For the organizers from Namur, the last few weeks have been synonymous with work and stress: “After all, the registrations didn’t come in smoothly,” says Etienne Lerson, chairman of AC van Namen. “It never happened before that we had only 50 registrations a week before the rally. We are used to receiving the entries from the top runners late, but this time the influx of amateurs started slowly, so it was a relief for the whole team that the situation changed drastically in the last few days so that the entry list eventually increased to 89, all the more so because there are no fewer than 22 top class (R5) cars in the Belgian championship entered, but despite the huge group of top cars, there is a lot of interest in the local amateur teams – who have always been the breeding ground for our rally – are becoming increasingly difficult to complete the budget. ”
The field of participants is very strong because of the exception of Kris Princen, all the tenors of the championship are present in Namur. Starting with Cédric Cherain, perhaps Princen’s most important rival. After his early retirement in Tielt, the driver from Fléron will want to take revenge during the race he won in 2015. His VW Polo GTi R5 is currently an excellent weapon for that but it won’t be simple against the large group of Skoda Fabias.
In the Czech clan there are countless front runners such as Adrian Fernémont, who was second last year and who is now not hiding his victory ambitions. The same story we hear with Sébastien Bedoret After his podium places in Haspengouw (third) and Tielt (second), the representative of the Belgian importer can do one more position to open his BRC honors list. However, let us not forget last year’s winner Vincent Verschueren (now codriven by Stéphane Prévot), or Ghislain de Mévius, who wants to prove that he can rally consistently at the front. Bastien Rouard, David Bonjean, Cédric De Cecco, Niels Reynvoet, Olivier Cartelle, Jourdan Serderidis and Alain Litt, however, will also want to surpass themselves, while we will certainly also see the performances of Pieter-Jan-Michiel Cracco, who will discover the Fabia and Amaury Molle who makes his R5 debut in his own backyard.
In addition to Cherain, there are three other VW Polo GTI R5 with Xavier Bouche, Patrick Snijers and Henri Schmelcher. The interests of Ford are, in turn, defended by Philip Cracco and Christophe Verstaen, but it is not expected that the Fiesta’s will play at the very front. Kevin Demaerschalk, the only one with a Citroën C3 R5, hopes to play a role there and, based on his handsome times in Tielt, that is certainly possible. The Dutchman Martin Van Iersel provides some diversity with his Hyundai i20 R5. While there is also the come-back of the Skoda Fabia S2000 thanks to Johan Van Den Dries, Olivier Collard is looking even further for the budget to join a Skoda Fabia R5 just like last year (when he became fourth). They are Mitsubishi Evo10.
In the GT class, for the amateurs of the better slides and an impressive “sound”, Porsche is the largest group. The leader there is Pascal Gaban with his 3.6 version, the winner of this category in Spa. He will compete against Laurent Léonard who this time comes with the copy of Francis Lejeune, Romain Delhez and debutant Laurent Vanton. Just like in the R5 platoon, the originality in this group comes from the Netherlands via the Nissan 350Z from Dieter Toprek, now one of the loyal customers in Jambes.In addition to the two top classes, the public will also be happy with the return of 3 Ford Escort Millington, equipped with a sequential gearbox and an engine that delivers nearly 300 hp! Two of them are in the hands of former winners Robert Droogmans and Hubert Deferm. They are competing against the Luxembourgman Bob Kellen, who will have good references to these former champions. Although they are gradually becoming rarer, the Mitsubishi’s beautiful machines remain and Anthony Martin (Evo10) and two-time champion of Luxembourg Yann Munhowen (Evo8) will certainly want to prove that. For that, however, they will have to take into account the BMW E46 (ex-Lefevere) from Manu Bouts, mainly because they want to compete against the Porsche’s 997 GT3. And he is certainly capable of that. Finally, fans of “pioneers” will look forward to the Fiat Punto S1600 from Stephan Hermann and the Opel Corsa M2000 from Hugues Smal.
We can also prepare ourselves for a fun spectacle in the R2 category, especially among the young wolves of the Junior BRC. Although – after his heavy crash during the TAC – the participation of Grégoire Munster (Opel Adam R2) has yet to be confirmed, he can prepare himself for strong weathering from Glenn Snaet, Tobias Brüls, Thibaud Mazuin, Gilles Pyck (all with a Peugeot 208 R2) who makes his appearance after a few months of absence.
Furthermore, a dozen historics provide the necessary nostalgia. The favorites of the Belgian championship there are: Dirk Deveux (Ford Sierra Cosworth 4×4), Guino Kenis (BMW M3) and Gino Bux (Ford Escort MK1).
Finally, we also mention that this rally also counts for the Luxembourg championship and that the Wallonia rally, following good tradition, starts on Friday evening (26 April) with a double super-show test at the Citadel of Namur. The competition will continue on Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 April in the Namur region.
Originally in Dutch