Craig Breen will defend his 2019 Ypres Rally Belgium win at the wheel of a Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC after the Irishman was named alongside Ott Tänak and Thierry Neuville in the Korean firm’s line-up for the Belgian event.
It’s unlikely, for the rest of 2020, that anybody will start more events in a factory Rally1 car than Breen and co-driver Paul Nagle. In addition to Ypres, they will tackle two further Belgian rallies as a warm-up for what’s currently billed as the World Rally Championship season finale on November 19-22.
The first of those events, Aarova Rally Oudenaarde (October 10-11), will mark Breen’s first significant asphalt outing in an i20 Coupe WRC – he drove one stage in the car at last year’s Monza Masters’ Show.
Breen, who won Ypres in a Volkswagen Polo R5 last season, said: “I am delighted to get the call up for Ypres Rally Belgium with Hyundai Motorsport.
“I really enjoyed last year’s event, when I got a victory. [Last year] it was held in the summertime in conditions that I imagine are very different to what we’ll see in November.
“The Aarova and South Belgian rallies that we will do in October in Belgium will give us valuable seat time and an opportunity to understand the conditions we are likely to face at Ypres.”
Breen’s second place at last month’s Rally Estonia helped cement his place for Belgium and the Waterford star is hoping to match that podium appearance when Ypres reaches its conclusion in the Grote Market.
He said: “I hope we’ll be able to repeat the sort of performance and result that we had in Estonia, which will be important for the manufacturers’ championship.”
Hyundai Motorsport team principal Andrea Adamo pointed to that Tartu speed as well as Breen’s enviable Ypres record; he’s competed there four times and twice finished on the podium: third on his 2013 debut in a Peugeot 207 S2000 and first last year.
“Craig and Paul showed in Estonia what they can achieve when they have the correct tools to do the job,” Adamo added. “They both demonstrated their strength in Ypres last year, so they bring invaluable experience and knowledge of this event to our team.
“The championship has closed up as a result of our one-two in Estonia, so we have to continue to field our strongest line-up in each of the few final rounds. I believe Craig and Paul are the best crew to join Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul and Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja in Ypres to help us finish the year as strongly as we can.”
Breen’s in for a busy conclusion to the season with five rallies in seven weeks. He’s in Portugal this weekend for the European Rally Championship, and will tackle one further ERC round in addition to his three Belgian outings in the i20 Coupe WRC.
Ahead of next week’s penultimate WRC round in Sardinia, Hyundai Motorsport sits nine points behind Toyota Gazoo Racing in the race for this year’s manufacturers’ title.