stéphane and Thomas completed their maiden ERC rally in second place in the two-wheel drive class after providing an eloquent illustration of their and the Peugeot 208 R2’s competitive potential. Their next event will be a private entry for the opening round of the 2013 French Rally Championship, in Le Touquet, which is near to their home. Their next appearance in the colours of the Peugeot Rally Academy will be the Rallye Açores on April 25-28. The team’s entire line-up will contest the Portuguese event since Jérémi Ancian is due to make his first appearance for the team on the Atlantic island.
Bruno FAMIN: “This weekend’s result is a great start for the Peugeot Rally Academy. Our two youngsters showed real speed and posted some first class stage times, not to mention their excellent consistency. Despite suffering a deficit in terms of top speed, the Peugeot 207 S2000 continues to be a formidably competitive challenger and the benchmark in its class. That was demonstrated not only by Craig but also by François Delecour who joined him on the podium. Craig showed what an incredibly combative driver he is and I was also impressed by the speed with which Stéphane adapted to conditions which, along with the European Championship, were completely new to him. He produced a very strong performance in the 208 R2.”