Saturday | 10 Apr 2021

Breen relives Junior WRC title fight

Hyundai star Craig Breen still vividly remembers the day his career on the world stage really kicked into gear.

In a gripping interview for the latest WRC Backstories podcast, Breen looks back on his early days and walks listeners through his fight for the WRC Academy title in 2010, which went right down to the wire. 

He also talks in depth about a number of topics, from how his early career aspirations were actually in racing go-karts to funny tales from a 65 hour bus ride home from Rally Turkey in 2010 and more. 

The year was 2011 and the event was Wales Rally GB. 

The passionate Irishman had endured a mixed season, but arrived at the finale in Cardiff with a mathematical chance of WRC Academy glory. The catch? He and co-driver Gareth Roberts needed to win the rally along with 14 of the 17 daunting speed tests. 

"It was one of those where you talk about it at the start of the rally and even the people interviewing you are thinking - he’s done the maths, but it’s not going to happen.” Breen tells Becs Williams.

His charge got off to a bad start when the car ahead went off the road, causing the opening Great Orme stage to be stopped for 40 minutes. Once the action restarted, cold tyres cost valuable time.

Classic Wales Rally GB conditions including rain and fog plagued the field throughout the second day, but Breen managed to stay on track to record back-to-back stage wins up until the final test of the day in Dyfnant. 

“There was really crazy fog. I remember having to open the door several times just to make sure we were still on the road - that sounds stupid but it was so bad,” he explains. 

“We caught three or four cars on the stage and at the end we had beaten all the crews around us, so we thought we had another stage win.”

Little did he know at the time, but 20 minutes behind on the road, series rival Molly Taylor had just gone 0.7sec faster. 

“In my opinion the fog had shifted a little bit,” he jokes, “but that made it a little more difficult on the last day, which was around some of our favourite stages in Hafren and Myherin.”

Rally Sweden moves north to Umea

Rally Sweden moves north to Umea

Next year’s Rally Sweden will move north as Umeå becomes the event’s new host city.

Read More

With six stages remaining, the only option was to go all out or lose the championship. All was going to plan and the team mechanics also played their part during the final service.  

“We were leading by like three minutes, but we had to keep winning all the stages. We took a [time] penalty in service so we could change all the dampers, the steering arms, even the gearbox.” 

Following another brace of stage wins, Breen launched his Ford Fiesta R2 into the final Myherin blast knowing the pressure was on. A half a million euros prize fund was on the line - an amount that would be pivotal in the next stage of his career. 

FIA Junior WRC Rewind: Breen wins title in 2011

“It was just one of those out-of-body experiences on a beautiful stage - I’ve always loved Myherin. We came to the end of the stage and Egon Kaur was running 10 or 12 cars behind us, so we had to park up at the end and wait for him to come through,” recalls Breen.

“When his time came through, I knew at that point we had done it and it was just the most incredible feeling. I remember jumping and screaming around the place - I half lost my voice. 

“It was a big night in Builth, I remember that! I still have the onboard floating around on my hard drive somewhere so I give it a look every so often,” he says. 

More FIA Junior WRC