World Rally Championship press release
Fisher scoops maiden WRC Academy Cup victory at Rallye de France
British pairing Alastair Fisher and his co-driver Daniel Barritt claimed their first FIA WRC Academy Cup win on the penultimate round of the series this weekend at Rally de France.
It was Spanish driver Yeray Lemes who took an early lead of the WRC Academy pack winning the first competitive stage of the rally and claiming one stage point based on the WRC Academy Rule which awards one point per stage win. However, his lead didn’t last long as Pirelli Star Driver Craig Breen (IRL) stormed through SS3 blasting straight to the front of the field. Heading into Rallye de France, the Irishman was second in the Cup standings at 26 points behind WRC Academy Cup leader Egon Kaur (EST) and was determined to close the gap that he had halved by winning in Germany, with a strong result on French soil. His expectations were enhanced when Cup leader Kaur went off the road on SS3 and had to retire for the day. With the Estonian out of the game, Breen tackled the Alsatian stages with consistency. Despite a puncture on SS7, which made him slow down, he won six of the eight competitive stages - which granted him six WRC Academy bonus points - and finished Day One 24.6 seconds ahead of second-placed Lemes. The Pirelli Star Driver headed into Day Two with his mind focused on the prize. Unfortunately disaster struck on SS10 when he went off the road, broke a driveshaft on his Pirelli-shod Ford Fiesta R2 and was forced to retire. Breen’s retirement promoted Lemes back into the lead but with a long way still to go the driver from Lanzarote knew that he had to put in an extra push to take home the victory. Focused on getting to the finish unperturbed by driving steadily and confidently – and clocked three WRC Academy stage wins en route.
The battle for second place was a two-horse race between Fisher and José Suárez (ESP). Unable to match Lemes’ pace, Fisher’s main aim was to keep Suárez behind him and when the Spaniard had to ease off due to a gearbox problem on SS11, Fisher held on to second place. However, disaster struck for Lemes when, after a phenomenal set of stage times throughout the event, he was awarded a five minute time penalty by the Stewards falling to third place and promoting Fisher to the lead and Suárez to second.
On his second outing within the WRC Academy field, Sepp Wiegand (DEU) drove a consistent rally and eventually scooped fourth place even though he was not eligible to score WRC Academy points. Pirelli Star Driver and FIA Woman and Motorsport Commission driver representative Molly Taylor (AUS), claimed her best result this season by finishing fifth. Heading to GB the fight for the title is fiercer than ever with Kaur’s lead cut to 20 points ahead of Breen.
After a promising start in the event, Ashley Haigh-Smith (ZAF) had an accident on SS2 and was forced to retire from the event. The young South African was helicoptered to hospital in Strasbourg where he was diagnosed with a fractured shoulder and collarbone. His co-driver James Aldridge was also admitted with minor injuries and released from the hospital on Saturday afternoon. Both crew members will make a full recovery.
1st – ALASTAIR FISHER (GBR) – “Lemes won the rally on the stages and he did an awesome job. Of course it’s good to win the WRC Academy here in France but let’s hope I can put in the best times and win home ground in GB.”
2nd – JOSE SUÁREZ (ESP) – “It’s all good. I fought for second place but I just couldn’t make it. I feel I progressed a lot during this season, improving event after event. So now I have to focus on rally GB now and I really hope to get a good result there.”
3rd – YERAY LEMES (ESP) – “Of course it’s disappointing to drop to third after receiving a five minute penalty from the Stewards. However, it’s still great to have my second podium in a row and Alastair is a great driver, so I’m very happy for him.