BRC: Potty turns up the pressure on Lefebvre


The opening evening of the Ardeca Ypres Rally was a captivating affair.. Stéphane Lefebvre took hold of the rally by taking the stage win on the first three stages in his Hyundai i20 N Rally2.

Ardeca Ypers Rally. 2024 Kroon Oil Belgian Rally Championship. Shot by Sam Tickell for

He did enough to end the day in the lead but Belgian Rally Champion, Maxime Potty is just 7.7 seconds back. Potty, who is behind the wheel of a Toyota Yaris Rally2 for the first time, has the measure of Cédric Cherain and Freddy Loix. However, the field is tight with nine drives within a minute of the lead and with 133 km of action to go, everything remains possible. 

Belgian Rally Championship leader, Niels Reynvoet was in second place at the start of the second loop, but on SS5, Vleteren, he hit a wall, causing significant damage to the front steering and suspension. It forced the championship leader to retire. This gave Maxime Potty more motivation, which was clear as the Toyota driver took two stage wins on the second loop to bring the gap down to Lefebvre to just 7.7 seconds.

“Everything remains possible, even if I am in between two trains of thought. Of course I would like to win Ypres, but after Reynvoet’s retirement I can also do a good thing in the championship. In the second round there was less dust on the track and we mostly had a better tyre choice. On the first loop I was on the soft S10 Michelins, while the harder M20 was much more efficient due to the sunny weather. Plus,I am getting to know the Toyota better,” said Potty.

Stéphane Lefebvre struggled with a Hyundai that was difficult to turn in, which meant he could no longer challenge for stage wins. The other two stage wins in the second loop were taken by Jos Verstappen, who is doggedly chasing down the gap after his flat tyre in Zonnebeke. With this performance, Verstappen has already advanced to 9th place.

Third place is currently in the hands of Cédric Cherain, who is relatively satisfied: “I lost 17 seconds in the first loop to Stéphane. This round we lost another 5 seconds. So it was better, but still not good enough…,” said Cherain.

Freddy Loix was satisfied with his 4th place 29.8 seconds off the lead. “Those young guys in front of us have more rhythm. Considering my age and lack of rhythm, I am certainly satisfied. Although I must say that it is less easy for me to make progress with the Yaris than what I used to with the Skodas, which I had developed myself.”

Vincent Verschueren probably had the best evening since his switch to Citroën. He sits in 5th place, ahead of Bjorn Syx, who made the mistake of making his C3 Rally2 harder for the second round. Apparently it was at the expense of efficiency. Although it must also be said that Gilles Pyck was also unable to maintain the rhythm of the leaders in the second loop. Pyck now follows, 40.9 seconds off the lead but just half a second behind Syx. Bernd Casier is in 8th after the first evening, ahead of Verstappen and Rouard, who benefited from a mistake by Fred Miclotte.

Davy Vanneste, who was in 7th before the penultimate test, was forced to retire from the day due to mechanical problems.

Pierre-Manuel Brasseur remains the fastest among the youngsters in the Stellantis Motorsport Rally Cup. He has a 23.5 second lead over Maxim Decock and 27.2 seconds over Lander Depotter. Depotter lost considerable time on the first stages due to a poor set-up which resulted in a lot of understeer. He leap-frogged Jonas Dewilde to 3rd place on the last stage of the evening, while Tom Heindrichs is 34.2 seconds behind in 5th.

Patrick Snijers was another big name victim of the second loop. Competing in the RGT class, he was forced to retire his Porsche 997 GT3 on the last special stage of the day, in Zonnebeke,as he had a broken engine. The braking problems that plagued Kris Princen’s Porsche in the first loop have been resolved and the Limburger took the lead from Snijers. Tim Van Parijs,who had some bad luck on the first loop, moved up to second place, a good 30 seconds behind Princen. Tuur Vanden Abeele rose to the podium positions, but perhaps he should pay particular attention to Melissa Debackere, who is hot on Vanden Abeele’s heels. This is only her third rally with the Porsche.

Steve Bécaert is the only Mitsubishi pilot still on board, after an earlier retirement from Frederik Lerminez, Kurt Boone also had to throw in the towel at Zonnebeke with a broken driveshaft in the new Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX.

In the Historics,

it is a West Flemish battle between Pieter-Jan Maeyaert and Paul Lietaer. Sadly, Chris Ingram had to throw in the towel on the last special stage, due to technical problems in the Syx-BMW M3. Lietaer, on the eve of his 67th birthday, honestly said that he couldn’t go any faster, and that he even went slightly over the limit several times with the Opel Ascona 400.

Pieter-Jan Maeyaert, who leads by 13 seconds, had no problems with the BMW M3 throughout the Friday stages. The Roeselare contractor was quite satisfied with the setup and the stage  times, although he said that on Zonnebeke, the closing stage on Friday, he was flirting with the limits. Christophe Merlevede (BMW M3) sits in third, a good 2 minutes in arrears.