Waterford rally driver Craig Breen has died in a crash, his Hyundai Motorsport team has confirmed.

Breen was participating in a pre-test event ahead of Croatia Rally when the incident happened at approximately 11am Irish time. His co-driver James Fulton was unharmed.

"Hyundai Motorsport sends its sincerest condolences to Craig's family, friends and his many fans," a statement read.

Breen had rejoined Hyundai for the new WRC season having spent a year with the M-Sport Ford World Rally team.

The 33-year-old finished second to Ott Tanak at Rally Sweden in February in his first WRC start of the season.

On Twitter, the World Rally Championship (WRC) said: "The WRC family is shocked and saddened to learn of Craig Breen's passing. Our thoughts and condolences are with the family and friends of Craig at this incredibly sad time."

Breen, whose father Ray was a former Irish champion, began his racing career in karting before moving into full-time rallying in 2009.

He moved to the WRC Academy in 2011 and after moving up the junior and WRC2 ranks, he made his first WRC appearance when driving selected rounds for the Abu Dhabi Total World Rally team.

Breen collected a series of podium finishes over the years and had become a popular figure on the circuit.

Current WRC champion Kalle Rovanpera was one of those paying tribute to Breen, saying: "Rest in peace Craig. My thoughts are tonight with your family and friends."

Craig Breen (R) and Paul Nagle after their win at the Renties Ypres Rally in 2019

Motorsport Ireland said that Breen never forgot his Irish roots and was continually affording opportunities to those wishing to pursue a career in rallying.

"Whenever he got the chance, Craig still continued to compete on local events in Ireland and in recent months, support younger drivers.

"Earlier this year a sponsorship deal was announced that would see him directly supporting the Junior 1000 category within the Sligo Pallets Forest Rally Championship and as recently as last Tuesday, he attended a J1000 tuition day where 18 young drivers got to meet and learn from their hero.

"Craig was a model competitor and there was no greater advocate for Irish motorsport."

Motorsport Ireland President Aiden Harper said: "The Irish motorsport community is numbed by this tragic news. Craig was a world class driver and a world class person.

"To Craig's family, his parents Ray and Jackie, his sister Kellie, brother in law Darragh and nephew Bobbie, I wish to extend my deepest condolences and all our thoughts remain with Craig’s co-driver James Fulton. May they all find the strength and support they need at this unimaginably tragic time."

FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem also paid tribute.

"On behalf of the FIA, I extend sincere condolences to the family & friends of Craig Breen following his passing during a private testing accident. Our thoughts & prayers are with his loved ones & the Rally community at this difficult time."

Formula 1 said: "The Formula 1 community is sending our thoughts and love to Craig Breen's family and friends."

Alfa Romeo formula 1 driver Valtteri Bottas, offering his condolences on social media, described the news as "shocking".

Breen is the first fatality in the world championship since German junior co-driver Joerg Bastuck in the 2006 Rally of Catalunya.