Rally

Hyundai calls up Craig Breen for WRC return on Rally Finland

Craig Breen will return to the World Rally Championship to join Hyundai as its third driver for Rally Finland in August.

The decision ends weeks of speculation about who would step in for the team’s resident drivers Sebastien Loeb and Dani Sordo, both of whom had made it clear they did not want to compete on the first WRC round after the current summer break.

Paul Nagle, who was last in the WRC as Kris Meeke’s co-driver, will continue as Breen’s co-driver – the pair having rekindled their relationship in national events this year.

Breen will attend Hyundai’s Alzenau factory on Tuesday for a seat fitting ahead of a pre-event test and a preliminary appearance with the team on Rally Estonia next month. Fellow Hyundai driver Andreas Mikkelsen will also compete in Estonia.

Breen, who lost his Citroen seat at the end of last season, said: “I am chuffed to be given this chance to join Hyundai Motorsport for Rally Finland, and to get back in a World Rally Car.

“It’s been a long and patient wait, having to watch everyone else drive this year.

“I am honoured to have this one-off opportunity with Paul as my co-driver.”

Breen has a strong record in Finland, finishing in the top five on two of the last three rallies and on the podium with third place in 2016 (pictured below).

“Finland is the rally I’ve done most in the WRC so I hope I can bring something to the team,” he added.

“I am getting plenty of seat time before Finland. It will remain a challenge but one I am ready to grasp with both hands.

“I’ll be competing with the #42, a number I’ve raced with since my first year in karting in 1998, and that has always been very lucky. Let’s hope it remains that way.”

Hyundai Motorsport director Andrea Adamo said Breen had been called up because “Rally Finland is a very particular type of event that warrants an approach like no other on the calendar” and as the WRC title battle was “entering a critical phase”.

Adamo added: “He has demonstrated his class at this event in the past and has a lot of experience, which will be invaluable to us.

“We are making sure he has enough preparation with Rally Estonia, an event similar in style to Finland, and the pre-event test.”

Without a WRC seat for the start of the 2019 season, Breen has so far spent the year contesting Irish and Italian events in R5 machinery.

Hyundai currently leads the WRC manufacturers’ standings by 44 points over Toyota, but lead driver Thierry Neuville in third in the drivers’ title race – seven points behind leader Ott Tanak and three away from Sebastien Ogier.

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