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GP Week : Issue 158
TRAGEDY AT TARGA FLORIO 24 year-old co-driver Gareth Roberts lost his life in an accident on the first stage of the final loop of the IRC Targa Florio Rally in Sicily on Saturday. He and driver Craig Breen were lying sixth overall in a Peugeot 207 S2000, which went wide on a left hand bend in the hills behind Cefalu and impaled a guard rail. Breen was unhurt but badly shocked. The hazard of guardrails was dramatically demonstrated early last year by the serious accident to Formula 1 driver Robert Kubica on a minor rally event in Italy. And then, only one week before Targa Florio, Abdulaziz Alkuwari had an amazingly narrow escape at Rally Bulgaria when his Mini JCW S2000 was impaled by a guardrail. Gareth began rallying in 2004 while still 16 years old, and made his debut in the WRC in an MG ZR in 2006. His first major ride was with fellow Welshman Gwyndaf Evans in a Mitsubishi on the 2008 Wales Rally GB. Much of his career had been competing in small Fiesta cars. He joined Breen in 2009, the year Craig enjoyed an incredible range of successes through the Fiesta Sporting Trophy. In 2010 Craig acquired a Fiesta S2000 and together they won the Ulster Rally, the first crew to win a major British event in a S2000. In 2011, they contested the FIA’s Academy series as Pirelli Star Drivers and after a thrilling finish Craig won the half million euro sponsorship for 2012. Craig and Gareth meanwhile were well advanced with a programme of SWRC events in 2012, which after the first three rounds Craig is leading. At the press conference after winning the Academy award at the 2011 Wales Rally GB, Craig proudly announced that the scholarship would enable him to enter extra IRC events. The Targa Florio was one of these bonus events. Although Craig comes from Waterford in Ireland, the diminutive Gareth came from Carmarthen in South Wales, surprisingly close geographically. Gareth’s professional work was as a self-employed electrician but Craig’s expanding rally programme meant that Gareth was in reality a full time co-driver. In his short life Gareth left a lot of memories, not the least the day when he and Craig drove up to a refuelling zone on the 2010 Wales Rally GB unknowingly with a spare tyre that was on fire! It was a punctured tyre which had suddenly ignited itself. The dangers of rallying were sadly emphasized for Gareth when he and his driver Elfyn Evans were innocently involved in a fatal spectator accident in Donegal Rally. Speaking last year in the run-up to winning the Academy prize, Craig said this of his friend who sat next to him in his car: “He is the best co-driver that you will ever find in the world, without a shadow of a doubt. He is the most prepared, the most dedicated, most committed young guy you’ll ever see. He keeps me on the straight and narrow both inside and outside the car. He’s just focussed on what I’m wanting to do and that’s to be the best. To be honest with you, I couldn’t put anybody else in the car with me. He’s just fantastic” . GPWEEK’s sympathy goes to Gareth’s family and friends, along with a special word of support for Craig, one of the most promising young drivers in the sport these days. WRC >>> NEWS