After 18 years, 102 starts, 18 podium finishes and five victories, Paul Nagle’s World Rally Championship career – as a full-time competitor, at least – drew to a close as Craig Breen crossed the finish line of Rally Spain.
Such was the emotion of the occasion that they couldn’t even wait for the end of the Riudecanyes stage to let their emotions out – as Nagle called his final note, the two swapped thanks for the final time as Breen blasted his Ford Puma Rally1 down the final straight and to the salute of Irish flags waiting at the end.
After Nagle had a brief moment to cool down, he spoke with DirtFish at the PortAventura regroup before the final time control of his full-time WRC career.
“It’s my rallying career for the last 20-plus years; It’s more than half my life in this sport. So it was bound to have some emotion. But I’m only human at the end of the day so I expected that,” said Nagle.
“I’ve really enjoyed my career; it’s been a rollercoaster of a journey.”
“I came here as a young lad chasing a dream and after five wins, 18 podiums, a husband, a father, and friends and memories that will last a lifetime and I can look back and cherish all those for years to come.”
Rollercoaster is right – few co-drivers have dealt with such challenging situations as Nagle, or sat alongside drivers during such dramatic moments.
From guiding Breen through the most difficult spell of his life in the months after Breen’s long-time navigator Gareth Roberts died in a crash on the Targa Florio in 2012, to strapping in alongside Kris Meeke through the highs and lows of their Citroën stint, and getting married and having a family in between, Riudecanyes marked the closing setting for the biggest chapter of Nagle’s life.
“I’ve seen some amazing parts of the world, met great people. Some of my best friends are involved here; the sport has evolved dramatically. I’ve had three or four different generations of World Rally Cars.
“It’s been an incredible journey and it’s very hard to explain to people at home, to explain what you really do and the way we travel around the world as a small community. But I’ll miss a lot of it.
“I’ll miss the camaraderie with the fellow competitors and some of the co-drivers here are great friends of mine. I’ll really miss that part of it. But life goes on.
“It’s the end of an era. I’m one of the oldest co-drivers in the factory teams and I’ve had a great run of it and I really can’t complain. I’ve achieved a lot more than I ever thought I would and I’m very privileged in what I’ve done.”
James Fulton will take over the hotseat alongside Breen for the season-ending Rally Japan but it won’t be the last time Nagle and Breen will work together in the WRC in some capacity; Nagle will still fly to Japan and expects to attend the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally next year too.