BRC: Reynvoet wins in Wallonie to take the title advantage


Niels Reynvoet wins after an incredibly exciting final in the rain

The prizes will be distributed at the finish. That proverb certainly applied this weekend to the 41st edition of the Rally of Wallonia. The race was initially dominated by Adrian Fernémont and Jos Verstappen, but on Sunday afternoon, after a thrilling power stage in the rain in Vedrin, Niels Reynvoet went home with the maximum of points. The leader in the Kroon-Oil Belgian Rally Championship, also the fastest on the power stage, thus increases his lead in the championship standings. Maxime Potty finished in second place at 15″1 and Cédric Cherain came third at 22″9.

However, the opening round of the competition was dominated by Adrian Fernémont, two-time Belgian champion and mainly a man from the region with no fewer than 16 participations to his name. The Citroën driver made optimal use of the fact that Jos Verstappen discovered this course during his first participation. From the second lap, Jos Verstappen increased the pace, while Adrian Fernémont’s Citroën had problems with the pop-off valve, which regularly caused power losses. Meanwhile, vice champion Cédric Cherain, who damaged the radiator of his Hyundai on the jump in Wartet, suffered a puncture. That took him half a minute. Verstappen was able to end the opening day with a 12″ lead over Adrian Fernémont.

“It went really great. In the first lap you have to feel where the asphalt offers grip and where the conditions are more delicate. Then I, together with my co-worker Renaud and the ouvreurs, improved the notes and I was able to increase the pace. But “On Sunday morning I will rediscover the first three tests, which will cost me some time,” said Jos Verstappen on Saturday evening.

Adrian Fernémont knew what he had to do. He had to take maximum advantage of the opening lap and Jos Verstappen’s lack of course knowledge to close the gap with the leader. The attack was opened, but just before the finish the Citroën driver hit a straw bale. The damage was too extensive to continue driving.

With a half minute lead, Jos Verstappen seemed to control the race, but during the second passage in Naninne he punctured two tires. With only one spare wheel in the trunk, he had to give up. Suddenly the game was completely open again. Because Cédric Cherain received a 5-second time penalty for not taking the roundabout in Naninne, where he made a slide, Niels Reynvoet started the very last test with a 1″3 lead over Cédric Cherain and 2″9 over Maxime Potty. And then it started to rain… Maxime Potty was on Michelin’s hard compound, but remained clear. Cédric Cherain, on the other hand, took a lot of risks, but was hampered by malfunctioning windshield wipers and went around. Niels Reynvoet had fitted two rain tires and won convincingly with a gun time that was no less than 12″ faster than that of champion Maxime Potty and 21″5 faster than that of Cédric Cherain.

Rain tyres

Rallye de Wallonie. Kroon Oil Belgian Rally Championship. Shot by Sam Tickell for (c)

“What an incredible feeling. Yesterday we lost a lot of time in the afternoon due to a wrong tire choice. We were on rain tires, but it did not rain. This time I had two rain tires and that made the difference. With this victory in my pocket, second only to the TAC Rally, we are going all out for the title this season,” said an emotional Niels Reynvoet.

Maxime Potty finished in second place. “You don’t have to win everything to become champion. Regularity is also important. No, we certainly tried. It was extremely fast at the front. We lost half a minute yesterday due to a slider at high speed in Wartet. It depended this weekend so many small details, but let’s not forget that Jos Verstappen and Adrian Fernémont were the fastest here.”

Cédric Cherain was particularly disappointed: “What else can you do? We really fought for every second. We came back from a lost position twice, first after the radiator we broke in Wartet on the jump and then after that puncture Saturday night. And then we go around on the last test through those damn windshield wipers…”

Bastien Rouard finished strongly in fourth place with the second Hyundai from BMA, after he increased the pace considerably, especially in the second half of the race. Fifth place went to Vincent Verschueren, who drove a great time on the last test with his C3 Rally2 on the hard tire compound.

After a difficult start to the race due to a lack of competitive rhythm, Cédric De Cecco advanced to a good sixth place. The Citroën driver’s times were excellent, especially on the final day. John Wartique, who lost quite a bit of time on Saturday by opting for rain tires while it remained dry, finished seventh, ahead of Emile Breittmayer, author of the second fastest time on the power stage, Sébastien Incardona and Tom Boonen, who crowned a flawless race with a top 10.

One favorite who unfortunately had to abandon the race early due to bad luck was Stéphane Lefebvre, who broke the gearbox of his Skoda Fabia RS on Saturday afternoon.

Rallye de Wallonie. Kroon Oil Belgian Rally Championship. Shot by Sam Tickell for (c)

Brasseur best Junior

In the Junior BRC and in the Stellantis Motorsport Cup, Pierre-Emanuel Brasseur impressed. Despite the fact that he drove his first race with the Opel Corsa Rally4, he remained perfectly in the wake of top favorite Tom Heindrichs. When he made a mistake in Naninne on Sunday morning, Brasseur was able to take advantage to take the lead, even though he also stalled the engine after a slide. The Opel pilot was very happy and emotional.

“This victory is very rewarding. For the last test it became even more exciting because of the rain, because I knew that Tom had two rain tires. He mounted them crossed, while I mounted my rain tires on the two front wheels. Fortunately, we remained faultless, but it was really exciting!,” said Pierre-Manuel. Third place in the Juniors went to Jonas Dewilde, the defending champion and leader in the Junior BRC.

In the Clio Trophy, victory went to the Roman Cristian Sugar ahead of the Dutchman Nard Ippen. In Historic, the victory went to Koen Verhaeghe, who with his Ford Escort Mk1 benefited from the engine problems of leader Dirk Deveux with his Ford Sierra Cosworth.
The next round of the Kroon-Oil BRC, the Season Rally in Bocholt, is scheduled for Saturday, May 18.