Craig Breen will make an emotional return to the rally and the island which changed his life when he starts next week’s Targa Florio Rally.
Nine years ago Breen’s co-driver Gareth Roberts was killed when the Peugeot 207 S2000 they shared crashed into Armco on the Cefalù stage at the start of the second day of Sicilian competition.
Breen has never been back to the island until now and admits it will be a hugely emotional weekend as he pays his respects and remembers the best friend who had shared his life and journey for three and a half years.
“This is something I’ve tried to make happen for years and years,” Breen told DirtFish. “I felt like I needed to go there and close the book.
I’m trying to make it as positive an experience as possible. Of course it will be massively difficultCraig Breen
“I came very close to doing it two years ago [in 2019] in my girlfriend’s [Tamara Molinaro] dad’s car in my off-season away from Citroën. It all fell apart at the last minute, but I’ve always said to Andrea [Adamo] that if there’s a chance to do it, I want to do it.
“What better way to close the book than to try to win the rally if we can?”
Breen and Roberts won the WRC Academy in 2011 and had progressed into the SWRC aboard a Ford Fiesta S2000 the following year. Breen scored back-to-back world titles when he clinched the SWRC crown with Paul Nagle later in 2012.
Since the June 16 accident nine years ago, Breen has carried Roberts name both on his crash helmet and in the car alongside him.
“After I left on the 17th of June, my parents have been back, but I haven’t. I know a couple of guys there locally who go and take care of the site and people lay flowers for me whenever they’re there, there’s a really nice rockery that’s well taken care of at the site.
“I’m trying to make it as positive an experience as possible. Of course it will be massively difficult and I’m probably one of the more emotional guys so I’m sure it’s going to be tough but it’s what I want to do.
“I always felt it was bad that I didn’t go back, I would just kick it down the road a little bit and I thought I’d wait until I’m finished with the WRC stuff then go back and have a tour around and spend some time there.
“But I’m fit and young enough to have a hope of winning it, so I’d like to do it.”
Spending a lot of time in Italy now, Breen says the time has come to make peace with the island.
“Italy is sort of a half a home, my heart is half in Italy,” he said, “but there’s this black spot around Sicily with the accident. I kind of want to take it away I want to remember how nice Italy and Sicily can be.”
Breen was quick to thank his team principal Andrea Adamo for making it happen this year.
He added: “It’s Andrea that’s made it happen, full stop. We are two of the more emotional characters in the service park and we’re on a very similar wavelength.
“When we talked about it, he rolled in behind me 100%.”
Targa Florio is the third round of the Italian championship. Having entered both the Ciocco Rally and Rally Sanremo, Breen is expected to complete the full season in a Hyundai i20 R5.