Irish rally car driver Craig Breen has died after an accident at a pre-event test ahead of next week’s Croatia Rally, his team Hyundai Motorsport said Thursday.
The team did not give many details about the incident but said it had occurred just after midday local time on Thursday.
“Hyundai Motorsport sends its sincerest condolences to Craig’s family, friends and his many fans,” a statement read, adding that co-driver James Fulton was unharmed in the accident.
The 33-year-old had made 82 starts in the World Rally Championship (WRC), finishing second in his last race at Rally Sweden in February.
Breen, whose dad Ray had also been a rally driver, started his career driving go-karts before transitioning to rally driving, going full-time in 2009 and progressing through the ranks.
He quickly experienced success, being crowned Ireland’s Young Driver of the Year in 2009, and later becoming a regular on the WRC circuit.
Despite not winning a WRC race, the Irishman claimed six second-place finishes.
“The Irish motorsport community is numbed by this tragic news. Craig was a world class driver and a world class person,” Motorsport Ireland president Aiden Harper said in a statement.
The World Rally Championship said on Twitter: “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.”
Mohammed Ben Sulayem, president of motorsport’s governing body FIA, also paid tribute to Breen. “Our thoughts & prayers are with his loved ones & the Rally community at this difficult time,” he said on Twitter.