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Portugal ERC: Craig Breen leads by narrow margin after minor damage

James Hinchcliffe

European Rally Championship star Craig Breen leads Rally Azores after the opening three stages, despite damaging his Peugeot 208 T16.

Breen skirted with disaster when his car returned to service with its left-front corner's bodywork missing on Thursday afternoon.

Kajetan Kajetanowicz finished the opening day less than a second behind the Irishman in his Ford Fiesta after impressively winning two of the day's three stages on his first experience of the event.

Breen set the pace on the opening 12.1-kilometre stage, outpacing fellow Peugeot driver Kevin Abbring by two seconds as Kajetanowicz trailed by a further 1.9s.

But Kaletanowicz turned the tables on the slightly shorter Coroa da Mata run, taking 1.2s out of Breen's early lead while local hero Ricardo Moura restricted the leader to the third quickest time by making it a Fiesta one-two.

Kajetanowicz reduced the deficit by an even bigger chunk on the day-closing superspecial, outpacing Breen by 1.8s to end the day just 0.9s behind the former WRC Academy champion.

"We just broke the front bumper kissing a bank but that's all there is to report," said Breen. "It's been good so far today but really it's all about tomorrow."

Abbring ended the day in third in the second R5 208, 3.5s off the lead. Moura is fourth in his Fiesta R5, with Bernardo Sousa next up in his Fiesta RRC after a day plagued by electrical issues.

Another Portuguese star, two-time Azores winner Bruno Magalhaes, is sixth in his Peugeot 207.

Abbring was involved in the day's most bizarre turn of events, which occurred in the in-control in Ponta Delgarda.

Giacomo Costenaro's Peugeot 207 slammed into the open driver's door of Abbring's Peugeot as the Dutchman was talking to the press, prompting him to run after the Italian to remonstrate.

Leading positions after SS3:

Pos  Driver                Team/Car             Time/Gap
 1.  Craig Breen           Sainteloc Peugeot    19m04.6s
 2.  Kajetan Kajetanowicz  M-Sport Poland Ford     +0.9s
 3.  Kevin Abbring         Sainteloc Peugeot       +3.5s
 4.  Ricardo Moura         Ford                    +5.0s
 5.  Bernardo Sousa        Ford                   +18.8s
 6.  Bruno Magalhaes       Delta Peugeot          +29.7s
 7.  Vasily Gryazin        SRT Ford               +41.4s
 8.  Jaroslav Orsak        Orsak Skoda            +44.3s
 9.  Robert Consani        Delta Peugeot          +54.5s
10.  Diogo Salvi           Ford                 +1m11.4s
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