Hyundai Motorsport driver dies in crash while testing for Rally Croatia
World Rally Championship star Craig Breen has been killed in a testing accident ahead of Rally Croatia.
The 33-year-old from Waterford, Ireland, drove for the works Hyundai Motorsport team and was conducting a pre-event test in his i20 N Rally1 ahead of the fourth round of this year’s WRC.
In a statement, Hyundai Motorsport said it was “deeply saddened to confirm that driver Craig Breen today lost his life following an accident during the pre-event test for Croatia Rally”.
The statement added: “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.”
Breen and fellow Irishman Fulton were contesting a part-schedule with Hyundai this season, with Croatia due to be their second outing of the year. The pair had finished in a hugely impressive second place on Rally Sweden.
While Breen never won a WRC event outright, he scored eight podium finishes during his 81 starts and proved his rally-winning pace with his success while progressing up the rallying ladder. He won the Super 2000 World Rally Championship title in 2012 and was runner-up in the 2015 European Rally Championship.
Breen grew up immersed in the hugely passionate Irish rallying community: his father was former Irish national champion Ray Breen. While he initially began his motorsport in karting, Craig Breen took to the rally stages in 2007 and quickly showed his talent.
His efforts in the Irish, British and International Ford Fiesta Sporting Trophy one-make categories in 2009 culminated with victory in an end-of-season International Shootout that netted him a 12-month contract with M-Sport. He stepped up to the British and Irish Rally Championships the following year, taking victories in both, before winning the inaugural WRC Academy title in a Fiesta R2 in 2011.
That led to an opportunity to drive a Fiesta S2000 in the SWRC and selected Intercontinental Rally Challenge events in 2012. In June that year, his co-driver Gareth Roberts was killed in an accident on the Targa Florio Rally. Breen showed remarkable resolve to claim the SWRC title in tribute to his team-mate.
He then spent two years leading Peugeot’s charge in the European Rally Championship, before securing a part-season in a world Citroën DS3 WRC for 2016. He took his first podium in 2016 and added another in Sweden two years later.
After three part-seasons with Citroën, Breen’s career looked to have stalled, but a handful of opportunities with Hyundai late in 2019 led to a part-time deal with the squad. He scored an impressive four podiums from seven starts in an i20 Coupé WRC in 2020 and 2021 and turned that into a full-time drive with M-Sport Ford for last season.
More podiums followed, but it was an unexpectedly tough season and Breen returned to Hyundai for a part-time deal this year, still chasing the career break that his talent and passion for rallying deserved.
While Breen was focused on his WRC career, he never lost his passion for the sport at other levels. On his off-weekends, he could often be found competing in a range of rally cars at all levels of the sport. His last outright victory came on the 2021 Killarney Historic Rally in a BMW M3 E30 and this year he had tackled historic events in Ireland in a Ford Sierra RS Cosworth.