Paul Nagle will retire from the World Rally Championship after Rally Spain later this month, with Craig Breen set to bring in his new co-driver from November’s Rally Japan onwards.
Over an incredible WRC career that’s spanned 18 years, Nagle has recorded five victories and 18 podiums, working with the likes of Breen, Kris Meeke and Andreas Mikkelsen.
However, Spain in two weeks’ time will be his 102nd and last rally in the world championship, as the 44-year-old has decided the time is right to retire.
“Rally Spain in a couple of weeks’ time will be my last outing in the WRC. I will retire from the sport,” Nagle told DirtFish.
“It’s a big decision. Craig and I spoke after Sardinia when we finished second, I felt it was nearly time for me to hang up the helmet.
“We discussed it, we discussed at the next couple of rounds, our next couple of rallies, and we came to a conclusion that I would step out for Japan to give the new co-driver a chance before he goes to Monte Carlo.
“Because it’s daunting enough to do Monte Carlo for anyone, but sending a new co-driver up the Col de Turini in the dark and towards the night is a bit much, and I offered whatever options they wanted to.
“I will finish in Spain, and Craig will take a new co-driver in Japan. But I will also be in Japan to help Craig out as much as possible.”
Breen and Nagle first worked together in 2012 at a particularly volatile time in Breen’s career and life after he’d just lost his best friend and co-driver Gareth ‘Jaffa’ Roberts in a fatal accident.
Nagle helped guide Breen to that year’s SWRC title before the pair moved onto the European Rally Championship, but halfway through the season they went their separate ways as Breen teamed up with Scott Martin and Nagle returned to navigate for Meeke via two rallies with Mikkelsen at Volkswagen.
Meeke was with the driver with which Nagle had his most success – claiming the 2009 Intercontinental Rally Challenge title for Peugeot UK and signing his first factory contract with Mini in 2011.
Nagle won all five of his WRC rallies with Meeke and Citroën too, but returned to work with Breen in 2019 after Meeke picked Sebastian Marshall as his navigator for his move to Toyota.
Winning their native Irish Tarmac Championship title together as they fought to return to the WRC, Breen and Nagle were picked up by Hyundai where they spent three years as a part-time crew – most memorably scoring three podiums on the bounce in Estonia, Ypres and Finland.
Signed for two years to lead M-Sport Ford’s charge into the new hybrid Rally1 era this season, Nagle is stepping back at another difficult point in Breen’s career after four mistakes in the last five rallies. But Nagle has fully backed Breen to pull himself out of it.
“Yes, Craig is going through a difficult period, but all drivers go through difficult periods,” he said.
“Craig is one of the most consistent drivers in the world championship, he puts in massive amounts. He’s gone through a lot. We’ve all done it. He will rise out of it, and I will be there to support him every way I can next year.”
Nagle doesn’t know what he will do next, but he “hopes to stay in the sport”.
“Look I’m not going to completely walk away from everything, I’d like to get involved and do something,” he explained.
“I’ve years and years of experience. It’s just the commitment now. Fourteen rounds next year, that’s 28 Sundays away before you even do a test. I have two young kids at home.
“If someone is sick in a rally or something like that, I might be a super sub. That might be an option.
“I might do some rallies at home, do something different, stay involved and stay with some of the friends here because these are my family as well for the last 20 years and I’m going to miss a lot of them.”
Breen’s new co-driver is yet to be announced.