The Canary Islander set the pace on four stages to head Irishman Craig Breen and Italian Andrea Crugnola at the overnight halt in Trier.
“It’s great to be in the lead,” said Lemes. “The car is perfect and we’ve had no problems. We used old tyres on the rear this morning and I’m not even driving 100 per cent, because I’m keeping in mind the fact that this rally has a long way to go. I haven’t rallied on Tarmac [in the world championship] since last year so altogether I’m very happy.”
Breen, who started the event joint second in the title standings with fellow Pirelli Star Driver Brendan Reeves, is a strong second. “It’s gone well so far,” said Breen, who was quickest on stage four. “I gave it a reasonable push but of course Yeray is giving it a big push because he doesn’t have to worry about points.”
Reeves, meanwhile, dropped out of contention when he slid off the road on the opening stage and got stuck for a couple of minutes. The Australian is 14th overnight.
Championship leader Egon Kaur is fifth behind Jose Suarez after losing time with a slow puncture on the first stage. For Suarez, fourth spot represents a successful start to his Rallye Deutschland challenge: “I’m very happy about being fourth at the moment,” said Suarez. “The rally ends late tomorrow so there’s a long way to go. I had a bit of brake trouble but everything else was fine.”
Timo van der Marel is sixth with Jan Cerny, who was fastest on stage three, seventh. Sepp Wiegand, making a one-off outing in the WRC Academy in place of Christian Riedemann, is eighth with Swede Fredrik Ahlin ninth. Argentine Miguel Baldoni completes the top 10.
“I’ve only rallied on Tarmac once before in my life - Tarmac rallying is not allowed in Sweden,” said Ahlin, part of the six-strong Pirelli Star Driver team. “I think my accident in Finland has left its mark and made me cautious early on, so it was a hard morning. Our main goal is to finish.”
Alastair Fisher was a strong third overall starting stage six but a puncture has dropped him back to 11th, one place ahead of Estonian Miko-Ove Niinemae, who is competing on an asphalt rally for the first time.
Russian Sergey Karyakin, who is 13th overnight, admitted to struggling on the asphalt stages: “The Tarmac has been confusing for me, because it’s my first time on the surface apart from a five-kilometre stage I once did in Estonia. I struggled to get around the hairpins because I didn’t know how to use the handbrake on Tarmac. I’ve got a lot to learn.”
Molly Taylor, who suffered an early setback when she damaged the right-rear wheel of her Fiesta hitting a pole on stage one, failed to get beyond stage four due to a broken driveshaft.
"...I’m keeping in mind the fact that this rally has a long way to go"