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Irish rally driver Craig Breen killed in accident during test event ahead of world championship race in Croatia

Rally driver Craig Breen was killed in an accident Thursday during a test event ahead of a world championship race in Croatia, his team said.

The full circumstances of the 33-year-old Irish driver's death were not immediately clear.

Craig Breen poses during a group photo prior to the start of the 86th Monte Carlo Rally, in Monaco, on Jan. 25, 2018. AP Photo/Christian Alminana

"Hyundai Motorsport is deeply saddened to confirm that driver Craig Breen today lost his life following an accident during the pre-event test for Croatia Rally," the team said in a statement. "Co-driver James Fulton was unharmed in the incident that occurred just after midday local time. Hyundai Motorsport sends its sincerest condolences to Craig's family, friends and his many fans. Hyundai Motorsport will make no further comment at this time."

Breen had competed in World Rally Championship events since 2009 for various teams. The event in Croatia was scheduled to start next week.

"On behalf of the FIA, I wish to extend our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Craig Breen following his passing during a private testing accident in Croatia," said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the president of governing body FIA. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones and the entire Rally community at this difficult time."

Breen was the son of a former Irish national rally champion and began his career in karting. He won several rally titles at various levels of national and international competitions, and was a regular podium finisher in the World Rally Championship. In 2012, he was involved in an accident at a rally in Italy in which his co-driver, Gareth Roberts, was killed.

"The Irish motorsport community is numbed by this tragic news," Motorsport Ireland president Aidan Harper said in a statement. "Craig was a world class driver and a world class person."

Harper said that just last Tuesday, Breen attended an event in Ireland where "18 young drivers got to meet and learn from their hero." 

The incident comes just days after Sprint car driver Justin Owen died from injuries he suffered when his car crashed during a race in southeastern Indiana.

The U.S. Auto Club confirmed the 26-year-old, from Harrison, Ohio, died after his car struck the outside wall and flipped several times along the third turn in a qualifying race for the AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship at Lawrenceburg Speedway. 

Owen was the reigning track champion at Lawrenceburg Speedway with two feature wins and the title in 2022, USAC said. It was Owen's first crown at the 3/8-mile dirt oval where he competed in the sprint car division for the past several seasons.

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