James Fulton has been selected to be Paul Nagle’s long-term replacement as Craig Breen’s navigator in the World Rally Championship.
Nagle announced he would vacate the seat after Rally Spain this month, with Fulton stepping in from Rally Japan onwards.
Fulton has spent the last two seasons in WRC, reading the notes for both Josh McErlean and Callum Devine.
DirtFish spoke to Breen about the switch, where he talked emotionally about his time with Nagle.
The first thing Breen wants to do is make a correction. Yes, Nagle has departed the M-Sport Ford Puma the pair have shared this season – but he hasn’t retired completely from the sport.
“There’s no doubt we will be in the car again together,” Breen told DirtFish. “We’ll do all the historic stuff, the stuff we call extracurricular together. Anybody who’s thinking they can take that seat off Paul, they’ll need to fight their own war – he’s not going to give that up easily.
“We always have some amount of craic on those historic events. We share the same humor and he’s part of the family now. We have too much fun together not to be back in the car again.
“It goes without saying, my dream remains in the WRC, but regardless of that, I intend to be rallying for a long time into the future and Paul will be part of that.”
Breen thanked Nagle for the job he did when he stepped into his car immediately after Gareth Roberts lost his life on the 2012 Targa Florio.
He added: “Paul took on the job and signed on for a job which no co-driver would sign up for. He took this 21 or 22-year-old kid under his wing and steered him through every day. Regardless of what would have happened, I will be forever grateful for what Paul did for me in the couple of events after [Targa Florio, 2012].
“Paul totally knocked that one out of the park.”
Looking forward, Nagle said Fulton’s arrival in the Puma offered the opportunity for a new start.
“I do see this as an opportunity to take another reset of sorts,” he said. “It’s something different in the car. I’m sure I’ll get on with James, I’m sure he’ll relax and we’ll get on well. He’s well capable.
“James has done the last couple of tests, he’s assisted us on events recently and what I can see is a really motivated, keen and easy going fella. He’s got experience, he’s done the guts of two years in the WRC and he’s coming with a fresh set of eyes. I could have gone with some of the more obvious, more experienced names, but I like what I see with James.
“I think he’s ready now. Like I said, he’s done a couple of tests and he has experience. But, you know, with these young fellas, they study so many of the onboards online and they digest so much information it almost feels as though he’s been sitting in a car for years already.
“It will be a big step up for him, but that’s the thinking behind him doing Japan. Of course, it would have been good to have been there with Paul, but it’s important for James to get in the car before Monte Carlo, just to get those jitters out of the way before rolling down the hill into Monte. Monte can be a tough one with all the ice note crews and everything. He’ll have some experience going there.”
Thirty-year-old Fulton said: “I don’t have a huge amount to say other than that I am delighted to get the opportunity, it’s something that I have been aiming towards for a while now, naturally, like any co-driver to get to the top level.
“I have been working with Craig for quite a while now and I have done a couple of tests in the Puma so I am really looking forward to developing the relationship with him and the car as well as with the team. I am looking forward to getting stuck into it and doing the best possible job.”
Ahead of their final WRC round together, Breen had the final word for Nagle. He concluded: “Of course, I can completely understand his feelings – he’s been part of this roadshow at the highest level for long while. He has two kids and a wife and that’s where he wants to spend more time, I understand that. But I’m still going to miss him so much.”