Irishman Craig Breen has revealed there was a time when he believed his future involvement in the World Rally Championship had run its course before M-Sport Ford signed him up on a two-year deal.
Breen and his co-driving team-mate Paul Nagle will lead the line for the Cumbrian squad in their brand-new hybrid-powered Ford Puma Rally1 car, starting with Rallye Monte Carlo in the middle of January.
Before his move, Breen shared Hyundai Motorsport’s third i20 Coupe with Dani Sordo for the current campaign and the one before that, and despite finishing second at Rally Estonia in July and third overall at Rally Finland in October, it still was not enough to convince team bosses to give him a seat for 2022.
With most of the driver market sewn up early, M-Sport’s Managing Director Malcolm Wilson and Rich Millener – M-Sport Ford’s World Rally Team Principal – wasted no time in signing the 31-year-old up.
“This is the dream that myself and Paul have been searching for these past few seasons,” said Breen, who was back home on home soil at the weekend taking part in the Killarney Historic Rally which he won by almost a minute from Alan Ring.
“It has been my dream since I was a kid to get a full season in the World Rally Championship and finally with M-Sport Ford we have managed to put a deal together for the next two years, to be in it full-time.
“I can’t believe it has happened so late. Two years ago, I thought my World Rally Championship career was finished, but now here we are, at the end of one of my best seasons, heading into a new adventure next year. I just cannot believe it has happened and I honestly can’t wait to get started,” he continued.
Breen and Wilson are no strangers, their paths having crossed many times over the years, and in some ways the Junior and Super 2000 World Rally Championship winner is returning to where it all began.
“I always felt it was something that was going to happen at some point along the way,” said Breen. “My rally journey started with Ford and long before that my dad, Ray, rallied the Focus for many years.
“For whatever reason, we then went our separate ways. I spent time with Peugeot, Citroen and most recently Hyundai and now, a decade later, it has come full circle and I couldn’t be happier,” he added.
Breen spent the middle part of last week putting M-Sport Ford’s Puma Rally1 car through its paces at another test and development session in France as he tries to get comfortable with the new machine.
“I’m hoping that I can use the gap [between Rally Finland and Rallye Monte Carlo] to my advantage, to focus on the Puma car and prepare a little bit more,” said Breen.
“I just want myself, Paul and the whole team to be in the best possible shape for the first round of the new season in Monte Carlo.”