Craig Breen strengthened his position at the top of the European Rally Championship with his third straight win in the series.
Although he finished the Sata Rally Acores on the island of Sao Miguel with a winning margin of just over a minute, he was embroiled in a furious battle with title rival Kajetan Kajetanowicz (Ford Fiesta RRC) for most of the event. Stage 13 proved decisive as Breen took his lead beyond 10 seconds for the first time.
The Waterford driver has now opened up a 14 points advantage over his Polish rival.
On the opening three stages of the penultimate leg Breen and Kajetanowicz traded times with the latter moving within 6.7 seconds after S.S. 7 as Breen endured a few spins.
However, the Waterford driver dominated the remaining stages and ended the leg with a lead of 2.3 seconds.
On the opening stage (S.S.12) of the final leg that was foggy through the first section, Breen lost time and although Kajetanowicz, who seemed to pick the wrong tyres, closed to within half a second, Breen was confident ahead of the remaining stages of the loop. Justifying that belief, he took a decisive lead on S.S. 13 where Kajetanowicz again struggled with tyres and fell 15.8 seconds behind. Commenting his Peugeot Academy 208 T16 had a lack of grip through S.S. 14, Breen lost 3.9 seconds to his rival.
On the final three stages Breen, with fresh tyres, was untouchable and by the final stage Kajetanowicz, who had gambled with an opposite tyre choice to Breen, had seemingly settled for second. The Waterford ace began the stage with a lead of 24.9 seconds before finishing with a victory margin of a minute and 2.1 seconds