In the past seasons, the title fight in the Belgian championship was extremely exciting, but in the end it always ended in a two-way fight between Kris Princen and Vincent Verschueren. This year the title fight is even more exciting. After four races, three different drivers already have a win while a number of contenders want to be on the highest level this year. Just think of Vincent Verschueren, but also of the young guns, such as Sébastien Bedoret.
All of the championship’s contenders are at the start this weekend in Bocholt, North Limburg, for the fifth round of the JobFIXers Belgian Rally Championship. There a special challenge awaits them, as about a quarter of the course consists of mesh pebble. The rolling boulders provide a very special driving experience. You need guts keep the gas at the bottom on the famous mesh pebble.
Kris Princen looked to be on his way to victory last year, until a time penalty threw a spanner in the works. The title holder also starts as a favorite this year, especially with his VW Polo R5 from BMA. Vincent Verschueren, winner last year, takes up the challenge with the Skoda Fabia R5 from GoDrive. That certainly also applies to Cédric Cherain, who comes to Bocholt as a leader in the championship standings with a VW Polo R5, and Adrian Fernémont, the winner of the Wallonia Rally, who last year competed for the victory over his Fabia R5 before a mechanical failure.
Sébastien Bedoret, the official Skoda driver, wants to join in this fight with the car of SXM, just like Ghislain de Mevius, who has proven to be a podium contender. The son of Grégoire would like to be on stage this time, although he does not have much experience on unpaved roads of Limburg. It is also his first time with a top car on the Maas pebble roads. The same goes for Pieter-Jan Michiel Cracco, who recorded great times during his debut with the BMA Skoda. The young JobFIXers pilot certainly wants to compete with the most experienced pilot in the field, Patrick Snijers.
Snijers knows the mesh pebble like no other, because it was on that kind of surface that he learned his craft in his younger years. We are all wondering if Snijers can take part in the podium this time. Besides Princen and Snijers, BMA also uses a third VW Polo R5 for Henri Schmelcher, who already tasted the new R5 in Jambes.
The Ford colours are in good hands. After all, Stephen Wright returns to Bocholt again, because the Irishman likes the cosiness of Limburg but especially enjoys the beautiful gravel tests. Stephen has been on stage three times, thanks in part to the excellent notes from Eddy Smeets, who knows the course like no other. The other two Ford Fiesta’s R5 are in the hands of Dutchman Michiel Becx and Tuur Vanden Abeele, who gave his Fiesta R5 a thorough makeover after Haspengouw.
Former Dutch rally champion Erik van Loon starts in Bocholt with his Skoda Fabia R5 to thoroughly prepare his home rally, the ELE Rally. Last year Erik van Loon was fighting for a podium place when he had to retire. Martin van Iersel is back in his beautiful Hyundai i20 R5.
With 13 top cars from the R5 category, the 51-strong starting field looks qualitatively impressive. There is no shortage of spectacle, for that we can also count on the horsepower of the Porsches, including the 997 GT3 of Romain Delhez, and the BMWs of the M-Cup, in which it is particularly looking forward to the times of regional driver and gravity specialist Gunther Monnens. Franky Boulat will have to be strong to take his first victory of the season in the M-Cup, in which he has won the title for four years, to the Kempen.
From Saturday 18 May from 8h15 in Bocholt for three loops of 5 special stages (Goolder, Veldhoven, De Hees, Steenberg and Gerdingen), good for 154 competitive km.