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WRC Finland: Breen podium hopes evaporate after costly mistake

Craig Breen has retired from Rally Finland following an impact after a jump which ended hopes of a third World Rally Championship podium finish of the season.

Craig Breen, Paul Nagle, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

Craig Breen, Paul Nagle, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

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The M-Sport Ford driver started Saturday sitting in fifth position, some 35.6s adrift of rally leader Ott Tanak (Hyundai) but was in contention with the front runners throughout the fast gravel event. 

However, Breen’s rally unravelled on Saturday’s Stage 12, held in treacherous wet conditions after the forecasted rain finally hit the Jyvaskyla region of Finland.

The Irishman approached a fast crest slightly off line which resulted in his Ford Puma hitting a boulder hidden in the undergrowth as the car landed.

The heavy impact with the grass bank ripped the right rear wheel from the car, forcing Breen to stop in the stage and retire from the day’s action. 

The accident follows an off in the previous round in Estonia where Breen had also been running strongly before hitting a concrete post hidden in the undergrowth, which broke the Puma’s suspension. 

M-Sport team principal Richard Millener labelled the incident as a clear mistake from his driver when speaking to WRC Live following the incident.     

“Honestly, that is just too fast,” he said.

“That bank was there for a while so that is a mistake that we shouldn’t really be seeing unfortunately.  

 

“It is clear if you go wide on that crest you are going to be in the bank. I understand he is trying to get the positions we want to see, but retirements are 10 times worse than anything else, so it is frustrating.”

Millener is unsure if it will be possible to repair the Puma to allow Breen to rejoin the rally and fight for power stage points on Sunday.

“We need to get the car back here and see how bad it is,” he added.

“We have seen some pictures and there is definitely a rock in that grass bank he has hit, so we will have to see what it is like when it comes back.”

Breen’s exit has promoted Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville to fifth overall, ahead of Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta.

Overnight leader Ott Tanak continues to head the order in his Hyundai, ahead of Toyota’s Esapekka Lappi, with championship leader Kalle Rovanpera climbing to third in front of Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans.   

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