A puncture on the opening stage caused brake damage, leaving him one and a half minutes off the lead in 13th place after the first loop.
Even after that was fixed at service, Breen struggled to get up to speed, feeling both his set-up and driving style were inadequate. Although now back up to seventh, he is two minutes adrift of Abbring already.
Championship leader Esapekka Lappi runs third on his Ypres debut, ahead of local driver Cedric Cherain, who was second following SS1.
Luca Rossetti had briefly picked up second when Loix made his Dikkebus error, but on the following Wijtschate stage the Italian clouted a big rock, picked up a puncture and then went into a ditch, costing him four minutes and all hope of a win.
The second and final day of the rally comprises another 13 stages, finishing around 10pm local time on Saturday.
Leading positions after SS7:Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Kevin Abbring Sainteloc Peugeot 56m30.7s 2. Freddy Loix Munster Skoda +24.8s 3. Esapekka Lappi Skoda +39.1s 4. Cedric Cherain Ardennes Ford +53.8s 5. Sepp Wiegand Skoda +1m32.0s 6. Hermen Kobus Kobus Ford +1m33.2s 7. Craig Breen Sainteloc Peugeot +1m58.9s 8. Davy Vanneste Duindistel Peugeot +2m40.8s 9. Neil Simpson Simpsons Skoda +2m45.4s 10. Xevi Pons ACSM Ford +2m48.1s
The fifth Intercontinental Rally Challenge was the best yet, and it was Skoda UK driver Andreas Mikkelsen who emerged as champion from a tense five-way shootout at the season finale. Matt Beer reviews the season