Estonian pairing Egon Kaur and Erik Lepiksson stormed to victory on the third round of the FIA WRCAcademy Cup this weekend at Neste Oil Rally Finland, completing a full house of victories so far thisseason.
Rising to the top of a 16-strong WRC Academy field all in identically prepared Ford Fiesta R2swith Pirelli control tyres, he pipped Pirelli Star Driver Craig Breen (IRE) to the post by only 2.6seconds after being neck-and-neck as they headed into the final split of SS18, the last stage of the WRCAcademy event. Kaur claimed 25 points for the event win, while the WRC Academy rule which grantsone extra point for each stage victory earned him a further five points, giving him a mesmerising lead of52 points over now second-placed Breen in the Cup standings.
However, Kaur had a tough fight to claim the victory. Alastair Fisher (GBR) tore through SS1 to takean early lead, picking up four stage wins – and with them four vital WRC Academy points – in the firstsix tests. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be for the young Brit who rolled on SS7, the first stage afterDay Two Remote Service. His premature retirement promoted Kaur who started the event with a 32point lead in the Cup standings into pole position. Determined not to let Kaur take the victory withouta fight, Breen pelted across the rough terrain, tracking down his Estonian rival until two small‘moments’ for Kaur on SS12 and SS13 allowed the Irishman to steal the lead.
An early leader on both previous WRC Academy events this season, Breen was disappointed to retire inPortugal and only finish eighth in Italy. Out to prove himself this weekend, once he had victory and thefinish in his sights, he didn’t want to concede the win. However, Kaur’s unfaltering focus and relentlesspace through the rough stages meant he refused to let Breen get away throughout the morning of DayThree before blasting through the last two WRC Academy stages to add another victory to his everincreasing roll call of achievements. This left Breen a strong second, disappointed to have lost the victory at the last moment, but delighted to scoop 23 WRC Academy Cup points.
The final spot on the WRC Academy podium went to Timo van der Marel (NLD). Strong times on theopening loop of the previous WRC Academy Cup round in Italy were undermined by the Dutchman’spremature retirement. A more cautious approach this weekend left him in eighth at the end of DayOne, but an intelligent drive saw his caution dissipate as he got to know the unfamiliar Finnish stages.Despite being unwilling to push too hard for fear of losing Cup points, Van der Marel confidentlyundertook his own rally, unphased by the difficult roads and finished the event over a minute ahead offourth placed Pirelli Star Driver Brendan Reeves (AUS) to pick up 15 WRC Academy Cup points.Reeves was pleased to take home 12 points, consolidating third position in the series standings. FellowPirelli Star Driver, Jan Černý (CZE) followed him home in fifth.
1st – EGON KAUR (EST) – “It was an insane weekend, especially today when we were switching positions withCraig [Breen] every stage. We started SS18 with a 0.3 seconds gap and we were tied at the penultimate split. Onthe start line of SS18 we had to decide what we wanted to do, leave it or push and go for it. The feeling wasreally good so we went flat out and we did it! Next weekend I am competing in a local German rally to get someexperience on Tarmac. I’m glad we were able to secure a good lead before the Tarmac events because I lackexperience on asphalt.”
2nd –CRAIG BREEN (IRE) – “I lost a lot of time on SS16 where I was caught behind two cars. We really wantedto win, we were so hungry for this victory, but that’s rally and we can’t think too much about the ifs and buts.We have to focus on the rest of the season now and with Tarmac events to come I think we can do well andmaybe still win the Cup.”
3rd – TIMO VAN DER MAREL (NLD) – “We were in a position where there was no point pushing because therewas a big gap behind me and ahead of me. I just cruised through the stages today to avoid making any mistakesto try and secure third and score 15 Cup points. I’m looking forward to the Tarmac events, I think I will have anadvantage on those because I have more experience.”
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- Anguish for Craig Breen on Academy opener
- WRC Academy preview: Neste Oil Rally Finland
- Dramatic Academy victory for Kaur
- Academy wrap: Kaur makes it three
- Academy wrap: Kaur makes it three