Egon Kaur has begun his quest for the 500,000 Euros career incentive fund offered to the inaugural FIA WRC Academy champion by winning the first ever round in Portugal.

Kaur began Saturday’s final day in second overall, 48.4s adrift of first place. After slipping to third in the morning through a combination of minor driving a pace note errors, the Estonian regained second when overnight leader Craig Breen retired.

However, with two stages remaining Kaur trailed Northern Irish driver Alastair Fisher by more than one minute. But when Fisher rolled into a tree one kilometre from the finish of the penultimate stage, Kaur was able to inherit a lead he wouldn’t relinquish.

“I’m so happy,” said the 23-year-old. “We had some problems this morning and even though I didn’t imagine I could win I did not give up. I have learned a lot and progressed a lot. This is the perfect start for me.”

Victor Henriksson, from Sweden, finished second despite having to nurse a faulty driveshaft through the closing stages of the event. German Christian Riedemann took third with Australian Brendan Reeves recovering from his puncture on Friday to claim fourth.

After losing five minutes while spectators helped to haul his Ford Fiesta R2 back onto its wheels following his roll on stage 12, Fisher limped to the finish in fifth overall. “I was so close, I’m just so disappointed because I only made this one mistake all rally,” said the 22-year-old.

Behind sixth-placed Argentine Miguel Baldoni, Andrea Crugnola recovered from a handful of overshoots to finish seventh with Molly Taylor eighth. The Australian - one of six Pirelli Star Drivers in action on the event - rolled on Friday’s final test and reported a problem with her car’s alignment on Saturday, which she suspected was a legacy of the incident.

Italy’s Matteo Brunello recovered from a handful of moments to take ninth with Dutchman Timo van der Marel completing the list of finishers in 10th following suspension problems on Saturday morning.

Portugal is famed for its demanding gravel stages and several drivers hit trouble on the final day. Czech Jan Cerny dropped out with a broken driveshaft, rear suspension failure accounted for Spaniard Yeray Lemes, while Fredrik Ahlin stopped on stage 12 when he was on course for his second fastest stage time of the event. Russian Sergey Karayakin’s challenge ended on the final stage of the rally.

While Breen’s hopes of victory where dashed, the Irishman didn’t leave Portugal entirely empty handed after bagging five points for his quintet of stage wins. Ahlin, Fisher, Henriksson, Kaur and Lemes also recorded fastest stage times.

Of the 18 rising young stars who took part on the opening superspecial stage in Lisbon on Thursday 10 reached the finish in Faro this evening. Rather than continuing their on-stage battle on Sunday, the Academy participants will spend the final day of Vodafone Rally de Portugal in a debrief session where they will analyse their respective performances.

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