Craig Breen is an Irish rally driver who recorded 59 starts in the World Rally Championship so far, scoring two podiums, with Citroen DS3 WRC at 2016 Rally Finland and with Citroen C3 WRC at 2018 Rally Sweden.
Earlier in a career, Breen's biggest success was the 2012 SWRC championship title, when he was driving a Ford Fiesta S2000. A year earlier, in 2011, he was the winner of the WRC Academy competition.
Craig's father was also a rally driver
Craig Breen was born on February 2, 1990. His father Ray Breen was the Irish rally champion in 2005. Craig started racing career in karting competitions as a nine-year-old kid, entering rally at the age 18.
After competing in few rally and rallysprint events with different cars (Citroen C2 R2, Ford Fiesta ST, Ford Focus RS WRC 04) in 2008, Craig intensified his activities in 2009, participating in more than twenty rally events, including four WRC events.
The best Ford Fiesta driver worldwide
Gareth Roberts became Craig's navigator in 2009 and they debuted in the World Rally Championship in April at Rally Portugal, finishing 25th overall and the best N3 crew with Ford Fiesta ST. Later in the season, they repeated a success at Rally Finland and ended a year with Ford Fiesta R2 at Rally Catalunya and Rally GB.
During the year, Breen was nominated for the Fiesta Sporting Trophy awards at Irish, British and international events, winning all three competitions. At Fiesta Sport Trophy International Shootout event he won a twelve-month contract with M-Sport for the next season. In his homeland, Craig was crowned Young Irish Rally Driver of the Year.
Second-best Irish driver in 2010
In 2010, Breen and Roberts were competing with Ford Fiesta S2000 in both British Rally Championship and the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship but also in two WRC events – Rally Finland and RallyGB. At Rally GB, they finished 12th overall and second in SWRC classification. Breen's third WRC event that year was Rally of Turkey with Ford Fiesta ST.
Breen scored his first win at Ulster International Rally, finishing first in the British Rally Championship classification. At the end of the season, he was 9th in the British championship and 2nd in the Irish championship.
Winner of the inaugural WRC Academy
In 2011, Breen opened a season at Rally Sweden, driving Ford Fiesta S2000 and finishing in the 15h place. After that, he spent a season driving Ford Fiesta R2 in the inaugural WRC Academy competition, which took part in six WRC events.
With two wins (Germany, GB) and one podium (Finland), Breen became the first WRC Academy winner. His award was a ride with Ford Fiesta S2000 in the 2012 SWRC championship, a part of the World Rally Championship for S2000 cars.
2012 - World championship title and death of a co-driver
Breen and Roberts opened a season with SWRC victory at 2012 Rallye Monte-Carlo. Later in the season, Breen added three more wins and one podium to became the world champion.
Despite being the best in the world among S2000 drivers, the season 2012 turned to be the worst year in Breen's sporting life because he lost his co-driver Gareth Roberts in a fatal accident at Rally Targa Florio on June 16, 2012. The event was a part of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, in which Breen participated with Sainteloc Racing's Peugeot 207 S2000. Paul Nagle became Breen's navigator after Roberts' death.
Third place in the European championship two years in a row
Breen continued to drive Peugeot 207 S2000 in 2013, joining Peugeot Rally Academy in the European Rally Championship. With five podiums, he finished third in the points, behind Jan Kopecky and Bryan Bouffier. Paul Nagle left the team in the mid-season, so Lara Vanneste was Breen's navigator until the end of the season. While competing in the European championship, Breen didn't participate in either one WRC event.
Breen remained with Peugeot Rally Academy in 2014, getting new Peugeot 208 T16 machine. Scott Martin was his new co-driver. They won Acropolis Rally and added to ERC podiums, finishing third in the ERC classification, behind Esapekka Lappi and Sepp Wiegand. Unlike 2013, when he skip WRC, Breen participated in two WRC events during 2014, running his private Ford Fiesta RS WRC at Rally Sweden and Rally Finland. He finished ninth in Sweden and retired in Finland due to medical reasons.
European Rally Championship runner-up in 2015
In 2015, the third ERC season with Peugeot Rally Academy followed. Breen was again among front-runners and he again lost the title, finishing in the second place behind Kajetan Kajetanowicz. Breen was the winner three times but it wasn't enough for the title. One of Breen's wins was at Circuit of Ireland, fulfilling his long-time ambition.
In 2015, Breen's WRC activities expanded to seven events with Sainteloc Racing's Peugeot 208 T16. He was eligible to score points in the WRC 2 Championship. His best results were the second place at Rallye Monte Carlo and the third place at Wales Rally GB. At the end of the season, he was 8th in the WRC 2 classification.
2016 Rally Finland - maiden WRC podium in a career
For the 2016 season, Breen was invited to join Citroen's factory team during their development year for the 2017 season with new World Rally Cars. While developing and testing 2017-spec Citroen C3 WRC, Breen participated in six WRC events with Citroen DS3 WRC, scoring his career-best result at Rally Finland in July. He finished in the third place, behind teammate Kris Meeke and Volkswagen's Jari-Matti Latvala.
„I can't believe it. It's the best day of my life. It's been such a road to get here. I'm missing my main man [his late co-driver Gareth Roberts] and I know he's looking down on me," Craig said at the end of the event, not hiding the tears.
Besides testing new car and participating in selected WRC events, Breen had a one-off appearance in the European Rally Championship, driving the Citroen DS3 R5 at Circuit of Ireland. He won the event for the second year in a row.
Two seasons, one podium in a Citroen C3 WRC
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team returned to the World Rally Championship in 2017, selecting Kris Meeke, Craig Breen and Stephane Lefebvre as drivers of new 380-hp Citroen C3 WRC. At the season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo, Breen was driving an old Citroen DS3 WRC, switching to C3 WRC from the second round. Over the season, he participated in eleven rounds. He was in the fifth place six times, finishing tenth in the championship points.
In the 2018 WRC season, Breen stayed with Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT. He reached his second WRC podium by finishing third at Rally Sweden. Later in the season, he missed two events to free a place for Seb Loeb. At the end of the season, after eleven starts, Breen was eleventh in the points.
Irish rally champion in 2019 and Hyundai's guest driver in the WRC
Citroen hired Sebastien Ogier and Esapekka Lapi for the 2019 WRC season and there was no place for Craig Breen. Despite that, he had a very busy season, competing full season in the Irish tarmac rally championship, in a couple of events of the Italian championship, and as a guest driver with Hyundai Motorsport in two WRC rounds (Finland, Wales).
Driving a Ford Fiesta R5 and Hyundai i20 R5, he won the Irish championship title with five victories on his account. In Italy, he won once in a Škoda Fabia R5, at the famous Rally Sanremo. In the WRC, he was seventh at Rally Finland and eighth at Wales Rally GB.