Driving a Peugeot Rally Academy 207 Super 2000, Irishman Breen completed the 27.53-kilometre test from Le Fangu to Notre Dame de la Serra – held in damp conditions following overnight rain – in a time of 16m29.0s, which hands him an advantage of 11.5s over Formula One race winner Robert Kubica, who was second fastest in his Citroën DS3 RRC.
Kubica, who is competing in Corsica for the first time, said: “We had a small problem with the brakes, I had to do half the stage being really careful on the brakes. We have the soft Michelin tyre and it’s okay.”
French hero Bryan Bouffier was third fastest in another 207 with Jan Kopecký, the ERC title leader for ŠKODA Motorsport, next. Stéphane Sarrazin, at the wheel of the same MINI John Cooper Works S2000 Dani Sordo used to win in Corsica last season, was fifth quickest with rallying legend François Delecour sixth, Julien Maurin seventh and Jean-Marc Manzagol the top Corsican in eighth, 50.4s down on Breen.
“I started a bit slow,” said Sarrazin. “It's a very tricky stage with a lot of water on the stage. I will go step by step. It's feeling good, I have some understeer but it's okay.”
Behind Jean-François Marchi, Germain Bonnefis was the quickest of the ERC Production Car Cup runners in 10th in his Renault Mégane RS, despite reporting that he lost time running on a hard-compound tyre.
Jérémi Ancian lost ground with a front-right puncture on his 207. He was 1m49.8s slower than Peugeot Rally Academy team-mate Breen. Meanwhile, Lorenzo Bertelli, who is making his first appearance in this year’s ERC in a Ford Fiesta RRC, was 11th fastest with new co-driver Mitia Dotta, a double European champion in the past.
“It was a bit slippery, not the best way to start the first rally with the new car, but I just have to improve and then we'll see,” said Bertelli. “After driving a Group N, it's like you have to start again - not quite, but almost.”