Motorsport: WRC drive takes Breen to next level
Hot on the heels of Keith Cronin's successful British Championship defence and Kris Meeke's selection for the new Mini WRC programme, Irish rallying has been given another great boost with the news that Craig Breen has won a drive in the World Rally Championship at the Pirelli Star World Finals.
Following final trials at Salou in Spain late last week, the 20-year-old has been selected as one of six drivers from the final shortlist of 16 on the Pirelli Star Driver programme and will take part in six WRC events in 2011 in a Ford Fiesta S2000 with the M-Sport team.
The Waterford man will become part of the FIA's young driver programme which, next year, will be integrated into the newly created WRC Academy.
The selection process consisted of lectures from world-renowned co-driver Robert Reid followed by driving skills assessment on two runs of a gravel stage followed by two runs on a tarmac stage in Ford Fiesta R2.
They then made presentations to, and answered questions from, a panel of experts including former WRC heroine Michelle Mouton.
Breen has hailed his selection as the biggest moment of his already impressive career, which spans just two full seasons but already includes three Fiesta Junior Series titles and three different and hugely prestigious talent search awards.
It's been another stellar year for Breen and the accolades just keep coming for the reigning Billy Coleman Award winner, who also won a year's work experience at M-Sport and with the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team in a shoot-out test last December.
This season he graduated to the eagerly awaited Ford Fiesta S2000 car and, in a season where he was rarely far from the top times, he won his first international rally, Rally Northern Ireland, a counting round of the British Rally Championship.
Breen, who moved into rallying after a distinguished international career in karts, is now an old hand at winning shoot-outs and is looking forward to making plans for next season.
"This is fantastic," he said. "It's been a fantastic couple of days. There's a lot of pressure, but this is a fantastic opportunity made possible by the FIA and Pirelli.
"It's a great chance for a young driver like myself to be seen in the WRC. At the moment it's a complete flow of emotion but it's time for me to move on to the next step of my career."
Meanwhile, World Touring Car Championship racer Colin Turkington will get back behind the wheel of his West Surrey Racing BMW 320si at Okayama, Japan, this weekend.
Funding restrictions meant the reigning British Touring Car Champion has been missing from the WTCC since the last of his three mid-season events at Brno, Czech Republic, produced a fine second-place finish. Turkington is looking forward to this weekend's outing followed by the prestigious end-of-season event at Macau.
"I'm excited to be getting back behind the wheel of the BMW, as it's been three months since I last raced," said Turkington. "Also, after a successful trip to Macau in 2007, I hope to be able to repeat my successes from earlier this year."