Motorsport Ireland has enthusiastically welcomed the announcement by Citroën Racing that rising Irish star Craig Breen will be one of their drivers when the car manufacturer returns as a works team in the FIA World Rally Championship next season.
It is the first time that an Irish-licenced driver has been signed to a works team in the WRC.
Waterford man Breen, who came to prominence this season for the Abu Dhabi Total WRT, and his co-driver Scott Martin have been added to the Citroën team along with French driver Stéphane Lefebvre and his co-driver Gabin Moreau. They join Northern Irish driver Kris Meeke and co-driver Paul Nagle (Kerry), who were confirmed on the team at the end of last year.
It means Citroën have two crews considered to be among the most promising young talents in the WRC alongside Dungannon veteran Meeke and Nagle.
Alex Sinclair, CEO Motorsport Ireland said: “It is an incredible achievement for any driver to secure a works drive. Craig has come through our youth programmes and fought hard over the years to prove himself as one of the world’s best and this is a just reward for all his effort. With Paul Nagle co-driving for Kris Meeke, the representation of Irish competitors, from both the North and South is phenomenal.”
Craig Breen, Citroën Racing works driver, said: “I’m so excited to tell you all that Scott and I will be driving for Citroën Racing in the WRC for the next two years! This is the stuff that dreams are made of, thank you so much to everybody who has made this possible!”
He has driven for Citroën in a DS 3 in four WRC rounds this year achieving top 10 finishes in each. The season highlights included claiming a maiden podium with third place in Finland and finishing fifth in Corsica last weekend.
Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal: “We had several scenarios regarding the choice of our crews for the future. Kris Meeke was confirmed at the end of last year and has become the natural leader of the team.
“In choosing two young crews to complete the line-up, I don’t think we can be accused of having gone for the easy option. But this original solution is very much aligned with Citroën’s mindset. And having seen them compete this season for the Abu Dhabi Total WRT, we believe in the potential of Craig Breen and Stéphane Lefebvre.
They have the natural talent, motivation and work ethic to win rallies. I would also say we are proud to take these young drivers up to the top level of the sport.”
The choice is very much in line with Citroën’s long-held policy aimed at identifying and developing talented young rally drivers. In the last 15 years or more, Citroën has identified some of the best in the business: Loeb, Ogier, Sordo, Neuville, Camilli and of course Meeke. Breen and Lefebvre are destined to add their names to this illustrious list!
Citroën Racing continues to prepare for its return as a works team in the FIA World Rally Championship. Since April of this year, the Citroën C3 WRC has completed seven development tests, both on gravel and tarmac, and is now very close to the final version.
Already involved in the development of the Citroën C3 WRC, Kris Meeke, Craig Breen, Stéphane Lefebvre and Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi will continue to conduct testing until the new car completes homologation. At the same time, they will be competing at this year’s Rally de España (Meeke, Breen, Al-Qassimi) and Wales Rally GB (Meeke, Breen, Lefebvre) in order to acquire experience driving the current cars.
At the start of the season the team will enter two Citroën C3 WRCs – one for Meeke and the other for either Breen or Lefebvre. The exact distribution of events to drivers will be announced at a later stage and Citroën will start entering three cars as soon as possible.
The FIA’s World Motorsport Council recently decided it would let manufacturers enter three cars, the top two scoring points towards the Manufacturers World Championship.