It was another great rally in the JobFIXers Belgian Rally Championship. A totally different style of rally from the opening round. We know how it looked and what happened, but what are some of the other stories around…
- The 2 Volkswagens were nowhere near the pace they showed in Haspengouw. The differences between the two rallies are profound. Haspengouw is more of a ‘point and squirt’ rally where Spa was far more flowing, and far more slippery. The weather was unpredictable, perhaps meaning that there was not enough data on the VWs to help them in the tricky conditions
- The VW drivers reported that the cars were nervous. After Haspengouw, the drivers said that there wasn’t the understeer in the car that the Skodas have. By having less understeer, the car appears to be loose at the rear in tricky conditions. Something, I am sure the competitors will get on top of. Even so, a DNF and a fourth doesn’t suggest a great rally, but the VWs did take three stage wins (Princen in SS4 & SS5 while Snijers took SS20).
- There was a great fight in the R2 class. This point is for the runners-up Timo and Rebecca van der Marel. They had the pace of Gregoire Munster for the rally only to lose 6 seconds on the final stage and lose the win. It was a bitter blow. Still they took 12 stage wins and 8th overall in their Opel Adam. Up against a factory supported driver, and someone in the car a whole lot more often, their pace cannot be overlooked. They had a part season last year in the TER but still took 3rd in class at the end of the year, including a class win in the Rallye International du Valais. They have a fuller schedule this year. Though I do wonder what they could do in an R5, if the money was there.
- Gregiore Munster a massive 6 seconds off their opponent in the final stage but what is more impressive, he took 5 seconds off his previous run around the Spa stage. The conditions were tricky with rain and dry patches, snow descending on the region. Munster is a talent, driving the car a lot. In Haspengouw, he was unbeatable. The car looked almost new at the end. Now he is off to the ERC – further important development. Future star.
- Onto the leaders…Saturday was all about Cedric Cherain and Pierre Sibille. 10 stages wins from the 12 stages on day 1, they were near on unbeatable. Then on Sunday they a further four stage wins. At no point throughout the rally did they finish outside the top 3. After a 2nd on Haspengouw, they lead the Championship, but we know that budget could be an issue…
- Then there is Adrian Fernemont and Samuel Mallien. They were 19 seconds down after day 1, but clawed back time on Sunday. They were the fastest runners on leg 2, 6.4 seconds faster than Cherain. But it wasn’t enough and they would finish 13 seconds down. The time loss could be found in two stages – they lost 8 seconds to Cherain on SS4 and 5 seconds on SS13. Without that lost time, the finish would have been a lot more tense! Still, like Cherain, he didn’t finish outside the top 3 on any stage and took 7 stage wins on Sunday (plus an equal win on Saturday) to stake his claim to be a title contender.
- The Wallonian police were on their game over the weekend with three drivers disqualified for speeding on the road sections…
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By Sam Tickell
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