Nothing gets between Craig Breen and the chance to drive a rally car. Certainly not a coronavirus-complicated travel plan from home in Waterford to a test site in northern Italy.
The Hyundai Motorsport driver was scheduled to run a tire development test with MRF ahead of next month’s Rally di Roma, but when the Irishman looked into planes and trains, the difficulties of heading south were numerous. Until he talked to Paddy.
Paddy is, Patrick Croke, one of Breen’s closest friends at home in Ireland. As always, Paddy had a solution to his pal’s problem.
“Paddy’s dad has a haulage firm,” Breen told DirtFish, “and he’s regularly taking the trip down from Ireland to Italy. He takes beef from Waterford down to Rome and then brings cheese and vegetables and things back up the road.
“I asked Pat (Paddy’s father) when he was going on his next trip. He was leaving Monday, which was perfect for me. We left home at six on Monday evening and got to Sanremo at eight o’clock on Wednesday night.”
The Croke family, which runs Croke International, are major rally fans, so conversation through continental Europe wasn’t difficult to find.
“It was a great bit of craic all the way down,” said Breen. “It was a real eye-opener into the life these guys live and I’ve got to say, it’s hard, hard work. At the same time, it was a lovely trip, knowing you couldn’t be in a massive rush and watching the world go by. It was great and really civilized up there in the cab. I’m really grateful to Pat and to Paddy for sorting this out. I’d tried just about every option to try to get here, but it was just so complicated.”
Breen started testing on Thursday morning and was delighted to be back in a Hyundai rally car for the first time since February’s Itäralli in Finland.
“It felt weird getting back in the car,” he said. “Weird but absolutely fantastic. So far the test has gone really well. We’ve done some dry weather stuff and the rain’s just coming, so we should be able to test plenty of options ahead of Rome.
“It’s been a strange few months and that’s the first time I’ve travelled to a test like this, but it’s so, so good to be back.”
Breen is driving a Hyundai i20 R5 – backed by and running on MRF tyres – on selected European Rally Championship rounds.