Stéphane Lefebvre won the 45th edition of the Condroz Rally, the final round of the Jobfixers Belgian Rally Championship. The 26-year-old Frenchman beat a strong race in which he was constantly pressured by an armada of Skoda drivers, led by Adrian Fernémont, Cédric Cherain and Vincent Verschueren.
However, this edition will be remembered for copilot Rik Vanlessen, a 52-year-old Limburg businessman who only discovered rally last year. He was tragically killed when the Skoda Fabia No. 7 Saturday afternoon left the road on the Ben-Ahin stage, the car hit a power pole at high speed and tragically, Vanlessen lost his life.
The game was not stopped, but out of respect team BMA, Belgian champion and teammate Kris Princen, who lost a friend, and Junior-champion Grégoire Munster stepped out of the race, as did Melissa Debackere. For the rest, they honoured Vanlessen’s memory by attacking the stages – as he had done.
After Adrian Fernémont achieved the fastest time on the first test, Stéphane Lefebvre took over the at the helm with the Citroën C3 R5. The 26-year-old Frenchman continued to rally on full-attack mode, because Adrian Fernémont continued to chase hard.
Even after the early challenge of WRC winner Kris Meeke ceased after a broken engine, the rally remained exciting. Fernémont closed the first day at just 14 seconds from Lefebvre, while Vincent Verschueren and Cédric Cherain were within half a minute.
Over the 10 special stages of Sunday the pace was very high, but nothing changed at the front. Even a blocked shock absorber could not keep Stéphane Lefebvre from winning. It was his first big win in Belgium, after previously taking 2nd two times before in Condroz.
“This victory is good, because I always dreamed of winning Ypres or the Condroz, and as a little boy I came to see those Belgian rallies with my father.The atmosphere is unique here”, says the Nordist, who has not yet concrete offer from Citroën to further defend their colors in the World Championship next season.
“This win is not going to change my career, although it is a great result, because we beat the Belgian top here and especially a bunch of Skoda’s.”
Adrian Fernémont finished in a very good 2nd place, making him third in the Belgian championship. The pilot from Namur has profiled himself as one of the title candidates for 2019.
“We have kept pace with Lefebvre for almost two days, which still has a lot of WRC experience. I lost a bit too much time in the beginning of the rally, because I was too cautious, which is promising for the future. I hope to find the budget for a tilt at the title in 2019. “
For the third place on Sunday, there was a hard fight between Cédric Cherain and Vincent Verschueren. In the end, Cherain from near by Liege took the final step of the podium
“It was a very tough race emotionally, especially as we were the first to arrive at the fatal accident.” We had a hard attack on Sunday and there was more, because I lost 10 “due to a time penalty and another equal number of seconds through three standard times … ”
Vincent Verschueren ended the season with a fourth place. “At the beginning of the race, I lost some time because the adjustments were not ideal, but we did not miss anything else, I gave everything, but apparently we are a fraction short of our new Fabia R5.”
For the 5th place there was a wonderful fight. It seemed to be won by Kevin Demaerschalk with the official Citroën C3 R5. However after the finish of the final stage, he received 20 “penalty time due to late clocking in on the podium in the morning.
This gave Ghislain de Mevius fifth with his Skoda Fabia R5 , just 3.5 seconds in front of Cédric De Cecco. Kevin Demaerschalk dropped back to 7th place, exactly 1 second ahead Xavier Baugnet. Baugnet returns after 2 years of absence made a nice comeback with a Citroën C3 R5. He could have taken 5th himself but Baugnet made an error on Sunday and dropped quite a bit of time.
In the Junior BRC the victory went to Gilles Pyck, while Grégoire Munster won the title. In Historic Didier Vanwijnsberghe was supreme after the early task of Gino Bux (gearbox), until the Toyota had to give up with engine problems. The victory went to Patrick Mylleville with his Porsche, the vice-champion behind Paul Lietaer.
From PR. Originally in Dutch translated by RacerViews.