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WRC Rally Sweden

Breen: Sweden WRC podium has “given confidence to keep pushing forward"

Craig Breen says finishing second on his World Rally Championship return in Sweden has restored confidence levels that had taken a hit following a difficult 2022 campaign.

Craig Breen, Hyundai World Rally Team

Breen impressed throughout on his first start of a partial campaign for Hyundai this year after leaving a full-time seat at M-Sport over the off-season.

The Irishman, boosted by a favourable road position, found himself with an opportunity to claim a maiden WRC win after scoring four stage wins that resulted in a rally lead that lasted until Saturday night.

Breen was locked in a tense head-to-head with his M-Sport replacement Ott Tanak for the majority of the rally before ultimately finishing 18.7s adrift in second, after Hyundai’s decision to deploy team orders to place Breen behind team-mate Thierry Neuville backfired.

PLUS: How the WRC title fight ignited in Sweden's winter wonderland

The 33-year-old admitted the result was much needed for his own mental state after difficult 2022 littered by crashes and retirements that took him to some dark places.

“Obviously it is an incredible feeling,” Breen told Autosport.

“It has been a long more than 12 months now to be waiting for this feeling to be back fighting at the front.

“I’m just really happy with how the weekend unfolded and to be at the front without any mistakes and be clean. To bring home a second is perfect really.”

Craig Breen, James Fulton, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Craig Breen, James Fulton, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

He added: “Honestly, I needed it for my own state. It’s been a rough old couple of months, over a year basically. I won’t say I lost the confidence, but for sure it was difficult to keep the belief all the time.

“But for this weekend to be fighting at the front... Already on Friday it was great, but there was still some doubt with our road position. As much as everybody else was questioning it, I was questioning it myself as well.

“Until you are at a level playing field with your competitors, you can’t really be sure. But to continue to speed into Saturday and again today [Sunday], we have to be really happy. It just leaves me hungry for the future now.

“It means everything really, it has given me all the confidence again to keep pushing forward. We have all the capabilities to be at the front and I will try and keep that way now.”

It is unclear when Breen will make his next appearance in the WRC, with Dani Sordo primed to take over the third factory Hyundai entry at Rally Mexico next month.

In the meantime, he will contest the opening round of the European Rally Championship in Portugal from 11-12 March.

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