Lemes took the lead on Friday’s second stage when Jose Suarez, who extended his overnight advantage with fastest time in the opening test, rolled into retirement. Four consecutive stage wins earned Lemes a 31.2sec lead over Tidemand.
While the accident probably ended Suarez’s title chances, victory for Lemes would keep alive his own championship hopes heading to the season finale at his home round in Spain.
“We’re treating each stage as if it’s the first time we saw it and it’s paying off,” said Lemes. “The car feels good and the driver and co-driver are working well. Everything has come together and it will be important to get into the same rhythm quickly tomorrow because the stages total a lot of kilometres.”
Tidemand was equally content in second. “Lemes is going fast but, with the way things are taking shape in the championship, I don’t really want to get sucked into a fight with him. Saturday will be all about consistent runs without taking risks, particularly as the forecast is for heavy rain,” he said.
Hugo Arellano lies third, 1min 26.4sec off the lead on his JWRC debut, while little more than half a minute covers Marius Aasen, Martin Koci and Michael Burri who complete the top six.
All drivers are at the wheel of Hankook-shod, GEM-fuelled Ford Fiesta R2 cars.
Seven stages south-west of Strasbourg, covering 134.93km lie in store today before the finish.