Will Stéphane Lefebvre remain unbeaten?
After a break of three months, the second half of the season in the Kroon-Oil Belgian Rally Championship opens with a top bill. In the Ypres Rally, the Belgian round of the FIA World Rally Championship, our national rally drivers can compete with the absolute world top in their category for three days. It promises to go fast on the narrow lanes in the Westhoek.
In the category for Rally2’s, the bill is even more impressive than in the top class, where 10 hybrid Rally1’s make the most of it. Our compatriots will compete with some semi-official WRC tenors, such as WRC2 champion Andreas Mikkelsen with a Skoda Fabia, former factory driver at VW and Hyundai, Jari Huttunen with a Ford Fiesta, also former factory driver at Hyundai, Frenchman Yohan Rossel, last year’s authoritarian winner of the Spa Rally, and the spectacular Nikolay Gryazin in his VW Polo.
They are transparent for the BRC classification, which cannot be said of the Brit Chris Ingram, who registers for the BRC for the occasion. The Skoda driver has Kroon-Oil as a partner: “And I’m really looking forward to my participation in Ypres,” says the sympathetic Briton, who was European rally champion in 2019. “I’ve ridden in Ypres a lot, at the time still in the Junior ERC. I think it’s a great event, so I like to compete against the Belgians, who are always strong on these jobs.”
The field of BRC drivers is led by Stéphane Lefebvre, who is still unbeaten on Belgian soil this season. Grégoire Munster, who overturned at high speed in Staden on Sunday during his last preparatory race, will defend the colors of Hyundai. He is in 5th place in the BRC, but he took his points in 2 matches and can still contribute a lot of points. Let’s not forget that the Ardeca Ypres Rally is the first “Mandatory” race of the BRC. Three results in the final settlement (out of six) must have been achieved in one of the four mandatory matches.
Vincent Verschueren is also aiming for a top result with his VW Polo from Godrive. The mechanics of the VW were in any case completely renewed for this important appointment. Gino Bux, second in the standings of the Kroon-Oil BRC, will start a little later this time, as he did not enter WRC2, but as a non-priority driver. This means that he will face a less favorable starting position, as will Maxime Potty and Sébastien Bedoret, who will start again with a Skoda Fabia Rally2 Evo from SXM. Let’s not forget that Bedoret gave the international field a beating last year, until the mechanics failed on the final day.
The starting field looks downright impressive, with Davy Vanneste behind in his Citroën C3, also Freddy Loix in a Skoda Fabia Rally2 Evo. The Ypres record holder with 11 victories is aiming this time at the Masters in the WRC. In the battle for victory in the BRC Master Cup, he will have to deal with Jos Verstappen, who will discover the Ypres stages with his Citroën C3 Rally2. This is also his big WRC debut for Niels Reynvoet, who had to give up after a sortie during testing last year.
Last year’s winner is also present. Pieter-Jan Michiel Cracco hopes to find the right settings by the start to go full throttle with his Hyundai i20 N Rally2.
Continuing in the top class is looking forward to the comeback of Bernd Casier with his Ford Fiesta. Other Ford drivers are regional drivers Steve Becaert, Nicola Stampaert and Etienne Verbeke, the entrepreneur from Ploegsteert who will realize his dream by participating in his home rally. Alexandre Verbeke opts for a Citroën, while Maxime Soete has his eye on a Skoda.
The BRC Master Cup will be contested on two fronts in the Ardeca Ypres Rally. Both in the WRC moto and in the national side-race, riders will start who have already reached the milestone of 50 years this year. That is why the classification of the BRC Master Cup will be closed on Saturday evening after 16 special stages, so that all participants have completed the same distance.
Because leader Jourdan Serderidis gave up his seat to give Sébastien Bedoret a boost, we get an exciting battle. Top favorite is in any case Freddy Loix, navigated by Pieter Tsjoen. Fast Freddy is the absolute record holder with 11 wins in Ypres and this season he has shown at the Masters in the WRC that he is still very fast on any surface. We are even curious how high Mister Ypres can aim between the young Rally2 crews.
The story of Jos Verstappen is almost the opposite. While Loix knows every stone, Jos Verstappen still has to discover everything in Ypres. It promises to be a tough one for the Dutchman, but his second place in the Monteberg Rally should give him confidence.
Behind the Masters in the top class, it remains to watch out for four-time Ypres winner Patrick Snijers, who is feeling good with the Ford Fiesta Rally3. Among the rear-wheel drive units, we also only find fast routiniers, such as Tim Van Parijs (Porsche), Guino Kenis (BMW M3), Didier Vanwijnsberghe (BMW M3), Stefaan Prinzie (Alpine A110 RGT) and of course spectacle man Paul Lietaer, who made his first meters with the Alpine A110 RGT that he will drive in Ypres.
We also find a number of participants in the BRC Master Cup in the national side competition, such as Michel Vandergeeten (Lancia Delta Integrale), Dirk Vermeersch (Fiat 124 Abarth), Geert Lacour (Porsche), Patrick Mylleville (Porsche), to win the most important to call.
The big question is whether Freddy Loix can also use his experience on the Ypres tests this time to win the Masters here too.
Any car that was previously active in the Kroon-Oil Belgian Rally Championship can start in the Ypres Rally or its national side-race. For example, the organizer of the only WRC round in our country offers the rally drivers who have opted for the 2WD Trophy with limited resources, which are driven with street tires and regular petrol, the opportunity to enjoy the big rally party. The fast, bumpy and slippery special stages will be a serious challenge for the road-shod pioneers. Driving a small pioneer across the start-finish podium on the Markt of Ypres, where the big factory teams have built up their impressive infrastructure, is a dream come true for the 2WD boys.
Bruno de Wilde, the leader in the standings of the 2WD Trophy, has done everything to be at the start in Ypres. He managed to get the budget to start with his Honda Civic. He will receive feedback from the Clios of Guillaume Detrait and Stefaan T’joens. The latter in particular should be able to make a difference in West Flanders.
Because the drivers will not make it clear which tires they will be driving until after the scrutineering, we will know the final grid in the 2WD Trophy later this week, which will be flagged on Saturday evening after 16 special stages.