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GP Week : Issue 144
WRC FEATURE >> Craig Breen arrived in the rally world with little warning. He started serious rallying in 2009 and it all took off. That year he won the Fiesta Sporting Trophy in Ireland and in Britain, the Irish Junior title, the International Fiesta Shoot-Out for a year’s sponsored work-experience scheme at M-Sport and the national Irish Bill Coleman award. The next year he moved up to Super 2000 competition in Britain, scoring the first win for an S2000 car in that series and was one of the six drivers who gained Pirelli Star Driver sponsorship in order to enter the WRC Academy in 2011. And it got better still. At the end of 2011 he won the WRC Academy championship after a thrilling finale to the season, gaining the celebrated half-million euro support package to further his career. The latest news is that he has been accepted for sponsorship in the FIA Institute Academy sessions in 2012. The big question, therefore, is where did this extraordinary shooting start come from? “I come from Waterford (in the far south-east of Ireland), a small town with a port and a lot of historical heritage. There is quite a lot of industry, my father has an engineering business (Kel-Tech Engineering) which works a lot in sheet metal fabrication, but does a little bit of everything. It usually rains in Waterford but it has a big soccer following, though motorsport is not well known. In the local region there used to be the odd rally, and many years ago the famous Circuit of Ireland Rally had a halt there. There have been some fantastic potential stages in the area but they just never get used.” His Dad is Ray Breen, a successful national rally driver who was responsible for Craig’s passion for the special stages. “I think he was probably where my interest in rallying came from. He stopped his rally competition activities when I started mine. My first serious rally was the nearby Carrick-on-Suir Rally in 2009 and that was his last. He packed it in at that time and that was when I really began.” Even when he began rallying, Craig was already a motorsport veteran: “I started karting in 1998, spent 10 years there. I finished in the top 10 in the 2008 European championship, in Braga in Portugal and got an entry for the World Cup, which meant I was only one of 30 drivers who got through from the whole world, so it was quite a big thing. This was to be held at La Conca, Muro Leccese in the far south of Italy. I had an entry for that but about two weeks before that I just said no. I rang up our manager, Ricky Flynn, and said ‘listen, this is the end (of my karting career). I have sent in the entry for my first rally, on the same weekend’. “ We did two or three rallies towards the end of 2008 in a Citroen and in 2009 we bought a Fiesta ST which was a fantastic car for me. We were very lucky. I took on the Irish, British and the FSTI (the World Fiesta Trophy), the Irish Junior championship and we won all of them, in our first year. It was absolutely incredible.” Deciding to end your karting career wasn’t such a bad decision? Definitely no, it was the best decision of my life. I was in a very bad place, I was struggling very bad to get the results, putting in so much effort and going backwards really. Then the minute we started rallying we just made leaps and