Craig Breen and Paul Nagle return to World Rally Championship action on Arctic Rally Finland at the end of February. Hyundai’s Irish pairing hasn’t competed in the WRC since their impressive runner-up finish on September’s Rally Estonia.
Sharing Hyundai’s third i20 WRC with Dani Sordo in 2021, Breen is excited to start his season on Arctic’s perfect winter rally conditions.
“It’s a stunning place,” Breen told WRC.com. “There’s so much snow and with the deep-freeze conditions, it’s going to be an incredible place to hold a WRC round.
“Obviously, everybody loves Sweden and the history that event brings. We shouldn’t forget, we’ve had fantastic conditions there not so long ago.
“But coming to the Arctic means we’re guaranteed these winter conditions and this is what the drivers are really looking forward to.”
2021 will be Breen’s first taste of the Arctic Rally but he still has plenty of snow surface experience. Ireland’s top rally driver has competed on WRC’s usual winter event, Rally Sweden, no fewer than seven times.
Breen’s best Rally Sweden result came three years ago when he finished second overall driving for Citroen.
The 2019 Irish Tarmac Rally Champion got accustomed to the conditions again when he took part in Hyundai’s pre-event test beside Arctic Rally base, Rovaniemi.
“Just driving this car again, it’s fantastic.
“The test went well. The surface of the road was maybe a little bit soft with the snow and it rutted up quite quickly.
“When you’re using a test road in both directions, that can be a little bit complicated as you have ruts at either end of the corner. But other than that it was all good.”
Hyundai had a disappointing start to its 2021 campaign. Just one i20 WRC finished in Rally Monte-Carlo’s top four.
High-speed Finnish stages typically favour Toyota so an Arctic Rally comeback would be a massive statement for Hyundai to make.
Breen and Nagle should benefit from starting the rally behind their WRC rivals on the road. Hyundai team-mates Ott Tanak and Martin Jarveoja will also run at a lower-than-normal road position after their Rally Monte-Carlo non-finish.
This could give Hyundai a perfect opportunity to make an early impression on the Arctic Rally leaderboard. It is also a good chance for Breen to benchmark himself against 2019 World Rally Champion, Tanak.
“It’ll be interesting to see what we get in terms of road conditions on the event, if we do get a hard ice base or if it’s softer, drier snow. That could have an impact on running order.
“For obvious reasons, there’s not so much rallying going on at the moment, so I’m just really looking forward to sitting in the car and competing again.”
Read Breen’s full interview with WRC.com here.
Arctic Rally Finland
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Photos courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool and Hyundai Motorsport