'Time' to grasp future

Published Wednesday, 01 August 2012
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Last March, I had the pleasure of being asked to contribute to the 2012 Circuit of Ireland website. As a writer that gets a buzz from spot lighting Ireland's motorsport talent raising above and below the radar, it seemed Waterford's rallying superstar Craig Breen would be a natural choice of subject ...

Craig was known to me but as I researched my piece, it became apparent that Craig had already achieved a great deal in his short career and was destined for even greater things.

Consequently our paths nearly crossed on the rally, as the stage I was providing rescue cover for was cancelled. So we then under took the process of turning the entire field around in this very dark country lane and I had my chance to say hello but I shied away as not to be a distraction to the guys and off they went into the night.

As always in rallying, it takes two people to keep the show on the road and Craig's right hand man was Welsh co driver Gareth Roberts. You could say, it was Gareth's reading of the pace notes, that gave their car its heartbeat and rhythm.

Then tragically, one fateful morning in June, an accident befell the pair in Sicily whilst competing on the IRC Targa Florio Rally and Gareth was fatally injured. Life then appeared to stand still as Craig, the Roberts family and the Breen family struggled to come to terms with the tragedy. Eleven days passed and on 27 June, they and the wider rallying community were given the 'time' to grieve Gareth's passing, mourn his death and celebrate his life at his funeral in Llanpumsaint, Carmarthen.

'Time' never stops and after returning home Craig was left with a decision to make. What next? So after taking 'time' to reflect, Craig has decided to continue on the path that saw him and Gareth rise up the rallying ranks to win the WRC Academy Championship last year and mount a strong early season challenge in this year's SWRC.

Craig Breen in action.

Craig commented: "This has been the hardest decision of my life. I will never fully come to terms with Gareth's death. It's only with the support of my own family and Gareth's family that I'm now ready to take the next step.

"I will never forget Gareth, we were firstly a driver/co driver partnership but most of all we were best friends. Getting back behind the wheel again without the little man will be emotionally very hard, but I know that Gareth would want me to continue. From our first event together, we were winners and now I want to continue on that road with the same ambition."

Craig's return will also see him forge a new partnership with experienced co-driver Irishman Paul Nagle with their first event starting this Thursday 2 August on WRC Finland round five of the SWRC.

The Nestle Oil Rally of Finland is based in the city of Jyväskylä, about 270 km north of the capital Helsinki. The most popular WRC rally of the season runs a slightly different format than that of the other WRC events. In place of the usual three-day Friday, Saturday, Sunday schedule, Finland tackles the first stages on Thursday evening. Friday's schedule comprises of nine stages, with six special stages to wrap up the event on Saturday.

Craig commented: "This is my fourth time to take on the event and my second time to drive the Fiesta S2000 in Finland and I've achieved a good result on every visit.

"Last year I had a great battle in the WRC Academy with Egon (Kaur) and I expect an even greater fight this year. There are nine registered crews in the SWRC field and this is further enhanced with Sébastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen also entered in S2000s. The nature of the rally dictates that the pace will be hot from the first stage.

"The start for me will be emotional; taking on that first test on Thursday will be very sensitive. It will also be my first event with Paul Nagle. He has been very modest about entering the team under the circumstances; he has a lot of experience at WRC level.

"We will have a big work load from the time of getting to Finland, we can say that we will be using the event to bed together but both of us are very determined and 100% committed to getting a good result."

Craig Breen in action in Sweden.

Finland will also herald the second half of Craig's Super 2000 campaign, with the opening half of the year yielding a handsome quota of points and leaving Craig currently sharing second place in the standings with Swede PG Andersson on 43 points and Kiwi Haydon Padden in pole position on 62 points.

The 2012 SWRC consists of eight rounds with seven counting towards the title. Competitors contesting the championship were required at the beginning of the season to nominate one round to drop, Craig chose round four in New Zealand. The second half is looking even more mouth-watering as all the top contenders for the title engage in a straight fight for SWRC glory. Wales Rally GB, Rally France and Rally Spain sees the second half of the year all being based in Europe.

To honour and remember Gareth, Craig will be adding a new section to his website. In this section, there will be the book of condolence that already carries over 2000 messages, the eulogy from Gareth's funeral by Howard Davies, full details of how you can donate to the Gareth Roberts fund and three years of photographic and video memories.

© UTV News
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Tony Gregory
Tony Gregory

Tony is an avid motorsport writer who has written for a wide range of media outlets, regarding events and competitors, whether competing locally or internationally.

Tony brings a great insight into the sport from being a voluntary official for over 20yrs with experience of attending events that would span from Kirkistown to Le Mans and Formula One events worldwide.

If it's happening in motorsport, he'll be watching

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