With 7 fastest times on 10 special stages, Stéphane Lefebvre dominated the opening day of the 45th Condroz Rally. A first Belgian victory seems to be in the making for the French Citroën pilot, but his lead is limited to 14 “2 on Adrian Fernémont with ten more special stages to drive.
“I have found a good rhythm today and our set-up was excellent, but of course I can not lower the pace yet, the car feels good and tomorrow we will just continue this way,” says Stéphane Lefebvre.
The Frenchman has finished second in Condroz on two previous occassions – in both 2015 and 2016.
Adrian Fernémont was the fastest of the 18 Skoda’s at the start. In the morning he was fighting with Kris Princen, but the Belgian Champion ceased his rally after the fatal accident of his teammate Steve Matterne, where codriver Rik Vanlessen lost his life.
“From the first lap I had a good rhythm and I am particularly proud of being the fastest of the Skoda drivers even if Stéphane Lefebvre has a small lead. I think it’s hard to catch him tomorrow, but everything remains possible,” said Fernemont. He won the Spa Rally, his first and to date only win in the Belgian Rally Championship.
Vincent Verschueren is in third place at 32 seconds from the leader.
“We lost a bit too much time this morning, when we did not have the right setup. Then I could increase the pace. The car feels right now and I hope to be able to get a little better tomorrow,” said Verschueren.
The outgoing Belgian Rally Champion is being chased by Cédric Cherain with the difference being a very tight 0.6.
“We arrived at the car of Steve Matterne and Rik Vanlessen immediately after the fateful accident, we helped the crew and our car was blocked for several hours on that test. Therefore we had three standard times and we started again for the last two tests, We continued after consultation with my copilot Filip and our partners, that was very difficult, because of course you think between the trials with Rik and his family. It was important to find the concentration and we drove two more strong times, which closed the gap to Verschueren… It is all relative – everything is after the death of Rik …” Cherain said.
Ghislain de Mevius has moved up in the dark to 5th place, ahead of Cédric De Cecco, who makes a strong debut with the Skoda Fabia R5, and Kevin Demaerschalk, who has found more confidence in the Citroën C3 R5.
Another great achievement is the 8th place from Xavier Baugnet, who after 2 years of inactivity barely 1 “5 behind Demaerschalk with a similar Citroën C3 R5, while the local driver rides on Hankook tires, and the top 10 is completed by the Skoda Fabia’s R5. by Xavier Bouche and Olivier Collard.
In the Junior BRC Grégoire Munster stopped the fight out of respect for his teammate at BMA, but at that time the 19-year old Opel driver was already sure of the Belgian Junior-title. In the game, Tobias Brüls, whose Peugeot was stolen on Thursday evening, took the lead with a hired Peugeot 208 R2. Gilles Pyck follows in second place at barely 4 “, while Niels Reynvoet completes the provisional podium.
On Sunday, 10 special stages are scheduled in this 45th edition of the Condroz Rally.
Originally in Dutch, translated.