Circuit of Ireland 2016: WRC driver Craig Breen defends title

Craig Breen gets airborne on his way to Circuit of Ireland success
Craig Breen gets airborne on his way to Circuit of Ireland success

World Rally Championship driver Craig Breen has successfully defended his Circuit of Ireland crown, beating Pole Kajetan Kajetanowicz by 10 seconds.

Waterford man Breen and co-driver Scott Martin overcame struggles with weather conditions and some wrong tyre choices to take victory after the 14 stages.

Breen, driving an R5 Citroen DS3, assumed the lead of the rally after Elfyn Evans retired from the event.

Fermanagh's Alastair Fisher finished third, 46 seconds behind Kajetanowicz.

Josh Moffett and John Rowan were fourth after the completion of the final special stage in Banbridge on Saturday afternoon.

Breen leads by 25 seconds after Friday's stages

Breen, 27, had ended Friday's action with a 25-second lead over European champion Kajetanowicz in his Ford Fiesta, with Fisher a further two seconds back in another Fiesta.

Breen helped establish his advantage thanks to a stunning run over the rally's signature stage, the Glens.

Welshman Evans had led the rally for the first two stages, the British championship leader having been fastest in both opening sections.

He built up a 12-second cushion over Breen but did not make it to the end of the Glens section on Friday, his Fiesta retiring with an overheating engine and steering trouble after a belt broke.

Irish Tarmac Championship leader Keith Cronin ploughed his Citroen into a bank on virtually the first corner of the first stage, damaging a radiator.

Kajetanowicz had lost out to Breen by six seconds last year but went on to claim the European title.

Rally moved from regular Easter date

The rally, which broke with tradition by moving from its usual Easter date, formed part of the European, British and Irish championships.

Friday featured rural stages close to Larne and Ballymena and included a refuel halt at the Ballymena Showgrounds.

Friday's route also included stages encompassing Torr Head and Glendun, as well as a passage control at the Dark Hedges and a regroup at Bushmills Distillery.

A special Ards TT Stage took place in Newtownards town centre on Friday evening.

Saturday's action took in stages close to Banbridge, Ballynahinch and Dromore with town centre regroups in Downpatrick and Banbridge.

The rally finished in Belfast on Saturday, culminating in a special closing ceremony outside Queen's University.