- Craig Breen [Copyright: MRF Racing]

ERC: Breen ends MRF's 2020 season with a Top 10 finish in Rally Islas Canarias

The Indian outfit fielded only one car in the 2020 ERC season-finale.

Friday:

It was a great start to the final round of the FIA European Rally Championship for Team MRF Tyres with Craig Breen and Paul Nagle qualifying second at Rally Islas Canarias. For this rally, the fastest 15 drivers get to select their starting position, always important in rallying.

The qualifying stage was held on the 3.45km Guia stage with strong and gusting winds making the stage more challenging than expected. For Team MRF Tyres, a long day of testing on the preceding Monday proved beneficial with the Hyundai i20 R5.

Breen and Nagle set a time of 1:55.184, just 0.752 behind Miko Marczyk and Szymon Gospodarczyk. Later, the top drivers were able to choose their starting positions in an event that took place in the Las Palmas Football Stadium on the island of Gran Canarias.

Due to his top qualifying time, Breen was second to choose and will start from 15th on the road. Given the nature of this rally, the road should get better after the top competitors go through. The Friday stages see just over 99km of competitive action and nine stages with one opportunity for service.

The Saturday stages see another 101km of competition over eight stages in the north of Gran Canarias. In total, 201.79km will be driven at speed in the 2020 season finale.

Saturday:

The weather was the deciding factor in the Friday running of the FIA European Rally Championship and the Rally Islas Canarias. For Team MRF Tyres and driving duo, Craig Breen and Paul Nagle it provided an ideal opportunity to test and develop the tyres.

The day’s running saw nine stages and 98.78km of action with Breen/Nagle starting in 15th after their very strong time in qualifying. However, the weather became a lottery with very strong winds affecting the stages and each competitor experiencing a different version of weather, some wet, some dry and some with something in-between.

The Gran Canarias tarmac was always going to be a different and new experience for MRF Tyres. With this rally ending the first year for the team in the FIA ERC, the tarmac on the island is very different to what the Championship has experienced earlier in the season.

Normally the flowing roads would offer a very high grip and high abrasion test. In the wet, the surface was greasy. The changed conditions meant that the opportunity to test and develop for these conditions could not be missed and that is where attention turned.

At the end of the day Breen/Nagle sat in 15th position 2:14.3 off the lead. To prove the challenging conditions, Breen/Nagle spent much of the day in a battle with fellow WRC star Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger and fastest qualifier Mikolaj Marczyk/Szymon Gospodarczyk.

There were highlights, when the conditions allowed the team to show the true potential, particularly on SS7, the 11.75km Artenara test where Breen/Nagle took the third fastest time. Attention now turns to the 102.10km and eight stages that make up the Saturday running of Rally Islas Canarias. It is the final competitive day of the 2020 FIA European Rally Championship season.

Team MRF Tyres came to the European Rally Championship to test, develop and measure ourselves against the best rally outfits in Europe. It has allowed aggressive data collection and development and has shown that MRF Tyres can come into a world-class competition and be competitive.

Sunday:

The final day of competition in the FIA European Rally Championship resulted in strong stage times and important data collection for Team MRF Tyres at the Rally Islas Canarias. The weather on Gran Canarias continued to be fickle and impossible to predict.

The ambient temperature was consistent at around 15-20 degrees but wind and rain meant that the stage conditions would change from the start to the finish of the stage, meaning deciding upon the setup a difficult task Craig Breen and Paul Nagle took the final opportunity of the season to get more tyre data for the development of future MRF Tyres.

Still, the Irish duo were able to make up considerable time on the leader board, taking a top 10 result. The day’s running saw eight stages and a little over 100 kilometres of competitive action. The rally was run under strict Covid conditions without spectators.

The enthusiasm from the locals on Gran Canarias and the team could not be dampened with a strong online audience following the action and fight from Breen/Nagle. They fought their way through the pack, making the most of their experience in difficult conditions.

In the end, Breen and Nagle took 10th overall, 2:33.0 off the eventual winner, Adrian Fourmaux and Renaud Jamoul. They were just 0.6 seconds from Luis Monzón and José Carlos Déniz for ninth and 6.6 seconds from their Irish counterparts, Calum Devine and James Fulton in the tight top 10 battle.

Team MRF Tyres were able to set top stage times with SS11, the 12.40km Gálder stage being the best for the team with Breen/Nagle taking the third best time. The Rally Islas Canarias marks the end of the 2020 FIA European Rally Championship season, one that was disrupted by the Covid 19 pandemic and one that was radically different to what was originally planned.

The work completed by rally organisers and the Championship to create this championship cannot be overstated. It was also Team MRF Tyres’ first season in top level European competition.

The team embarked on an aggressive development program and the advancements made from the first round to the last are testament to the hard work and dedication from everyone with MRF Tyres. The FIA ERC season has now ended but Team MRF Tyres will continue the development of the product over the off season.

Craig Breen (Driver, Hyundai i20 R5) : “It has been a challenging rally. The changeable weather made it harder. Getting data for Team MRF Tyres in our development program was important today. It is difficult to ever get a test that is wet, muddy and dry and the chance to get data becomes the most important aspect.

“We had some really good stages in the rally. I really enjoyed the Gáldar stage and reminded me of stages back in Ireland. My favourite rallying roads! Congratulations to Alexey Lukyanuk on taking the 2020 title, it was certainly a hard fought year.

“I would like thank the organisers and volunteers at this rally and all throughout the ERC season. I would also like to thank everyone at Team MRF Tyres. This is the first time MRF Tyres has competed at the top level in Europe and the commitment and development of the product has been impressive. We should all be proud.”

[Note: The above is as per press release with no changes made]

[Image courtesy: MRF Racing]

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