IRISHMAN Craig Breen will return to the FIA World Rally Championship for a one-off drive with Hyundai at Neste Rally Finland in August.
PHOTO: Craig Breen (Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool)
The 29-year-old will join Thierry Neuville and Andreas Mikkelsen as the Korean-owned team strives to keep its lead in the Manufacturers’ championship and support Neuville’s quest to win his first Drivers’ title.
Breen has been on the WRC sidelines after losing his seat at Citroën at the end of 2018, but has been working hard to find a way back into the sport’s elite group, contesting a selection of national rallies in R5 cars.
“I am chuffed to be given this chance to join Hyundai Motorsport for Rally Finland, and to get back in a world rally car,” said Breen, who has started Rally Finland nine times.
“Finland is the rally I’ve done most in the WRC so I hope I can bring something to the team. I am getting plenty of seat time before Finland.”
Ahead of the iconic Finnish event on 1-4 August, Breen will participate in a pre-event test and at Rally Estonia.
Hyundai Motorsport team director Andrea Adamo said: “Rally Finland is a very particular type of event that warrants an approach like no other on the calendar. It’s a huge challenge for teams and crews alike.
“With the championship battle entering a critical phase and competition being so close among the manufacturers, we have brought Craig Breen into our line-up for Finland.
“He has demonstrated his class at this event in the past and has a lot of experience, which will be invaluable to us.”
Hyundai’s announcement sparked a sharp response from former Hyundai driver Hayden Paddon, who congratulated Breen but said he was upset to have been overlooked for Finland.
“Firstly, happy for Craig and I wish him all the best for the rally,” the New Zealander said in a Facebook post.
“Since February we have actively been in communication to be involved with the team in any role – testing, one-off rallies (Finland)…..anything. My passion is still very high for WRC and I feel I’m at my prime at present. I know the car well and was prepared to jump straight in and do a good job for the team.
“So naturally you can understand we are very upset. I have given my life to this brand in everything I do. Our NZ business, our NZ Hyundai partnership, purchase of a TCR car, everything we possibly could do!
“And yet we were not even spoken to about this event despite us offering our services several times.”