Sunday 17 December 2017

Breen's world breakthrough

Craig clinches one of six prestigious places in FIA's WRC Academy

CRAIG BREEN has the world at his feet after being selected for one of the six Pirelli Star driver seats in the newly-established FIA World Rally Championship Academy.

He will drive a fully-funded M-Sport-run Fiesta R2 on six world championship rounds -- most likely all in Europe.

After two hectic days of tests which started with his driving being assessed over four stages -- two on gravel and two on asphalt -- and a fitness exam and media interviews he emerged winner of one of the six fully-funded drives in the 2011 world rally championship.

The FIA WRC Academy is the first rung of the WRC ladder for future stars and succeeds the junior world championship where Loeb and Ogier cut their teeth.


It will see the Academy drivers take part in a comprehensive training and tuition programme and should help young drivers gain world championship experience and exposure alongside the main competition.

The WRC Academy will be a one-make series using M-Sport run Fiesta R2s fitted with Pirelli control tyres run over six rounds -- the events will be announced within the next two weeks.

This new feeder series -- not to be confused with the FIA Institute Academy, which was established to develop young driver talent and is open to racing and rally drivers -- has been established to help young drivers graduate from grassroots to WRC level.

p Irish drivers did not enjoy any success at the British Pirelli Star Driver shoot-out as Elfyn Evans was unanimously selected the winner by the four-judge panel. Winner of the 2010 Fiesta Sport Trophy and British Junior championship, the 21-year-old Welsh star wins a fully funded drive in a Subaru within the 2011 British rally championship.

Son of Mitsubishi UK driver and former British champion Gwyndaf, he succeeds reigning champion Keith Cronin in the Pirelli TEG Motorsport team next year.

p Carrick-on-Suir MC is to be applauded for introducing a new rally to the calendar at a time when other events are being cancelled because of a lack of entries. The South Tipperary club has succeeded in attracting over 70 entries for the inaugural Halloween Historic Rally based in Carrick-on-Suir on Sunday.

Clerk-of-course Donagh O'Sullivan realised his ambition to re-create the golden age of Irish rallying (the '60s and '70s) as well as when the Circuit of Ireland visited Co Waterford in the '80s, and has planned an eight-stage route, all in Deise Country.

He secured some of the big names of the '80s, who competed on the Circuit of Ireland when it stopped in Waterford among them Russell Brookes and Jimmy McRae.

Brookes will be re-united with the Talbot Sunbeam he drove at the time, while McRae will be driving the ex-Robert Droogmans Escort Mk2. Local legend Donie Keating will be in an Escort Mk2 and Kenny McKinstry travels from Banbridge to drive the ex-Ari Vatanen Escort Mk2.

New Historic champion Ray Cunningham will be in action in his Cooper S while Frank Cunningham will travel from Boston to drive an Escort and Corkman Mark Falvey will be in his Escort.

Other names include John Kealty (Porsche), Tom Lawlor (Lotus Cortina), Edward Flahavan (Lancia Fulvia), Brian Lawlor (Escort), Jim Butler (Renault R5) and Todd Falvey in a Porsche.

p Mallow co-driver David Moynihan accepted a last-minute call from Kevin Abbring to help him clinch the Clio R3 European championship title on the Swiss Rally du Valois this weekend.

The 21-year old Dutch driver is backed by KNAF Talent First programme promoted by the Dutch motorsport governing body.

He leads the Renault series and was fifth in the junior rally championship this year.

p Trials Drivers Club is holding an autotest event at Mondello Park on Sunday while Cork MC is organising a navigation trial from Buttevant on Saturday evening.

A shortage of entries -- the club received only 10 entries -- has forced Galway MC to cancel its sprint planned for Tynagh on Sunday.

Ulster AC hosts the three-day Circuit of Ireland Retro trial which gets underway from Lisburn tomorrow.

p Pat O'Connell won his first national title as Forestry rally champion on the Down rally last Saturday.

He had only to start the event to claim the single point he needed to win the title. His co-driver Mark Wiley won the co-drivers title.

Class winners were Emmett Cronin, Mick Nevin, Alan Dineen, Eddie Cogan, Frank Kelly, Mark Murphy, James Murphy, Patsy Keenan and Tom Murphy.

Stuart Biggerstaff won the Northern Ireland title at his first attempt. The 22-year old Dromara native started rallying less than 12 months ago. He is the youngest driver to win the crown beating Connor McCloskey's record by four months.

It is also the first time in the series history that a father and son both claimed the laurels.

His father Denis secured his second title just nine years ago.

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