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Breen and Devine set sights on Rome to get Euro rally campaigns off ground

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Devine intervention: Callum Devine wants to get back behind the wheel

Devine intervention: Callum Devine wants to get back behind the wheel

Craig Breen

Craig Breen

Devine intervention: Callum Devine wants to get back behind the wheel

Craig Breen and Callum Devine are desperately hoping all roads will lead to Rome next month.

It is there that their European Rally Championship campaigns are scheduled to begin after the series was suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The early rounds in the Azores, Canary Islands, Latvia and Poland were all called off but, as restrictions ease across Europe, a revised eight-event calendar has been agreed, starting with the Rally di Roma Capitale in Italy on July 24.

It means a packed second half to the year but Breen and Devine are just pleased there is light at the end of the long lockdown tunnel.

Former British Junior champion and Billy Coleman Award winner Devine, who was named Ireland’s International Rally Driver of the Year in 2019, had opted to skip this year’s Irish Tarmac and British Championships in favour of a full-blooded European challenge after an impressive podium finish in Hungary at the end of last season.

It was a performance which saw the 26-year-old Co Londonderry driver added to the Hyundai Customer Racing junior programme, and he was set to begin the series in the Azores in March when the virus brought all motorsport to a halt.

Now he’s preparing to take his Philip Case-prepared Hyundai i20 R5 to Rome for a new European event.

“I absolutely can’t wait to get back behind the wheel again and am so thankful for the hard work of all the Rally di Roma and ERC officials to make this event happen,” he said.

Breen will also be on board an R5 Hyundai but his will be run by the Italian BRC Racing team as part of a development programme for the Indian MRF tyre company.

The reigning Irish Tarmac champion had been recalled to the Hyundai World Championship team for Rally Finland, scheduled for August, only to be “devastated” when a fortnight later the rally was called off.

But so determined was Breen to be ready for his return to the European series — he was runner-up in 2015 — that he hitched a ride from Waterford to northern Italy on the lorry of a friend last month for a two-day MRF test session when it proved impossible to organise flights.

Meanwhile, North Antrim MP Ian Paisley continues to press for Northern Ireland to host the British round of the World Championship next year, raising the issue of funding at yesterday’s session of NI Questions at Westminster.

The NI Executive has already rejected a request to fund the event but Mr Paisley asked if Westminster would be prepared to jointly support Northern Ireland’s bid with Stormont.

Replying, Robin Walker, a minister at the NI Office, said that it was a matter for the NI Executive.

Belfast Telegraph