Irish rally driver Breen dies after testing crash in Croatia

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Ireland’s top rally driver Craig Breen has died after an accident in a pre-event test for the Croatian round of the world championship, his Hyundai team said in a statement on Thursday.

The team gave no details of the accident just after midday local time but said co-driver James Fulton was unharmed.

Media reported that Breen’s car went off the road and collided with a pole while the 33-year-old was preparing for next week’s rally, his second of the season.

Breen, who started out as a co-driver before switching to driving in 2008, finished second in Rally Sweden in February when he made his return to the team on a part-time basis after a year with M-Sport Ford.

He was a world championship regular over the years, although rarely for a full season, and while not a winner he finished second in six rallies.

“The Irish motorsport community is numbed by this tragic news. Craig was a world class driver and a world class person,” said Motorsport Ireland president Aiden Harper in a statement of condolences.

Breen is the first fatality in the world championship since German junior co-driver Joerg Bastuck in the 2006 Rally of Catalunya.