Team News

Richie’s win thrills Breen’s family in Ireland

Richie Dalton’s win in the 2023 Rally of the Bay was perhaps the most special yet for the Shamrock Motorsport driver.

Richie Dalton powers to victory in the 2023 Rally of the Bay.

Driving his Toyota Yaris AP4, Dalton and New Zealand co-driver Jared Hudson took the victory by a winning margin of 55.2 seconds after 10 special stages.

It was Dalton‘s fourth win in the Batemans Bay based rally, which counted as the second round of this year’s New South Wales Rally Championship.

However, what makes this win that much more special is that the Toyota Yaris was sporting a special tribute livery to former World Rally Championship star Craig Breen.

Like Dalton, Breen was an Irish product who had lived the dream of many Irishman and the latter was lucky enough to reach the top of the sport he truly loved.

Driving for the Hyundai World Rally Championship team in 2023, Breen had started the year brilliantly with second place in February‘s Rally of Sweden.

Sadly, in testing for the Rally of Croatia, Breen’s Hyundai i20 slipped off the road in treacherous conditions in pre-event testing, with the slow impact resulting in the tragic death of the Irishman.

Dalton and Breen were members of the same car club in Ireland, so in tribute to his friend, Sydney-based Dalton put his car in special Irish colours for this event.

“It was the least we could do to honour Craig’s memory,” Dalton said.

“As it is for all Irishmen, Craig was my rallying hero, and his death hit us all extremely hard.

“The car looked brilliant in the tribute colours, and it means so much more to be able to take the win in his memory.”

The win didn’t come easy, however, with Dalton and Hudson running first car on the road in dry and dusty conditions. It meant they were sweeping the loose gravel from the stages, putting them at a significant disadvantage against their rivals.

The Yaris used 16 tyres throughout the rally, more than Dalton would use in a two day round of the Australian Rally Championship.

Nevertheless, their commitment and perseverance paid off with the victory champagne tasting even sweeter on Saturday evening.

Dalton expected it was the end of things as far as the Rally of the Bay was concerned, however, many were watching from afar.

The day after the rally, Craig Breen‘s sister, Kellie, messaged him to pass on the family’s thanks and best wishes.

“I just wanted to send a message to congratulate your team on the result this weekend,” Kellie Breen wrote.

“I’m Craig’s sister and I can tell you, it gave us all a smile to see the car in all its glory. Thanks for keeping his legacy alive and remembering him in your rally. Big love from Ireland.”

A day later, Craig Breen‘s girlfriend, Sarah Lavin, also sent her thanks. An Irish national champion hurdler, Lavin was also thrilled and honoured with the tribute livery.

“I just know Craig was looking down smiling. The car was absolutely beautiful and for you to get the win too (was) fantastic. It means a lot,” she said.

It seems highly likely that the tri-colour Irish flag will adorn the Toyota Yaris for the remainder of the season, with Dalton now planning on contesting the final three rounds of the New South Wales Rally Championship as he chases a first state title.

“A couple of the main championship contenders didn’t finish in Batemans Bay so that means our chances of taking the title have increased,” Dalton explained.

“I have a lot of tyres stockpiled which we will use for these rallies, so the cost of competing will be reduced.

“It’s going to be an exciting second half of the season.”

The next round of the New South Wales rally championship is the Bathurst Rally on September 23, a rally that should suit Dalton and the Yaris well.