Craig Breen, 33, an Irish rally-car driver competing for Hyundai in the World Rally Championship, was killed during a test drive on April 13. A fence post smashed through his driver’s-side window during preparations for the 2023 Croatia Rally, with reports indicating that Breen died instantly.
Cyril Abiteboul, Hyundai Motorsport team principal, said in a statement that road conditions were slippery and that the car slid off the roadway “at a relatively low speed” when it made contact with the wooden fence. According to WRC and Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) regulations, rally vehicles are required to have polycarbonate side windows.
“A post from this fence intruded into the cabin through the driver’s side window,” he said.
Breen was transported to the hospital after the incident. However, Abiteboul said it’s believed that Breen died instantly. Co-driver James Fulton was not injured in the crash, according to Abiteboul’s statement. The investigation into the crash continues, though Abiteboul notes that “as far as can be ascertained,” there were no issues with the car, tires or safety equipment.
“Hyundai Motorsport is deeply saddened to confirm that driver Craig Breen today lost his life following an accident during the pre-event test for Croatia Rally,” Hyundai wrote in a statement, offering condolences to family, friends and fans.
Breen began focusing on rally racing in 2009, moving up to the WRC in time to win the Super 2000 World Rally Championship in 2012. That victory came just months after his co-driver Gareth Roberts was killed in a fatal accident at the Targa Florio Rally in Sicily.
“The WRC family is shocked and saddened to learn of Craig Breen’s passing,” wrote WRC. “Our thoughts and condolences are with the family and friends of Craig at this incredibly sad time.”
WRC and its drivers have honored Breen in a number of ways over the past few days, with many of those instances posted to the organization’s Twitter page.