‘Great sadness’ permeates Hyundai, says Abiteboul

Craig Breen

Hyundai Motorsport’s Cyril Abiteboul says “great sadness” continues to permeate the team three weeks after the death of Craig Breen.

Breen was killed in a testing accident when the i20N Rally1 car he was driving left the road and crashed into a wooden fence; his co-driver James Fulton escaped without serious injury.

Following an investigation, it was found that the former Academy and Super 2000 World Champion passed away “instantaneously” after a post entered the cabin through the driver’s side window.

The crash happened exactly a week before the start of Croatia Rally, with Hyundai’s involvement at round four of the World Rally Championship only confirmed following discussions with stakeholders, Breen’s family and close friends.

In honour of the 33-year-old, the cars of Thierry Neuville and Esapekka Lappi were finished in a special livery inspired by the Irish tricolour and featured some of his most famous sayings on the sun strips and A-pillars.

Rival manufacturers Toyota Gazoo Racing and M-Sport Ford also carried their own tributes, while service park personnel wore black armbands and a minute’s silence was held during the ceremonial start and again when the top three finishers took their place on the podium at the conclusion of the event.

“There is no denying that this is still incredibly hard for our team, and that won’t change for some time,” said team boss Abiteboul.

“We’ve had some time to process our emotions, but we are still feeling the loss of Craig. Our focus in Croatia was to compete in his memory, and now we want to honour him by fighting consistently at the front.”

Abiteboul will oversee a three-car line-up for next weekend’s Rally de Portugal, with Dani Sordo returning to competitive action. As part of his deal for 2023, the Spaniard was sharing the drive of the final i20N Rally1 car with Breen.

Despite not winning there since 2018, the Frenchman believes his drivers can be competitive on the loose. “Portugal will kick-off a run of gravel events, where we believe we can be strong,” he said.

“We know what is possible from Mexico; Thierry and Martijn secured a superb second place, and Esapekka and Janne’s were on strong form to lead the rally in only their third event with the team, showcasing their speed and potential.

“With the right preparation and determination, I believe we can demonstrate that same performance again next weekend.

“There is still a great sadness among us as we head into Rally de Portugal, and there will be times where Craig’s passing will hit us hard, but I think it’s important we remember to enjoy it, for him.”

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