Home hero Freddy Loix has won the Geko Ypres Rally for an eighth time on the back of a faultless display as the FIA European Rally Championship made its annual visit to Belgium for the all-asphalt spectacular.
The ŠKODA Motorsport driver, who entered his first Ypres Rally 20 years ago, led from the start having also set the pace during Thursday evening’s Qualifying Stage – the first ever on a Tarmac event – which marked the competition debut of MICHELIN’s new PILOT Sport R asphalt tyre.
As well as celebrating Loix’s record-extending win in Ypres, the fans who flocked to the stages in huge number were treated to a glimpse of rallying’s exciting future right here, right now, when Kris Meeke and Thierry Neuville demonstrated the new-generation Peugeot 208 T16 and M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5 respectively as course cars. The R5-specification machines were fast and created considerable interest.
Elsewhere, Mitsubishi Lancer pilot Andy Lefevere took full advantage of Andreas Aigner’s woes to win the ERC Production Car Cup in a stunning fourth overall as fellow Belgian Xavier Baugnet clinched the ERC 2WD Championship spoils in a Peugeot 208 R2. Melissa Debackere won the ERC Ladies’ Trophy on her debut in the contest in a fine seventh overall.
With an advantage of 1m36.2s starting leg two, which covered almost 200 timed kilometres, Loix and co-driver Frédéric Miclotte could afford to manage their pace on a mainly dry second leg in their works-prepared Fabia Super 2000.
“Right from the start I had a great feeling with my car and I was able to push,” said Loix, who made his Ypres debut in 1993. “We showed a very good speed in difficult conditions. At the moment when Craig [Breen] had problems it was a little bit slowing down and just trying to get to the finish. I am very happy.”
But while the Belgians remained out of reach in top spot, a battle raged for second place between Peugeot 207 S2000 drivers Bryan Bouffier and Craig Breen, who had dropped out of the lead battle when his car suffered a front-left driveshaft failure on Friday evening.
Bouffier began day two 46s ahead of Breen in his Cuckoomobile.be entry. But after going on a five-stage winning streak on the final morning, Breen was able to demote Hayden Paddon for third before slashing Bouffier’s advantage to a little more than 20s. However, Bouffier hit back by winning the first of two stages to take place over the border in his native France, before Breen overshot a junction and stalled the engine in his Peugeot Rally Academy entry on stage 14. Bouffier continued to resist Breen’s threat by scoring another four stage wins, a performance that earned him the prestigious Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy.
It would prove to be a dramatic end to the rally for Breen who went off on the final stage and ended up stuck in a ditch. He eventually regained the road thanks to the help of several spectators but feared his hopes were over until the stage was cancelled after the cars of Davy Vanneste and Mikko Pajunen caught fire and blocked the stage, thankfully without injury to either crew. With the results declared at the end of stage 19, Breen was classified third behind Bouffier.
Vanneste’s exit handed fourth to Lefevere – they had been in a close scrap at the time – with Dutchman Hermen Kobus fifth and Michał Sołowow sixth. Behind Debackere, former Hungarian champion András Hadik impressed on his ERC debut in eighth with Antonín Tlusťák finishing ninth and claiming another strong haul of points for the GPD Mit Metal Racing Team in its quest for the European Rally Championship for Teams. David Croes took 10th with Aigner battling to the finish in 11th in his Stohl Racing Subaru Impreza R4 STI for crucial ERC Production Car Cup points.
Aigner was on course for his third consecutive victory in the division only to drop back when he damaged his car’s left-rear wheel striking a tree on Saturday morning. A puncture and a loss of brakes caused further misery for the Austrian.
Former Production Car world champion Hayden Paddon was in fourth overall when he crashed out at high speed on stage 14. Although he and co-driver John Kennard were uninjured, damage to the Fiesta’s radiator after the car struck a tree meant they were unable to continue. “The rear of the car snapped sideways for no apparent reason, which spun us down the road,” Paddon said.
Germain Bonnefis was the sole finisher for Team Renault Sport Technologies in 12th following Robert Consani’s exit on leg one. Marco Tempestini finished eighth in the Production Car Cup for the Napoca Rally Academy with Zoltán Bessenyey taking ninth in ERC 2WD for Eurosol-Honda Civic Type R.
The Geko Ypres Rally marked the halfway stage of the 2013 ERC season when the scores of drivers, co-drivers and teams from the first six events are effectively frozen as only the best four results from the first six rounds – plus the best four results from the final six events are considered.
TOP 10 POSITIONS (after 20 stages, 297.93 kilometres)
1 Freddy Loix (BEL)/Frédéric Miclotte (BEL) ŠKODA Fabia 2000 2h32m19.4s
2 Bryan Bouffier (FRA)/Lara Vanneste (BEL) Peugeot 207 S2000 +1m21.0s
3 Craig Breen (IRL)/Paul Nagle (IRL) Peugeot 207 S2000 +1m52.5s
4 Andy Lefevere (BEL)/Andy Vangheluwe (BEL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +6m36.4s
5 Hermen Kobus (NLD)/Erik de Wild (NLD) Ford Fiesta S2000 +6m41.2s
6 Michał Sołowow (POL)/Sebastian Rozwadowski (POL) Ford Fiesta RRC +7m00.0s
7 Melissa Debackere (BEL)/Cindy Cokelaere (BEL) Peugeot 207 S2000 +9m38.5s
8 András Hadik (HUN)/Krisztián Kertész (HUN) Subaru Impreza R4 STI +10m09.3s
9 Antonín Tlusťák (CZE)/Jan Škaloud (CZE) ŠKODA Fabia S2000 +10m25.6s
10 David Croes (BEL)/Eric Tack (BEL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +12m07.7s
ERC Production Car Cup:
Andy Lefevere (BEL)/Andy Vangheluwe (BEL) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X
ERC 2WD Championship:
Xavier Baugnet (BEL)/Eric Borguet (BEL) Peugeot 208 R2
ERC Ladies’ Trophy:
Melissa Debackere (BEL) Peugeot 207 S2000
Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy:
Bryan Bouffier (FRA)
SS1-20: Freddy Loix
Day one (Friday 28 June, 101.86 kilometres):
SS1: Dikkebus 1 (14.30kms): Overall: Loix/PC: Aigner/2WD: van der Marel
SS2: Wijtschate 1 (24.89kms): Loix/Lefevere/Arellano
SS3: Langemark (13.82kms): Loix/Lefevere/Boon
SS4: Dikkebus 2 (14.30kms): Loix/Aigner/Baugnet
SS5: Wijtschate 2 (24.89kms): Loix/Aigner/Heuninck
SS6: Mesen (9.66kms): Paddon/Aigner/van der Marel
Day two (Saturday 29 June, 196.07 kilometres):
SS7: Vleteren-Krombeke 1 (14.34kms): Breen/Lefevere/Boon
SS8: Watou 1 (12.44kms): Breen/Lefevere/Boon
SS9: Westouter 1 (7.39kms): Breen/Lefevere/Baugnet
SS10: Kemmelberg 1 (14.19kms): Breen/Lefevere/Boon
SS11: Heuvelland 1 (14.99kms): Breen/Lefevere/Baugnet
SS12: Lille-Eurométropole (9.85kms): Bouffier/Hadik/De Cecco
SS13: Show Wasquehal (1.88kms): Loix/Aigner/Radoux
SS14: Hollebeke 1 (28.82kms): Bouffier/Lefevere/van der Marel
SS15: Vleteren-Krombeke 2 (14.34kms): Bouffier/Lefevere/Baugnet
SS16: Watou 2 (12.44kms): Bouffier/Lefevere/Baugnet
SS17: Westouter 2 (7.39kms): Breen/Lefevere/De Cecco
SS18: Kemmelberg 2 (14.19kms): Bouffier/Lefevere/Heuninck
SS19: Heuvelland 1 (14.99kms): Bouffier/Lefevere/Baugnet
SS20: Hollebeke 2 (28.82kms): Stage cancelled
ERC rally wins in 2013: Jan Kopecký 3; Bryan Bouffier 1; Jari Ketomaa 1; Freddy Loix 1.
ERC stage wins in 2013: Jan Kopecký 21; Craig Breen 17; Robert Kubica 16; Bryan Bouffier 14; Jari Ketomaa 8; Freddy Loix 6; Raimund Baumschlager 3; Bernardo Sousa 2; Jan Černý 1; Beppo Harrach 1; Kajetan Kajetanowicz 1; Luis Monzón; Ricardo Moura 1; Jaroslav Orsák 1; Hayden Paddon 1; Václav Pech 1.
Sibiu Rally (Romania), 25-27 July