Six questions with… Craig Breen

The Irishman talks Metro 6R4s and "Jaff" in the latest DirtFish feature series

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Here at DirtFish, we’re keen to bring you the thoughts of as many rallying figures as we can during these unprecedented times – including through this new feature series.

It’s a simple premise: the same set of six questions, all asked to personalities throughout the rallying community.

Our latest interviewee is one of the most colorful characters on the World Rally Championship stages, former Citroën and current Hyundai driver Craig Breen.

What’s your best rallying memory, and why?

I would have to say winning the WRC Academy in 2011. At the time you kind of look at it through rose-tinted glasses and think it’s important. It’s only as the time passes that I look back and realise how that result unlocked the next key points of my career and it’s maybe even more significant than I thought it was.

And, obviously, it’s even more special because I had Jaff [Gareth ‘Jaffa’ Roberts, Breen’s co-driver who died in a crash in 2012] alongside me. Any event with him has a special place in my heart, but that win on Rally GB that year is a very special memory.

If you could make one change in rallying, what would it be and why?

I’d include more Tarmac rallies in the World Rally Championship and preferably all of them on Irish Tarmac! It’s such a shame that we don’t have more Tarmac; if you think it’s the surface we’re most connected to – it’s what we all drive on for so much of the time. As well as that, if you think about the progression from domestic rallies to the WRC, there’s not such a big gravel scene in Ireland or in places like, for example, Belgium or France. We’re nearly all competing on Tarmac and then you go to the WRC and there aren’t many of those events at the next level.

Don’t get me wrong, I love driving on gravel and the snow in Sweden, but, for me, there’s always something special about driving on Tarmac and there’s such a variety of Tarmac rallies to choose from.

If you could choose one era to live in our sport, which one would it be and why?

The mid-to-late Eighties for the cars, the characters and the big long rallies. Some of those events were absolute epics, when you think about the likes of the big five-day RAC Rallies and, of course, the five-day Circuit. The Circuit was just huge at home and the stories I heard about it when it was coming through Waterford are the stuff of legend. I’d have been right there, up on my dad’s shoulders watching them go through.

Can I choose my favourite car on the Circuit?

Yes! Welcome to seven questions with Craig Breen…

It would be David Llewellin’s Metro 6R4 on the 1986 Circuit. That was a breakthrough win for him and for the car, it was the Metro’s only international win – something Andrea [Adamo] keeps reminding me about!

That was the plain white livery…

That’s right. All white with just the little Austin Rover decals on the front spoiler and on the side. It was just lovely.

I thought you preferred more colourful Metros?

That’s the problem… maybe my favourite car was dad’s multi-coloured 6R4. I remember that car. I loved that car. It shook the walls in the house when he fired it up. I was looking at some videos just the other day – my mum was really handy with the old Camcorder – and whenever dad was going over the ramp I’d jump in the co-driver’s seat. Great memories watching those.

How is rallying helping you through lockdown right now?

We’ve just touched on it a little bit – watching old rally videos has been fantastic. We have to say a very big thankyou to VHS Rallies. Whoever that is and wherever they are in the world, thank you! You’re keeping half the world entertained right now. As well as that I’m doing a fair bit of sim racing. I’ve competed in some rallycross and endurance races and I’m really getting into it.

Which rally are you looking forward to most once we’re through this and why?

Finland. The best-case scenario for me is that I get the call from Andrea [to drive Neste Rally Finland] and I get to go back there again in the i20 Coupe WRC. Honestly, there’s something about driving those cars down those roads. I would love the opportunity. And what a place to potentially re-start everything – in the sport’s spiritual home. Out of the box and back into those stages; the speed would be a fair culture shock on the first day, but you’d not hear anybody complaining.

You can have a conversation with one person from the history of rallying, who would it be and what would you talk about?

I think you know it would be Frank Meagher. [Craig was just 12 when his hero died] I would love to have talked to him about what he might have been able to do if he’d ever had the chance with the right tools. He often joked about, “What if he’d had the money…”. And it would be great to have him around so I could talk about what I’m doing; he’d be great bounce the ball off on a few things. I’m pretty sure he would have been around with me as well. Yeah, it would definitely be him.