Craig Breen crash: Irish Hyundai World Rally Championship driver has died following testing accident
Hyundai WRC driver dies following testing ahead of Rally Croatia
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The Irish rally driver, Craig Breen, has died after going off the road during a team test on asphalt roads in Croatia today, Thursday 13 April. Breen was with his co-driver James Fulton who was unharmed in the crash.
The 33-year-old was preparing for his second outing of the WRC season as Hyundai’s third driver after he rejoined the franchise for a second spell, following a full season with M-Sport-Ford last year. He achieved four podiums from nine rallies during his first stint with the South Korean-based team.
Reports have suggested that the Irishman went off the road between Stari Golubovec and Lobora and the front-left of the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 collided with a pole, fatally injuring Breen. The crash is being investigated by the team as well as the Croatian authorities, with the police confirming a fatal accident on that stretch of the road happened at 12.40pm local time.
Who was Craig Breen?
Breen was the son of Ray Breen, a national champion in Irish rallying. He began karting in 1999, at the age of nine, in Ireland and started rallying in 2007, combining it with karting commitments in Europe in 2008. Breen was the 2012 WRC Super 2000 world rally champion, scoring class wins in the Monte Carlo Rally, Wales Rally GB, Rally France and the Rally of Spain.
In June of Breen’s championship winning year, Breen’s co-driver Gareth Roberts was killed in an accident during the Targa Florio Rally in the fifth round of the 2012 Intercontinental Rally Challenge. When Breen won at the Rally de Catalunya, the Waterford-born driver said in an emotional statement: “I’m a kid, I can’t believe I’ve done this.”
The Irishman was also the WRC Academy champion in 2011, winning his first event at the 2011 Rallye Deutschland and sealing the championship win at Wales Rally GB. Breen recently won the Rentokil Historic Rally in Killarney, Ireland, in his BMW M3 E30.
Breen reached rallying’s top tier in 2016 when he drove a Citroen DS3 on a part-time basis, scoring a maiden podium, with a third at Rally Finland. He remained with Citroen before losing his drive at the end of the 2018 season where he was then picked up by Hyundai. Throughout his career, Breen scored 30 WRC stage wins and eight podiums from 81 rallies.
What has been said?
Hyundai released a statement saying: “Hyundair Motorsport is deeply saddened to confirm that driver Craig Breen today lost his life following an accident during the pre-event test for Croatia Rally. Co-driver James Fulton was unharmed in the incident that occurred just after midday local time.
“Hyundai Motorsport sends its sincerest condolences to Craig’s family, friends and his many fans. Hyundai Motorsport will make no further comment at this time.”
A statement from WRC said: “The WRC family is shocked and saddened to learn of Craig Breen’s passing. Our thoughts and condolences are with the family and friends of Craig at this incredibly sad time.”
The FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayuem also released a statement in which he said: “On behalf of the FIA, I extend sincere condolences to the family and friends of Craig Breen following his passing during a private testing accident in Croatia. Our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones and the Rally community at this difficult time.”