The Irish drivers scheduled to take part in this weekend’s Ypres Rally in Belgium have withdrawn as a mark of respect for Gareth Roberts who was killed in an accident on the Targa Florio in Sicily on Saturday.
Alastair Fisher, Mark Donnelly and Robert Barrable were due to join Craig Breen and co-driver Roberts in Flanders for the Intercontinental Challenge-counting Ypres event.
But following Breen’s horrific crash on the eighth stage of the Sicilian round of the IRC series, they have pulled out.
Dai Roberts, Gareth’s brother, was to co-drive for Donnelly, a British championship rally winner from Omagh.
WRC Academy championship leader Fisher was planning to make his second IRC appearance of the season in Belgium and was testing with the M-Sport Ford team at Ypres when he heard the news of Roberts’ death. He called off the test and flew home.
“We were all devastated when we heard the news. It is so hard to take in,” he said.
Having made a late decision to contest the Targa Florio, Breen was driving a Peugeot 207 with the Italian HRT team but was due to re-join Sainteloc Racing for the Ypres Rally. The French team have also withdrawn their cars.
Breen was unhurt in the crash but suffered severe shock. He is in Sicily awaiting the release of Roberts’ body and tweeted this tribute: “Difficult to describe how much he meant to us all. I’m so sorry. He knew me inside out like no one else. Simple treasured memories will keep me strong. Miss you so much.”
They won the British championship division of the Ulster Rally in 2010 and last year became WRC Academy champions. Their rise up the rally ranks continued in the WRC S2000 series and the IRC championship in which they finished fifth on the Circuit of Ireland and sixth on the Tour de Corse.
Arrangements for Roberts’ funeral will not be known until his body has been returned.