Craig Breen has become the inaugural WRC Academy Cup champion by the smallest of margins following a dramatic finale to the season in Wales this evening.
Breen needed to win the event and claim the maximum number of fastest stage times as possible to stand any chance of taking the title from Egon Kaur, who’d led the standings from the opening event of the season.
Although victory on the rally was secured when Breen completed the final Myherin stage with a dominant margin of 4m36.1s over Kaur, he had to wait for the Estonian to complete the 27.88-kilometre run before he could celebrate the title in case Kaur went faster than him and deprived him of the final bonus point he needed to draw level with Kaur in the standings.
With the title decided in favour of the driver with the highest number of fastest stage times during the course of the year, Breen had done enough to take the title and the 500,000 Euros scholarship prize handed out to the winner.
“I can’t find words to describe this moment,” said Breen, who reported a small gearbox problem this morning. “For sure it’s the most amazing feeling to finally get here after all the effort we’ve put in all year, all the ups and downs we’ve made it to the finish. We’ve finished level on points but we’ve got it on stage wins so we’re absolutely thrilled.”
Kaur said he lost time stuck behind a slowing car on the final stage. “We pushed on the last one but we lost time and we lost the title because of this,” he said. “But Craig has done a really good job. He pushed very much, we used a strategy to keep our car safe but it was not enough.”
Northern Ireland’s Alastair Fisher finished third overall to claim third overall in the final standings despite a fraught finish to the event. “We had a broken steering column for the last stage so we had strap the steering column to the roof for the last stage using a ratchet strap,” explained Fisher. “We got through it okay and to be third in the championship is what we deserved after the problems we’ve had this year.”
Christian Riedemann finished fourth with Molly Taylor taking fifth after a slow puncture cost her 40 seconds on Saturday’s third test. Sergey Karyakin was sixth with Valentin Hummel seventh on his WRC Academy debut, although the German is not eligible for points after registering for the series after the deadline.
Andrea Crugnola was next to finish followed by Spaniard Yeray Lemes after a puncture on stage 14 caused a four-minute delay.