The fourth round of the JobFIXers Belgian Rally Championship, the Rallye de Wallonie was another thriller. Here are some things we noticed..
- The weather in Namur was truly Belgian. If you didn’t like it, wait 5 minutes and it will change (well except for the cold). The stages were often, wet – dry -wet, making it quite difficult to pick a tyre. In shades of Delecour at the Monte (or was it Bouffier?) who had local experts on hand (i.e. locals), Fernemont had the same. A bunch of people sent images to a WhatsApp group to help the team pick the best tyre. Sometimes the best solution is the cheapest one…
- The Rallye de Wallonie is a little different for the Belgian Rally Championship. It is run over three days with the opening night seeing two stages at the Citadel in Namur. It was a tough start for Fernemont who lost almost 5 seconds on the first stage – which was won by Sebastien Bedoret in a time of 2:32.5. The saying goes ‘you can’t win on the first stage but you can lose’. But you also have to be careful not to give away too much time. It makes a hard job more difficult and along with Fernemont, Vincent Verschueren lost 5.4 seconds on Friday night and Kevin Demaerschalk lost 8.7 seconds.
- The leader after Friday was Cedric Cherain. If you are wondering why I am so concerned with 5 seconds, it is because the rally was decided by just 3 seconds. It was a thrilling end to the rally where Cherain was 12.5 seconds behind Fernemont with 4 stages left to run. The sky looked dark and tyres were always going to be tricky. Fernemont went with wets, Cherain with dry. Amazingly, for the first time all weekend, the rain didn’t fall. Meaning Cherain’s gamble paid off. He took big chunks of time and the gap was down to 6 seconds with the final stage to go. He almost got it taking 3. The Fernemont camp surly had to hold their breath. But they made it for a home win – a TV appearance and (then, hopefully) a big party. One hopes no one has to be at work on Monday.
- Normally the BRC gets about 12 R5 entries, but this round, it was out to 22. And that was without Kris Princen. The addition, there was an amarda of Skodas and the Sebastien Loeb Racing VW with Xavier Bouche He would win SS10 and 13 to take 5th. Bouche knows the rally though, taking 2nd in 2016. For the others the best of the non-regulars was Rouard Bastien who does rally in Belgium and was in Haspengouw. This is his second rally in the Skoda and third in an R5 (also did a local rally in Ford last year). He showed well, taking the stage win on SS9 and was 9th overall.
- The Rallye de Wallonie shies away from the fields and rallies through many villages. One property owner will need a little paint and running repairs after two cars spun into the building. It was the edge of the building and shouldn’t affect the structure. One of the cars, a Peugeot 2018 R2 was damaged but no one was hurt. The perals of rallying…and of slippery hairpins.
Posted by Freddy Moureau on Saturday, 27 April 2019
Posted by Freddy Moureau on Saturday, 27 April 2019
- 6. Many of us, including me, were worried that the VWs would come in and steamroller the opposition. Now we are four rounds into the Championship and it doesn’t seem to be the case. Kris Princen has won twice for VW but the other wins have been for Cherain in a Skoda and Fernemont, also in a Skoda. Additionally, Patrick Snijers hasn’t come to terms with the VW and has been regularly down at the bottom of the top 10. But there is gloom for Verschueren. Champion in 2017, 2nd in 2018, he has only bad luck this year. But by his own admission he is off the pace and needs to find out why. He has switched back to Michelin so they have a known base to understand the car better. For Demaerschalk, the Citroen is getting better but still lacks the predictable nature needed. They have found some improvements in the diff settings, which was causing them problems. The team aren’t satisfied battling for points so expect to see them fighting up the front more.
- 7. Fernemont and Cherain shared the majority of stage wins with 9 to Cherain and 8 to Fernemont. Bouche to 2, Bedoret and Rouard took 1 each. In Junior, it was not so even with Gregorie Munster taking all bar one stage wins (though he did have to share SS1 with Tobias Bruls. Gilles Pyck in the Peugeot spoilt the perfect run by winning SS13.Munster would win by almost 3 minutes. Gino Bux took 10 stage wins in Historic in his Escort, having the pace on the second day. He did have to restsart under Superrally leaving Arthur Kurkhove to win with his 2 stage wins. Guino Kenis would win 8 stages but had a mechanical issue with his BMW.
The next rally is on the gravelly roads of Bouchot with the Sezons Rally in three weeks.
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