Esapekka and Janne finished third after tough, emotional rally
A podium finish in Croatia Rally was dedicated to the memory of our driver Craig Breen, who lost his life in a pre-event test on April 13. From the opening day of the event, right up to the final stage, our participation in the rally was intended to commemorate and honour Craig’s life.
We were joined by the entire WRC community on Thursday to reflect on his life and passion for rallying, alongside his close friends and co-driver James. As a mark of respect for a much-loved colleague, we competed in Croatia with a special livery in the colours of the Irish flag, for Craig.
Fittingly, it was our duo Thierry and Martijn who took an early lead on Friday, completing the opening day with a 5.7-second advantage. Esapekka and Janne were also chasing the podium positions in fourth. Unfortunately, any dreams of a poignant victory were taken away on Saturday after our Belgian crew hit a concrete block and were forced to retire for the day. Their retirement moved our Finnish crew up into third place as they set about chasing their first podium of the season – and debut with our team.
Esapekka and Janne confirmed the result with a trouble-free but emotional final day. They kept calm right to the Power Stage, where extra points were available for the five fastest crews. Another solid run saw them take the final point on offer as they crossed the flying finish with an outpouring of emotion.
“I don’t know where to start,” Esapekka said. “Big thanks to the team. I know it’s been really tough, arguably one of the hardest weeks ever. We kept our heads together with a smart drive that enabled us to be on the podium. It’s a very important result for us and for the team this week, so thank you.”
Thierry/Martijn re-joined the rally on Sunday in a bid to salvage something from a tough event for the team. Our Belgians extracted maximum performance from themselves and the car to claim all five extra points on offer in the Power Stage with a determined drive.
“I am just so disappointed after everything that has happened,” said Thierry. “It is a tough moment, so we really wanted the victory to make Craig proud. We re-joined the rally this morning determined to fight in the Power Stage. We gave absolutely everything and that was for Craig.”
Podium formalities were rightfully subdued, in honour and memory of Craig. The winning crew held the Irish flag as the national anthem of Ireland was played, followed by a moment’s silence.
Our Team Principal, Cyril commented: “This has been a difficult event for all of the rally community, and we must thank everyone far and wide for their help, assistance and understanding. Looking at the sporting element of this weekend, we had to dive into this wholeheartedly from the outset of the event; that’s the sport. This was the will of Craig’s family and what he would have wanted; this is very clear. All we have done this week has been for him and in his memory.
He added: “It’s important that we put the sporting element to one side now. The sequence of events that has happened since that tragic day last Thursday has been incredibly hard on the team; we had to put our emotions on pause but now is the period of reflection. It will all come back hard, and it is important that we all find the time to deal with this in our own individual way.”
Final word #ForCraig
With this podium, we honour Craig and dedicate the result to him, his co-driver James, his wonderful family, devoted friends, and loyal fans, all for whom this past week has been one of raw emotion, sadness, and loss, but also one full of love for a man who gave so much and leaves so much behind.
A selection of Craig’s inspiring, heart-on-sleeve quotes adorned the team’s service area in Croatia, paying tribute to man whose legacy will live on in the rallying and motorsport community.
“Don’t let anyone ever put you down, because only you know your true potential.”