Craig Breen’s former co-driver Paul Nagle has spoken for the first time since losing his friend in a testing crash in Croatia last Thursday.
Nagle was a pivotal character in Breen’s development as a driver, working with him for the last four seasons in the World Rally Championship. Moreover, the Killarney man stepped into the co-driver’s seat after Gareth Roberts lost his life in a Targa Florio crash in 2012.
Breen regularly talked of Nagle being the one who helped him back into rallying after tragedy struck on the Italian island.
Nagle said: “The world has lost a hero.
“Ireland has lost a champion and I have lost a best friend. Craig was more than a rally driver to Cathy [Nagle, Paul’s wife] and I. He was family.”
Nagle retired from WRC competition at the end of last season, with James Fulton taking over alongside Breen as he switched from M-Sport Ford back to Hyundai Motorsport.
Nagle and Breen had, however, returned to competition for the Killarney Historic and West Cork Rally aboard an ex-Frank Meagher Ford Sierra RS Cosworth.
Talking about their partnership earlier this season, Breen said: “We will always do the extra-curricular stuff together. I wouldn’t want anybody else in the car with me when we’re going over Molls Gap…”
As well as being Ireland’s only factory WRC crew, Breen and Nagle were the best of friends, sharing a passion for rallying which regularly took them back to their rallying roots. A point Nagle referenced on Monday.
“The motorsport world is in mourning because Craig touched so many lives and homes,” he said.
“From grassroots rallying on Tuesday to WRC testing on Thursday – that shows the character you were: a clubman at heart.”
Breen had been working with the Junior 1000 Academy drivers in Ireland on Tuesday, before flying to Croatia for his pre-event test with Hyundai.
“Our journey was amazing,” continued Nagle. “It was filled with fun, laughter, tears and the craic. Thank you for the memories, they will last a lifetime.
“I am going to miss you.”