The deal marks the biggest step in Breen’s career. He will drive the new Ford Puma WRC Rally1 on all 13 rounds next year – the first time the Irishman has been handed a full WRC campaign following part-programmes with Hyundai and Citroën in recent seasons.
The Irishman is in the form of his life, claiming consecutive podium finishes in Estonia, Belgium and, last weekend, in Finland in a Hyundai i20 World Rally Car. He lies sixth in the drivers’ standings despite tackling only half the 10 rounds.
Breen sampled the Puma on gravel in Britain a few weeks ago and will have a longer test on both gravel and asphalt in Spain later this month.
“I have been working towards achieving a full-time seat in the World Rally Championship since I was a little boy, so this was an opportunity I just couldn’t turn down, enthused the 31-year-old.
“It has been a long road for us in the World Rally Championship with many twists and turns but we have now been given a golden ticket to drive for the most prestigious marque in motorsport and fight for the World Rally Championship."
Breen, who won the 2011 WRC Academy in an M-Sport-built Fiesta R2 before claiming the Super 2000 crown the following year in a Fiesta S2000, said Ford had always been close to his heart.
“I love rallying, every nuance of the sport, but especially the history. To add my name to the list of drivers that have driven for Ford is a bit surreal, drivers like Ari Vatanen, Hannu Mikkola, Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz. To have my name etched in the history books besides these greats is a huge privilege,” he added.
There was no news of Breen’s team-mates, although current drivers Adrien Fourmaux and Gus Greensmith are tipped to stay with the squad.
M-Sport managing director Malcolm Wilson said he had followed Breen’s development for more than 10 years. “His performances this season have not gone unnoticed, delivering fantastic consistent results whilst only having a partial WRC programme,” he added.
“We have a fantastic car in the Puma and I have no doubt that Craig and the Puma will deliver success for the team in the coming seasons.”
Team principal Richard Millener has known Breen since his first rally in an M-Sport car.
“I got to know him more and more when he was competing in the ST championship and I was championship co-ordinator,” he explained.
“We often joke about how we have both progressed our careers and where we find ourselves now, but it will be a pleasure and an honour to link up with him again to see what we can achieve at the highest level of the sport, for the next two seasons, in the most exciting era for WRC in a long time.”
Breen helped Hyundai Motorsport lift back-to-back manufacturers’ titles in 2019 and 2019 and team principal Andrea Adamo said he and Nagle had been ‘valuable team players’ during three seasons with the Korean manufacturer.
“They are two fully focused individuals and form a potent, professional partnership. They have always been there for us when we needed them, and we wish them all the best for the future,” he said.