Shock and sadness at Craig Breen’s passing

April 24th, 2023 9:00 AM

By Martin Walsh

Craig Breen being interviewed by The Southern Star’s Martin Walsh during the 2023 St Patrick’s Day parade in Clonakilty. Also included is Paddy McCarthy, Mayor of Clonakilty.

Share this article

THERE are no words – a sentiment widely expressed on the tragic passing of World rally star Craig Breen.

The Waterford native (33) was killed during a test session with his Hyundai Motorsport team last Thursday in advance of the fourth round of the World Rally Championship in Croatia. His Cavan co-driver James Fulton was unhurt in the incident that occurred just after midday local time.

Tributes have been paid from people all over the world – Breen had a huge following, motorsport was his life, he was happiest of all with his hands on a steering wheel. His passion for rallying was unequalled – former World rally champion Ott Tanak has commented of his jealousy of Craig’s passion and sheer love of rallying.

From his karting days, Craig quickly progressed to rallying and in his first full season as a driver, one of his first events was the 2008 Fastnet Rally, where he took a Ford Fiesta ST to a class victory.

His rise within the sport was spectacular, matched only by the unstinting support of his parents Ray and Jackie.

In that first full season, he also won the prestigious Billy Coleman Young Driver of the Year award and that was quickly followed with victory in the Pirelli Star Driver Global Shootout Final (2010), the WRC Academy Championship (2011) and the S2000 World Rally Championship (2012).

Craig never strayed from his Irish roots and loved competing on home soil, winning the Irish Tarmac series in 2019, a year he was without a WRC drive. On his way to stardom, his Circuit of Ireland victory in 2015 was a huge moment in his career as he emulated his idol, the late Frank Meagher, who won the rally in a Sierra Cosworth in 1992.

In the World Rally Championship – the top echelon of rallying – he had stints with Citroën, Hyundai and M-Sport Ford and earlier this year returned to Hyundai in a partial World Rally campaign, finishing second in Rally Sweden.

His end-of-stage comments were full of emotion – he wore his heart on his sleeve – there were no prepared answers, the comments were spontaneous. That result in Sweden followed a traumatic time during the latter end of 2022 with M-Sport Ford.

At the stage finish, he said: ‘It's been an incredible weekend and great to be back at the front again. It was such a horrible black place where I was last year. Don’t let anyone ever put you down because only you know your true potential. The people close to me know it and finally we put it together back out again.’

Years earlier (2016), following his first ever WRC podium finish (with Citroën), third overall in Rally Finland, he was in floods of tears as he remembered his great friend and former co-driver Gareth ‘Jaffa’ Roberts, who lost his life in an accident on Rally Sicily in 2012.

Only a few weeks ago, Craig was in Clonakilty for the West Cork Rally and even participated in the St Patrick’s Day parade, chauffeuring Christopher O’Sullivan TD to the reviewing stand in his restored ex-Frank Meagher Ford Sierra Cosworth.

Craig had planned to return home after Thursday’s test and was going to attend the Moonraker Rally in Baile Bhúirne (the event was subsequently postponed) to watch his father Ray compete and also speak with the Junior 1000 crews that he was involved with in the MI Academy.

There is no doubt that Craig Breen elevated Irish motorsport to a high platform and the sport benefited from that enormously, so he leaves a unique legacy. Following Requiem Mass at the Sacred Heart Church, Ferrybank on Tuesday, Craig was buried in the adjoining cemetery.

A quote from American novelist Charles Michael "Chuck" Palahniuk on Craig’s death notice said: ‘The goal isn't to live forever, the goal is to create something that will,’ and perhaps those are the words. Rest easy, Craig. 

Share this article


to our mailing list for the latest news and sport:

Thank You!

You have successfully been subscribed to SouthernStar newsletter!

Form submitting... Thank you for waiting.