The 30-year-old, who has two world championship support category titles to his name, placed second in the FIA European Rally Championship in 2015, an achievement that earned him a step up to world rallying’s top tier with Citroën for 2016.
He scored his first podium with the make in Finland that year and landed six top-five finishes in 2017 before claiming his best world championship result to date with second place on Rally Sweden in 2018.
Breen demonstrated his impressive diversity in 2019 when he notched up wins in four different types of Rally2 (formerly R5) cars. He also struck up an alliance with Hyundai Motorsport, scoring points on two world championship starts with the factory World Rally Car squad.
While success at world level remains the Irishman’s ultimate goal, his experience of the ERC, combined with his technical understanding and undoubted speed, makes him an ideal candidate for MRF Tyres, which has joined forces with BRC Racing Team to tackle the eight-event European championship with a Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing-supported Hyundai i20 R5.
“I am really happy to start this adventure with MRF Tyres,” said Breen, who will compete under the Team MRF Tyres banner alongside co-driver and compatriot Paul Nagle. “We worked together last year placing emphasis on tyre development. Now I am really looking to embark on this journey in the European Rally Championship. It will be a great adventure to get back to some rallies I have done in the past along with some new events. It will be a great year with MRF Tyres, BRC Racing Team and Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing. I am looking forward to the Azores Rallye and getting the programme started.”
Team MRF Tyres has claimed the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship title on nine occasions, three of which were won by top Indian driver Gaurav Gill. Under the Team MRF Tyres banner, Gill contested four rounds of the world championship in 2018, before embarking on a major testing programme in 2019 with Breen and former factory world championship driver Mikko Hirvonen to develop the next generation of MRF tyres.
MRF Tyres Vice-Chairman and Managing Director, Arun Mammen, said: “MRF Tyres has a long and proud history in rallying in India and the Asia-Pacific region. With nine APRC titles, it is the right time to take the next step and take Indian motorsport into the European Rally Championship. To work with great professionals in the field like Craig Breen, Paul Nagle, BRC Racing Team and Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing is a great privilege. We know it will be a challenge to compete with our European rivals, but we are committed to rallying in the long term and we are aiming to learn and develop. After all, MRF Tyres is India’s number one tyre company and pioneers of motorsports in India.”
Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing Senior Sales Associate Andrew Johns said: “The European Rally Championship is one of the most competitive in the world for the R5 class, so to have the Hyundai i20 R5 as part of the series is obviously very exciting for everyone involved. The partnership between MRF Tyres and BRC Racing Team, with Craig Breen at the wheel, means the car should be extremely strong in all conditions. MRF have proven themselves in rallying elsewhere in the world, and though the ERC campaign is a new challenge, they have the pedigree to immediately challenge at the front. Likewise, Craig has shown his pace in every level of rallying, finishing his title-winning 2019 in the Irish Tarmac championship with victory in an i20 R5, and I am sure that 2020 will bring more success.”
Jean-Baptiste Ley, the ERC Co-ordinator for promoter Eurosport Events, said: “We are very happy that MRF Tyres has chosen the FIA European Rally Championship for its return to international rallying when it will develop its products and services in an arena where Michelin and Pirelli are already active. In Craig Breen and Paul Nagle, MRF has a very capable and professional partnership, while Craig will be the one to beat for drivers aiming to prove their talent at international level. Furthermore, BRC has a strong pedigree in rallying and counts on the expertise of a number of experienced personnel, while the fact that BRC is being supported by Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing is another example of the ERC’s attractiveness to manufacturers who operate programmes to assist privateer drivers and teams.”
Did you know?
MRF Tyres was established in 1946 and now employs more than 16,000 people. It’s India’s largest tyre provider and supplies race and rally tyres to customers around the world.
Where to watch Craig Breen and Team MRF Tyres in 2020?
Azores Rallye, 26-28 March; Rally Islas Canarias, 7-9 May; Rally Liepāja (Latvia), 29-31 May; 77th Rally Poland, 26-28 June; Rally di Roma Capitale (Italy), 24-26 July; Barum Czech Rally Zlín, 28-30 August; Cyprus Rally, 9-11 October; Rally Hungary, 6-8 November.