Sport

Breen quietly confident WRC will return to Ireland next year

Breen quietly confident WRC will return to Ireland next year

Craig Breen says the signs are positive that a World Rally Championship event will return to Ireland in the 'next year'.

That would end a gap of 13 years since the WRC last visited the island, having staged 'Rally Ireland' in 2007 and 2009.

Once again the event will take place in the northern half of the country, following a 2007 rally that exclusively took place in Northern Ireland, and the 2009 edition which was based in the North-West and border counties.

"It's looking relatively positive for next year, but albeit the event will be in the North, based out of Belfast from what I understand" said Breen, speaking on this week's SportsBeat Xtra.

Advertisement

"It is looking quite positive that there will be a World Championship Rally on the island before too long. Hopefully, fingers crossed, we get it over the line, it's looking positive anyway, fingers crossed."

If there is to be an event in Ireland, Breen will be guaranteed an entry, as part of a contract with Team M-Sport that will give him a drive in every single event over the next two seasons.

Advertisement

It marks a departure from a frustrating period with the Korean Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT, which saw the Slieverue man only handed drives on certain rallies in a 'horses for courses' tactic.

It also means Breen will not only be grappling with a new car in the Ford Puma, but also the onset of the hybrid rally era, as the sport aims to become more environmentally aware.

"The cars are really different now. Every time you brake and release the throttle you regenerate energy back through the transmission, and you have to regenerate a certain amount of energy before you unlock the boost.

Advertisement

"No rally driver has any experience of any of this. Whether we like it or not it's the only way for the sport to keep going. We need to start going in that direction, if we stay where we are with the internal combustion engine only, ultimately the manufacturers will lose interest and we'll all be unemployed."

However, the sport's profile has unquestionably declined in the past number of years, at a time when Formula 1, backed by Liberty Media, has seen a surge in popularity off the back of the Netflix 'Drive to Survive' documentary.

Breen feels that the onus is on the World Rally Championship to work harder to increase the sport's profile.

Β 

"I think definitely something needs to be done about it.

"For me, I've made it to the pinnacle and the people who need to know me know me, but for the youngsters coming up behind me trying to secure sponsorships to help them get through the tiers, they have no idea of the return on investment for a sponsorship deal.

"In Ireland - I wouldn't say nobody knows who I am, but it's definitely one of lesser known sports, and I wouldn't be a high profile athlete.

"But if I go to Finland or one of the Scandinavian countries, when you get off the plane, even before you get to you car you'll have people stopping you for autographs and pictures.

"Hopefully that's something that'll change, and hopefully maybe even getting the full championship programme for next year, that will generate a bit of interest."

Craig headlines this week's show, and will also be part of the Wexford Stages Rally tomorrow. We speak to clerk of the course Pat O'Dowd, as well as another rising Irish motorsport star, Max Hart.

Β 

Advertisement