Sun 04 Feb 2024

Moments that made ERC 2023 great: Breen flies to Fafe Power Stage win

Craig Breen, who would have turned 34 on 2 February, claimed five FIA European Rally Championship event wins in 36 attempts and finished in the title top three on three occasions, thus underlining his star qualities.

Prior to Rally Serras de Fafe, Felgueiras, Boticas, Vieira do Minho e Cabeceiras de Basto, the opening round of the 2023 ERC season last March, the Irishman’s tally of fastest stage times in the championship stood at 94.   

What would so sadly be his final appearance in the ERC, before his passing the following month, ended in triumph as he made it to 100 stage wins with the Power Stage best time.   

Aside from two FIA World Rally Championship podium finishes, Breen had endured a season of struggle in 2022 but delivered a sensational performance on Sweden’s WRC counter the month prior to the Fafe event, a firm demonstration that he’d recaptured his old speed.

And his career renaissance continued on Portugal’s ERC qualifier as he charged to six stage wins driving a Hyundai i20 N Rally2 for the Sports&You-run Team Hyundai Portugal outfit.  

“It's been a while but I just feel very confident at the moment,” Breen said following the finish in Fafe on 12 March. “I’ve got a good bunch of people around me and Sports&You and Hyundai Portugal have done a really good job, we had great speed and the car has been working perfectly.”  

Breen, who was restricted to sixth in the final classification alongside co-driver James Fulton due to a damaged tyre on stage seven, was competing in Fafe as part of his Portuguese championship campaign. But he admitted afterwards that he’d been fortunate to reach the finish after a dramatic moment on stage 14 when he was tipped onto two wheels for close on 80 metres.

“It went on a while, I didn’t know what was going to happen, I didn’t know if it was going to come back down again, that was the worst thing,” Breen said at the time. “I obviously couldn’t turn into it because it would have rolled and I couldn’t turn out of it because the bank was there so I just had to keep going with it. I just got stuck in a rut in a fast place and that’s what happened.”  

Breen lost his life in an accident testing for the Croatia Rally on 13 April. He will forever be remembered as an extremely talented and likeable member of the ERC family with a huge passion for rallying.

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
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Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM