Irish Rally Driver Craig Breen Dies in Accident in Croatia – April 13, 2023 – During a training drive ahead of the WRC Croatia Rally competition, around 12:40, Craig Breen’s vehicle came off a local road 2201 in Lobor, near Zlatar.
The Irish driver Craig Breen, who drove for the WRC Hyundai team and was near the top of the competition, hit a wooden pole with the left front end and died on the spot, while the passenger was uninjured, reports the Krapino-Zagorska PU, writes Index.
The Croatian Auto and Karting Association and the organizer of the WRC Croatia Rally addressed the media at the press conference.
“We will know the cause of death only after the autopsy,” it was said at the beginning. “This rarely happens, tragic accidents like this,” said Danijel Šaškin, president of the WRC Croatia Rally Organizing Committee.
Davorin Štetner, president of the Croatian Auto and Karting Association, also addressed the public. “This news cut us all,” said Davorin Štetner. “He was one of the role models; the investigation is ongoing. The FIA’s investigation is ongoing; we are their member. Of course, we are trying to connect what happened; our investigations are going in the direction of preventing this kind of thing,” Štetner said.
“It is important to keep calm, to express our condolences to the family, these are terrible things. We are trying to find out what happened,” he said. We are deeply shaken, Štetner added at the end.
“Our safety standards are at the highest possible level”
Subsequently, a joint statement from the organizers Štetner and Šaškin came via email. “We are extremely sorry and deeply shaken by the news of the serious accident that occurred today in which Craig Breen, a member of the Hyundai Motorsport team, lost his life.
It was a test drive before the competition. Breen was a superb and experienced Irish driver, winner of numerous rally races and world champion in the WRC Super 2000 Rally in 2012. Together with the competent services and the FIA, we are carrying out all actions to determine the circumstances that led to this tragic event.
Our safety standards are at the highest possible level, prescribed by the FIA and monitored by the Croatian Auto and Karting Association, and it is really important to us that such tragic situations do not occur. We want people to primarily enjoy motorsport while respecting all safety rules. Our thoughts are with Craig’s family, his friends and the entire team,” they said.
The team responds
The Hyundai Motorsport team confirmed earlier that its Irish driver Craig Breen (33) was killed in the accident in Lobor during a training drive before the race at the Croatia Rally.
“Hyundai Motorsport is deeply saddened to confirm that driver Craig Breen lost his life today in an accident during testing for the Croatia Rally. Co-driver James Fulton was uninjured in the accident that occurred just after noon. Hyundai Motorsport has no intention of commenting further on this accident,” the team announced.
FIA chief: Condolences to the family
The International Automobile Federation, FIA, also responded.
“On behalf of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), I would like to express our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Craig Breen following his death during a test drive in Croatia. Our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones and the entire rally community at this difficult time,” said the FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem.
Who was Craig Breen?
The son of former Irish champion Ray Breen, Craig began his career in Ireland before making his rally debut in 2009, when he won the International, British and Irish Fiesta Sporting Trophy titles. That year he was also crowned Irish Young Driver of the Year.
The native of Waterford, in the southeast of Ireland, joined the discipline’s top category, the WRC, in 2016 with Citroën, finishing third in Finland in his first season in the elite category. Although he never won the WRC, Breen took a total of nine podiums between 2016 and 2023, along with six second and three third places.
Last WRC tragic accident happened in 1989
The last WRC driver to die behind the wheel of his car was Portugal’s Augusto Mendes at Rally Portugal in 1989.
Since then, four co-drivers have died in the races – Frenchman Francis Malaussène in Monte-Carlo (1990), New Zealander Rodger Freeth in Australia (1993), British Michael Park in Wales (2005) and German Jörg Bastuc in Spain (2006).
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