Hyundai reveals special livery for Craig Breen for WRC Rally Croatia as Toyota marks only two entries for points as respect.

Frenchman Ogier arrives in Croatia with a three-point lead over Thierry Neuville. Neuville and Hyundai Motorsport team-mate Esapekka Lappi’s i20 N cars will carry a special livery in memory of beloved colleague and WRC family member Craig Breen, who tragically lost his life last week.

But defending his early-season advantage is not the primary objective for Ogier, who only competes on a part-time basis. Instead, the ultimate prize would be to complete a Croatian treble for his Toyota Gazoo Racing squad.

Ogier clinched victory at the inaugural Croatia Rally in 2021 but sat out last year’s event, which was won by his GR Yaris team-mate Kalle Rovanperä. “Even if the mindset is different without the [full] championship, I still have the same aim to perform at my best and score some wins and good points for the team,” Ogier said.

“Croatia is a difficult one, but recently I have been pretty strong on Tarmac. It was kind of natural for the team and me to decide to go back to Croatia.” Only Ogier and Rovanperä are nominated to score points for Toyota Gazoo Racing this week. Out of respect for Hyundai, which now fields only two cars, the Japanese marque has withdrawn Elfyn Evans from the manufacturers’ championship battle at this rally.

The Welshman, however, remains eligible to score drivers’ championship points alongside Takamoto Katsuta, who drives a fourth Yaris. Ott Tänak is M-Sport Ford’s frontrunner. The Estonian, who lies fourth in the standings, is joined by Pierre-Louis Loubet, and will be eager to make amends after being hampered by mechanical woes last time out.

The rally starts in capital city Zagreb on Thursday evening ahead of three days of competition on asphalt which varies from smooth to broken and features many tricky crests and jumps. The 20 stages cover 301.26km.

Statement from Cyril Abiteboul –

Craig was laid to rest yesterday and it’s been a very emotional time for all of us. Emotions are still raw and there has been an amazing outpouring of grief for Craig, who was an incredible person to know, as a team-mate, competitor and friend. Regarding the accident, we can say that Craig was participating in the pre-event test in Croatia.

Road conditions were slippery and the car slid off the road at a relatively low speed and made contact with a wooden fence. A post from this fence intruded into the cabin through the driver’s side window. The stage was closed immediately and the on stage medical team was rapidly on the scene.

We must mention that James Fulton was unhurt in the crash and our hearts go out to him. We are doing everything we can to support James at this time. Craig was taken to hospital from the stage. As far as can be determined, Craig’s passing was instantaneous. Hyundai Motorsport and the FIA are working together to review all aspects of the incident.

As far as can be ascertained, there was no issue with any element of the car, the tyres or the safety equipment. The local police completed a report at the scene. Moving to this weekend and Croatia Rally, it was clear from the feedback from all stakeholders, and Craig’s family and friends, that the competitive spirit of Craig would have wanted this weekend’s rally to continue and for his team-mates to participate.

We thought long and hard about how to do this and how best to honour Craig. To this end, we are contesting the event with two cars, both running with a special livery to honour Craig, his Irish roots and his beloved Irish rally community. Craig was a wonderful person and that is true of his family and friends. The rallying community has really pulled together and it’s a mark of the high regard with which Craig was held.

There are a number of initiatives to honour Craig taking place over this weekend. As well as our special livery we have a book of condolence in our hospitality unit that everyone is invited to sign. This will be shared with the family. This is all we have to say collectively at this stage.

Here’s WRC retiring #42 for rest of 2023

Here’s Hyundai President Sean Kim on Craig Breen

Here’s news about Craig Breen’s death and some initial reactions

[Note: The story is as per press release]