McErlean withdraws from Croatia Rally

Irish WRC2 driver will not start Zagreb-based event following the passing of Craig Breen last week

Josh McErlean

Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver Josh McErlean and co-driver John Rowan have pulled out of this weekend’s Croatia Rally.

McErlean was entered to drive a Hyundai i20 N Rally2 for the second round of his WRC2 campaign.

But the 23-year-old has pulled out of the event on grounds of force majeure following the passing of Craig Breen in a testing accident last week.

Given the circumstances, Croatia will therefore not count as one of the rounds towards McErlean’s WRC2 campaign.

He will return to action in Portugal.

Fellow Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy drivers Patrick O’Brien – who’s making his WRC debut – and Junior WRC entries William Creighton and Eamonn Kelly will still compete.

Both McErlean and Rowan were close to Breen. McErlean worked with him through the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy while Rowan was part of his background team, co-driving him on events such as Sanremo last year.

In a statement, McErlean said: “Following the tragic loss of Craig Breen last week, the team has decided not to contest WRC Rally Croatia 2023.

“We deliberated long and hard before reaching our decision. At this level of the sport, we need to be 100% committed and this would have been incredibly difficult given the extremely close relationship that both John Rowan and I had developed with Craig and James Fulton over the past few years.

“I attended the Hyundai pre event test in Croatia last week at Craig’s invitation. It turned out to be a very difficult few days but I was glad to be there to support Fuzzy through these terribly tough times.

“I would love to go out this weekend and do what Craig would have wanted, but instead we have been at home, giving Craig the send-off he deserves and to fully reset.

“We will be back soon to keep the flag flying high. Thank you to everyone for your support.”