The factory Hyundai driver went off the road during a team test on asphalt roads in Croatia today and succumbed to injuries. Co-driver James Fulton was unharmed in the crash.
Breen was preparing for his second outing of the WRC season as Hyundai’s third driver after rejoining the South Korean marque for a second spell following a full season with M-Sport-Ford last year.
The 33-year-old Irishman finished second at Rally Sweden in February which marked his first WRC start of the season. The result equalled his career-best result in the WRC having scored second-place finishes in Sweden 2018, Estonia 2020-2021, Belgium 2021 and Sardinia 2022.
Hyundai has confirmed the news through a brief statement.
“Hyundai Motorsport is deeply saddened to confirm that driver Craig Breen today lost his life following an accident during the pre-event test for Croatia Rally," read the statement.
“Co-driver James Fulton was unharmed in the incident that occurred just after midday local time.
“Hyundai Motorsport sends its sincerest condolences to Craig’s family, friends and his many fans.
“Hyundai Motorsport will make no further comment at this time.”
The WRC added in a statement: "The WRC family is shocked and saddened to learn of Craig Breen's passing. Our thoughts and condolences are with the family and friends of Craig at this incredibly sad time."
FIA President Ben Sulayem said: "On behalf of the FIA, I extend sincere condolences to the family & friends of Craig Breen following his passing during a private testing accident in Croatia. Our thoughts & prayers are with his loved ones & the Rally community at this difficult time.”
Breen, the son of a rallying father Ray Breen, started his career in circuit racing but made a full-time switch to rallying in 2009.
After competing in the domestic British Rally Championship and Irish Tarmac Rally Championship in 2010, he progressed to the WRC the following season where he competed in the WRC Academy, becoming the inaugural Academy Cup winner.
Breen eventually reached rallying’s top tier in 2016 when he drove a Citroen DS3 on a part-time basis, scoring a maiden podium with a third at Rally Finland. He remained with Citroen before losing his drive at the end of the 2018 season.
Hyundai acquired his services on a part-time basis from 2019-2021, during which he scored four podiums from nine rallies. Breen switched to M-Sport last year but made a return to Hyundai in 2023.
He scored 30 WRC stage wins and total of nine podiums from 82 rallies.