Scott Martin now has five victories in the World Rally Championship, but none were quite as emotional as last weekend’s Croatia Rally.
Just over a week after Craig Breen lost his life in a testing accident, it was fitting that Martin – co-driver to Breen for five years – should win the event alongside Elfyn Evans.
“I think he [Breen] had a massive part to play in Scott’s victory,” Aaron Johnston, team-mate and co-driver to Takamoto Katsuta, told DirtFish.
“I’m sure he was looking down smiling on him, and I’m a great believer that that could have definitely had a factor on the outcome this weekend.”
“It seems quite fitting that we have delivered this result this weekend,” he said.
“For sure he was with us this weekend. I think he was with us all, maybe just supporting me more than the rest.”
Breen’s presence was certainly felt in Zagreb.
Each competing car carried a tribute sticker to him, while Hyundai went even further by adding some of Craig’s famous quotes to the sills of the i20 N Rally1 which also sported a one-off Irish flag livery.
The entire service park also gathered for a group photo to remember Craig the day before the rally began, and held a minute’s silence at the ceremonial start too.
On the final podium, no champagne was sprayed and Evans and Martin raised an Irish flag as a mark of respect to their lost friend.
After winning his first WRC event in 18 months, Martin’s attention was immediately on Breen rather than his own success, and he said he was proud of the service park for sticking together and urged everyone to keep doing the same in the weeks going forward.
“I think it’s going to take quite a few days, weeks, months, for it all to soak in,” he said.
“It’s been a demanding weekend, I’m really particularly proud of the whole service park, everyone has done really well to stick together and support each other and we have to continue doing that because it’s going to be some difficult days still to come when the dust settles a bit from this weekend.
“It was really nice to see the nice things that we did. Hyundai did amazingly well because it must have been so difficult to do, to get the whole team together and to be here this week.
“There have been some really nice touches to remember Craig and to do it together has been really nice.”
Third-placed Esapekka Lappi echoed Martin’s thoughts.
“Sort of relief and I guess also some proudness from the team,” he said, summarising his feelings at the end of the weekend.
“It was the toughest week I guess at least in my motorsport history and to come here first of all, not just personally for me, but all the team members I want to thank them.
“They made possible that we could drive so this was a huge effort from them.
“There have been some highs and lows during the weekend and during the week with all of us. This is a great result for us.”