Craig Breen: นักแข่งแรลลี่ชิงแชมป์โลกชาวไอริชเสียชีวิตในอุบัติเหตุการทดสอบก่อนการแข่งขันแรลลี่โครเอเชีย
Irish World Rally Championship driver Craig Breen has died in an accident at a pre-event test before this weekend’s Croatia Rally.
The 33-year-old’s Hyundai Motorsport team confirmed that the Waterford man had been involved in the incident at about 11:00 BST on Thursday.
Breen’s co-driver James Fulton was unharmed in the accident.
“Hyundai Motorsport sends its sincerest condolences to Craig’s family, friends and his many fans,” the team said.
Breen had rejoined Hyundai on a part-time basis for the new WRC season having spent a year with the M-Sport Ford World Rally team.
The Waterford man finished second to Ott Tanak at Rally Sweden in February in his first WRC start of the season, in what was his sixth runner-up position in the series.
Breen was alternating in Hyundai’s third car with Spaniard Dani Sordo this year and was scheduled to make his second appearance of the WRC season in Croatia.
‘WRC family shocked and saddened’
The WRC said on Twitter: “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.”
Breen, whose father Ray was an Irish champion, began his racing career in karting before moving into full-time rallying in 2009.
He joined the WRC Academy in 2011 and after moving up the junior and WRC2 ranks made his first WRC appearance when driving selected rounds for the Abu Dhabi Total World Rally team.
WRC champion Kalle Rovanpera was one of those paying tribute to Breen: “Rest in peace Craig. My thoughts are tonight with your family and friends.”.
Northern Ireland’s Kris Meeke, who formerly competed in WRC said, “Craig was the most passionate guy I knew. His whole life revolved around motorsport and his passion was infectious – it fuelled his drive to compete at the very top of his profession.
“The world needed characters like Craig and the whole rallying community has lost one of its brightest stars today. This is very difficult to put into words, I am still in shock.”
FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem expressed condolences to the family and friends of the late driver.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones and the Rally community at this difficult time,” said the FIA president.
Motorsport Ireland president Aiden Harper said that the Irish motorsport community had been left “numbed by this tragic news”.
“Craig was a world-class driver and a world-class person,” he said.
A Motorsport Ireland statement added that Breen never forgot his Irish roots and was continually affording opportunities to those wishing to pursue a career in rallying.
“As recently as last Tuesday, he attended a J1000 tuition day where 18 young drivers got to meet and learn from their hero,” continued the statement.
‘Breen’s charm brought people closer to rallying’
BBC Sport NI’s Andy Gray
Craig Breen wasn’t just any rally driver, he was someone who had the sport running through his every fibre. He was a shining light not just for Irish rallying but motorsport across the world.
His passion for rallying was infectious, and his charm brought people closer to the sport he loved.
He was a superb talent, as his podium rate shows, and it is tragic and cruel we will never see him stand at the top of the podium when it felt like only a matter of time.
Away from the WRC, he was an Irish Tarmac Rally Champion and his efforts with the next generation of drivers will ensure his legacy will be remembered forever.
He lost his close friend and co-driver Gareth Roberts in an accident in Italy in 2012. Even as he rose up the rallying ladder, ‘Jaffa’, as he was fondly known, was never far from Breen’s thoughts.
Breen had a massive smile and fantastic wit. He was one of the nicest men in the sport. Rallying will never quite be the same again.