It seems almost impossible to believe that the 32-year-old Craig Breen – leading what is arguably Ford’s most prominent global motorsport campaign – has never actually contested a full World Rally Championship season up to now.
But despite finishing on the podium seven times already, that’s the case. And it’s almost what you’d expect, from a man who admits that his career has been defined by “triumph and tragedy”.
There were two occasions when he could have walked away from the sport completely: firstly, following the accident in Sicily that claimed the young life of his co-driver Gareth Roberts back in June 2012. Secondly, after Citroën didn’t renew his contract for 2019, prior to its exit of the sport entirely at the end of that season.
But he didn’t. Following Gareth’s death, he sought the blessing of the Roberts family to continue, which they were happy to give. “If I’d walked away, all that hard work we did together would have been wasted” was how he put it. And at the end of the year, he won the Super 2000 title, a success that was almost too emotional to put into words.
When his Citroën deal finished in 2018, Craig was almost convinced that it was all over. Having started his career in karting all those years ago, he then had an offer to compete in the karting world championship – despite his age and height – which he probably would have accepted. That never happened, although Craig thinks there’s some unfinished business: “When I finish rallying, I might go back and do some more karting. It’s so pure.”
Because then Hyundai threw him a lifeline: only a part-time programme but enough to score four podiums from the nine rallies he contested with them from 2019 to 2021, finishing in the points on every occasion. With a car that was very much built around the permanent drivers.