Gareth Roberts: Young Welsh rally star killed in Sicily

A rising Welsh star in world motor rallying, 24-year-old Gareth Roberts, has been killed in an event in Italy.

He was co-driver in the Peugeot 207 being driven by Irish team-mate Craig Breen - who was unhurt - at the Targa Florio rally in Sicily.

The event is part of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge. No spectators were involved.

The rest of the event has been called off as a mark of respect to Roberts, from Carmarthen.

In a statement, IRC organisers said: "On stage eight of Targa Florio-Rally Internazionale Di Sicilia there was an accident involving car number 15, Craig Breen and Gareth Roberts, which resulted in the stage being stopped to enable medical crews to attend the scene.

"Despite their best efforts, Gareth Roberts succumbed to his injuries and the remainder of the event has been cancelled as a mark of respect."

The incident happened on the 18km (11 mile) Cefalu stage of the rally, which began on Thursday.

IRC manager Jean-Pierre Nicolas said it was a reminder of the danger of motorsport.

"As the president of the Automobile Club Palermo, Antonio Marasco, said after the accident, the Targa Florio is an event where many great champions have left us in the past, and sadly this has happened again.

Image caption Gareth Roberts was the winning co-driver at last year's World Rally Championship academy event

"The death of a 24-year-old young man at the start of a fantastic career is always a tragedy. From the start of this year, together with Craig Breen, Gareth has put in some excellent performances and the crew really got themselves noticed.

"There's no doubt in my mind that these performances would have got even better.

"At this terrible time, I'm thinking very much of Gareth's family, to whom all of us at Eurosport Events pass on our sincere condolences."

Roberts won last year's World Rally Championship Academy event, alongside Breen. He celebrated the win in Cardiff, snatching the victory on the last day of the six-round event when the championship came to Wales as part of the Wales Rally GB.

'A magician'

He began competitive driving in 2004 when he was a teenager, with success alongside fellow Welshman Elfyn Evans, from Dolgellau, in the Fiesta Sport Trophy series.

Roberts teamed up with Breen in 2009, steadily working their way up the rankings before taking last years inaugural WRC Academy Cup.

Image caption Stage 8 of the IRC Targa Florio Rally was on a 18km stretch from Cefalu

Speaking of Roberts following a recent event in Corsica, Breen said: "Gareth is a magician, he's incredible how he gets every note out so quickly. I couldn't do it without him."

The BBC's rallying correspondent, Mark James said: "They'd started racing in the World Rally Championship this year and were only in this IRC event to gain more experience.

"Since a spate of deaths in the 1980s, rallying has been seen as a far safer sport than it used to be and this is a huge shock.

"The entire rally community is in shock today, and we all feel for Gareth's family and friends at this time."

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