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Craig Breen lined up for Hyundai WRC return in Estonia 

 

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In demand: Craig Breen

In demand: Craig Breen

In demand: Craig Breen

He's been trying to keep busy, though becoming increasingly frustrated as the coronavirus has kept him on the sidelines, but Craig Breen looks set for a hectic return to rallying.

Already lined up to launch his European Championship campaign in Italy in a couple of weeks' time, Breen is now expected to be drafted into the Hyundai team when the World Championship restarts in Estonia in September.

The reigning Irish Tarmac champion had originally been named as part of the Korean team for Rally Finland next month and was "devastated" when it joined the list of cancellations.

He had been third there when Ulsterman Kris Meeke scored a sensational victory for Citroen in 2016.

With Rally Estonia, an event with similar characteristics to Finland, included in a revamped calendar, Hyundai are likely to turn again to Breen as team-mate to world champion Ott Tanak and Thierry Neuville instead of Sebastien Loeb or Dani Sordo.

He made his Hyundai debut in Estonia last year in preparation for his first WRC appearance for the team in Finland, where a storming run saw him emerge as the top Hyundai runner in the first half of the event before he eventually finished in seventh place.

And if, as expected, the Belgian Ypres Rally joins the WRC schedule, Breen is understood to be the preferred choice to drive alongside Tanak and Neuville.

He has competed in Ypres four times, been on the podium twice and won once.

After the long lay-off, Breen faces a packed return to action with back-to-back Italian appearances at Rally di Roma and Rally di Alba in an R5 Hyundai within the next month followed by Rally Liepaja in Latvia in the middle of August.

But most of all he will be relishing the prospect of stepping up to the World Championship once again.

Meanwhile, Colin Turkington and Chris Smiley have begun preparations for the return of the British Touring Car Championship at the beginning of August.

The two Ulster drivers were on track at Snetterton yesterday in a Goodyear tyre testing session which continues today, four-time champion Turkington on board his West Surrey Racing BMW and Smiley getting to grips with a new team, ExcelR8 Motorsport, and the newest car on the BTCC grid, a Hyundai 130N.

But there was a shock start to the session when Power Max Racing announced that they were withdrawing, leaving the driver with the most wins in the series, Jason Plato, on the sidelines.

His exit follows the decision by Turkington's BMW team-mate, former champion Andrew Jordan, to stand down as the commercial reality post-Covid-19 starts to bite.

Belfast Telegraph