Breen leds by just 0.9s!

Breen leds by just 0.9s!From Azores Airlines Rallye [ 16/05/2014 ].
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The Peugeot 208 T16 driver leads by just 0.9s after three stages Kajetan Kajetanwicz second after winning SS2 and the superspecial Road position crucial to tomorrow's action.

The battle for honours at the head of the 49th SATA Rallye Acores is closely poised. Peugeot driver Craig Breen, who chose to run 12th and last of the priority drivers on the road, leads ahead of reigning Polish champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz in a Ford Fiesta R5 - but by less than a second.

Breen won the opening stage, but Kajetanowicz won SS2 and SS3 - the superspecial, televised on RTP - to close in on the overall lead after the first 23.77 kilometres of competitive action. With three gravel stages now gone, 14 are still to come over the next two days in the Azores, meaning that a huge amount of road still lies ahead.

"There were no big surprises, to be honest," said Breen, arriving at service in Ponta Delgada. "We did a decent job and tried to make a solid start, we just broke the front bumper kissing a bank but that's all there is to report. It's been good so far today but really it's all about tomorrow and I think road position will play a big part in that. Where we were today definitely helped us."

Tomorrow, the top 10 positions will be reversed - meaning that Breen will be 10th on the road. "I think that's a good place to be," he concluded. "You certainly don't want to be anywhere near the front: the stages are quite soft and rough."

Kajetanowicz, the reigning Polish champion, was guarded about his prospects for tomorrow, despite being the man to beat during the opening leg. "It's a tricky rally and I certainly didn't come here thinking I could fight for victory," he said. "We'll just see what happens tomorrow. It's a question of pushing at a pace that you feel comfortable with, without taking unnecessary risks."

In third is Kevin Abbring with the other factory Peugeot 208 T16, just 2.6 seconds behind Kajetanowicz. The Dutchman felt that he had some instability in his car, especially towards the back, and the Peugeot mechanics will be examining the situation closely in service.

The top Portuguese driver is local man Ricardo Moura: the reigning Azorean and Portuguese rally champion. On his first event in the Ford Fiesta R5, he is fourth: just 1.5 seconds behind Abbring. "I've got a brand new car, but at least I know the stages, so that definitely helps," he said.

Bernardo Sousa, another Portuguese driver, did a brilliant job to overcome the handicap of running first on the road and finished fifth tonight in his Ford Fiesta RRC.

Currently leading the Junior classification is Frenchman Stephane Lefebvre in a Peugeot 208 R2, run by the Peugeot Rally Academy: the same outfit that runs Breen. "It's been a successful day for the team, but I have slightly mixed feelings," said Lefebvre. "Yes, we are in front but this morning I made a mistake on the shakedown and damaged the back of the car and now I feel that the handling is not so good. We will make some changes and hopefully it will be better tomorrow."

Risto Immonen from Finland is second in the Juniors in a Citroen C2-R2 MAX. "Nice stages, but quite tricky," he concluded. "I think I can go faster, but we will have the chance tomorrow to see what we can do. Today was just a warm-up."

The rally re-starts tomorrow at 09:08, before SS4 gets underway at 09:48. On the menu are eight stages comprising 93 kilometres of competitive action, before the cars return to service at 19:00.