Fiesta SportTrophy International champion Craig Breen (19) completed a near-perfect season as he took victory in the FST International Shootout, beating off strong competition to take the prestigious title and taking his tally of victories for the season to six after becoming FSTi champion, Kick Energy FST UK champion, FST Ireland champion, Irish Junior Rally champion as well as winning the Billy Coleman Award in his home country.
The prize on offer to the winner of the Shootout is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to gain hands-on experience at a top level World Rally team.  A 12-month employment contract with M-Sport, an apartment at the Dovenby Hall HQ and the provision of a road car are all part of Breen’s reward.  He will have the chance to experience working in a number of different areas of the company, travelling to the European WRC events with the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team, attending press functions and driving at PR events.
While Breen had been one of the favourites to take the coveted title he faced stiff opposition over the two-day competition.
The 16 competitors who had qualified for the Shootout based on their performances in FST championships around the globe, faced a series of physical and psychological tests as well as an assessment of their media skills before embarking on the final driving challenge, a three kilometre stage in the GpN Fiesta ST at M-Sport's Greystoke Forest.  With all of their scores tallied, the competitors were whittled down to the final five candidates who were interviewed by M-Sport Managing Director Malcolm Wilson OBE.
Breen, who posted the best time in the driving challenge, was joined in the final five by four outstanding competitors who all merited a chance to face the final interview after a series of strong performances over the two days: FSTi wildcard entry Patrick Anglade, Northern Ireland’s Mark Donnelly, Swede Mattias Wennman and Cedric de Cecco from Belgium.
Anglade (21), the FSTi runner up, who led the championship until the final round in Wales, produced strong and consistent performances throughout the two-day challenge earning a good result in the media skills test and matching his rival Breen in the fitness test.
Donnelly (18) excelled on the fitness test on day one posting the leading score and followed up that performance with consistently strong results over all of the next disciplines, including the stages in Greystoke where he trailed Breen's time by three tenths.
Wennman (25) had been occupying a mid-table spot after the first day’s tests, but some strong times in the driving test elevated him to the top five as he excelled in the testing conditions that saw some other competitors crash out.
Equally, de Cecco (24), who had to contend with a delay to his driving tests after a technical issue on his Fiesta ST, proved his driving talent to move up from his position near the middle of the table after the first day.
Also worthy of mention was New Zealand’s Ben Jagger (19), who finished day one’s events as the overall leader, performing exceptionally in the media, psychological and physical assessments.  However, the New Zealander fell victim to the forest on his first run of the driving test, as he went off the road and hit a tree, ending his Shootout campaign.
However, Breen’s undoubted ability behind the wheel shone through as he posted the fastest times in the forest with co-driver Gareth Roberts.
The young Irishman will get a taste of things to come almost immediately as he gets the chance to take the wheel of a Ford Focus RS WRC tomorrow and receive tuition from BP Ford Abu Dhabi ace Mikko Hirvonen before joining the Flying Finn for dinner to discuss the season so far.
Fiesta SportTrophy International champion Craig Breen said:
“Winning this title really has left me lost for words.  I have had a fantastic debut season and to win the championship in that same year was incredible, but this is something else altogether.  I had set myself the target of winning this at the start of the year and I am so pleased that I have managed to achieve that.  It is a fantastic opportunity that I have been given to work with M-Sport and I can’t wait to start.  This contest was really great and I was pushed all the way, but I am absolutely over the moon to have won.”
M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE said:
“It hasn’t been easy to pick a winner and there have been a few pleasant surprise performances.  There can only be one winner, however, and Craig [Breen] has shone above the rest during this competition.  It is the first time that this title hasn’t been won by a wildcard in four years.  Craig has had a fantastic year to win the FSTi, FST UK and FST Ireland and he is a deserved winner.”
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