Spain's Yeray Lemes has claimed his maiden victory in the WRC Academy Cup after making the most of Craig Breen's exit on Saturday's second stage.

Breen was seemingly in control when he slid into a bank one kilometre from the end of the run and broke a driveshaft on his Ford Fiesta R2, which caused his instant retirement from Rallye de France Alsace.

“I’ve made a hell of a lot of mistakes in my career but this time Gareth [Roberts, my co-driver] was a wee bit late with the note for a slow left corner,” said the Irishman. “We went into a bank and broke the driveshaft. That’s why we couldn’t carry on.”

Apart from a small gearbox problem, little troubled Lemes who held on to take victory by 42.3s ahead of Alastair Fisher, who celebrated his first podium in the young driver-training category. Jose Suarez made it two Spaniards in the top three when he finished third.

“I’m very happy, we stayed on the road, kept focused and kept concentrating,” said Lemes, who has closed up to Egon Kaur in the title standings. Kaur crashed on Friday and again today to compound a miserable weekend for the Estonian.

For Fisher, second place was a case of mission accomplished: “I didn’t push too hard, I just wanted to finish and get some points after a frustrating season.”

Just eight WRC Academy runners reached the finish following a tough two-day rally. Germany’s Sepp Wiegand was fourth on only his second WRC Academy outing with Pirelli Star Driver Molly Taylor, from Australia, scoring a season-best fifth on her least favourite surface. Timo van der Marel completed the top six. Estonian Miko-Ove Niinemae was seventh with Swede Fredrik Ahlin eighth and last.

Of the drivers to hit trouble, Christian Riedemann stopped with broken suspension on stage 13, Brendan Reeves retired from fourth position with a broken clutch on the penultimate stage, Jan Cerny crashed into a ditch on stage 10, Sergey Karyakin and Andrea Crugnola both rolled on stage 12.

The WRC Academy concludes on Wales Rally GB in mid-November.

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