WRC Ypres Rally Belgium - Event Preview | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile
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WRC Ypres Rally Belgium - Event Preview

  • gb
06.08.21

The FIA World Rally Championship is back on asphalt but heading to unchartered territory when Ypres Rally Belgium takes place from August 13-15.

Ypres Rally - Photo: courtesy of the event organiser

With its base in the West-Flemish city and the event’s deciding leg on August 15 in and around Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps to the east in Wallonia, two icons of Belgian motor sport will unite for what promises to be a memorable weekend right across the country.

Previously a round of the FIA European Rally Championship, the event’s rise in status is eagerly anticipated and follows a patient wait after hopes of a first WRC appearance in November 2020 were scuppered by restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

A nation with a rich rally heritage – and a 13-time world championship event winner in Thierry Neuville – Belgium finally gets is chance to join the global stage when it becomes the 35th country to host a round of the WRC.

The first edition of what became the Ypres Rally took place in 1965, one year after the town’s historic Market Square was chosen as a location for a time control during a Rallye Monte-Carlo concentration run. Since then, the event has grown in stature, as has the challenge faced by drivers and teams.

An asphalt rally like no other, driving precision is a vital ingredient for a successful Ypres Rally mission. The farmland roads around Ypres are narrow and twisty and littered with tight junctions. Brake too late or push too hard and a trip into one of the many drainage ditches that line large chunks of the route is often the result. 

Corner ‘cutting’ is also commonplace, which results in mud and other debris being dragged onto the road. In the event of rain – a constant menace – an extremely slippery surface is created with the challenge multiplied on cobblestone sections.

As well as being a new addition to the WRC calendar, Ypres Rally Belgium is new for the bulk of the World Rally Car contingent. Only Thierry Neuville and Craig Been have competed in Ypres before. And having won in 2018 and 2019 respectively, the Hyundai team-mates will be expected to set the pace when the 20-stage event begins.

In terms of the FIA World Rally Championship, Sébastien Ogier has been setting the pace for much of the season. Having won four of the seven rounds held so far in 2021, the Toyota-driving Frenchman heads the Drivers’ standings by 37 points over team-mate Elfyn Evans, with Neuville 15 points further back. But having been handed the tough task of opening the road on day one of the recent dry gravel rallies, Ogier is set to benefit from running at the front on the first pass through Friday’s sealed-surface stages, which are expected to be in a clean state.

Ogier, Evans and Neuville were all upstaged on the previous round in Estonia by Toyota’s rising star Kalle Rovanperä, who became the youngest WRC winner in history aged 20 years, nine months and 17 days.

After his retirement on home soil in Estonia last month, Ott Tänak will be hoping for a change of fortune in Ypres, an event his co-driver Martin Järveoja has contested twice in the past.

Adrien Fourmaux returns to M-Sport Ford’s World Rally Car line-up alongside Gus Greensmith having chased FIA WRC2 points in Estonia. The Frenchman will effectively swap cars with Teemu Suninen, who reverts to M-Sport’s Ford Fiesta Rally2 for his Ypres debut.

Toyota development driver Takamoto Katsuta has recruited Keaton Williams to deputise for regular co-driver Daniel Barritt, who is close to regaining full fitness following a back injury sustained on Rally Estonia. Pierre-Louis Loubet completes the World Rally Car entry for 2C Competition.

With the FIA WRC2 championship top five either not competing in Ypres or not eligible for points, several rivals have the opportunity to make up lost ground in the title chase. They include Nikolay Gryazin, who was a competitor in the FIA ERC Junior Championship when he made his one and only Ypres start to date in 2016, plus Jari Huttunen and Oliver Solberg. The Nordic pair have the honour of giving the Hyundai i20 N Rally2 its competition debut. Suninen and reigning FIA Junior WRC champion Tom Kristensson complete the WRC2 runners.

In FIA WRC3, which has attracted 19 entries, Frenchman Yohan Rossel will be aiming to extend his lead at the top of the standings but faces strong opposition from a number of leading local drivers, many of whom have extensive Ypres knowledge to call on. Among them are former Ypres winner Pieter Tsjoen, whose last WRC appearance was as a co-driver on Rallye Monte-Carlo in January, Belgian champion Adrian Fernémont and current Belgian championship leader Ghislain de Mevius.

Sami Pajari moved to the top of the FIA Junior WRC standings with his first victory on Rally Estonia last month, but his advantage over Mārtiņš Sesks is a slender four points. Round one winner Jon Armstrong is also well placed in the title battle, which has one event remaining after Ypres.

Ypres Rally Belgium is also a round of the FIA RGT Cup. In addition to French frontrunner Emmanuel Guigou, the all-Alpine A110 entry includes legendary Belgian motor sport all-rounder Marc Duez, the 1982 Ypres winner.

 

THE 2021 ROUTE

Located in the Flanders region in northwest Belgium, legs one and two follow ultra-compact routes north and south of Ypres respectively and comprise tight and twisty farmland roads lined by drainage ditches and telegraph poles. Following morning Shakedown, eight stages – including the classic Kemmelberg complete with a cobblestone climb – are scheduled for Friday August 13 from early afternoon until late evening. Hollebeke, the rally’s longest stage at 25.86 kilometres, is run twice on Saturday August 14, while Dikkebus and Watou are among the Ypres favourites to also feature on day two. The deciding leg on Sunday August 15 is all-new and located some 300 kilometres to the east with roads in and around the famous Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, home of the Belgian Grand Prix, providing the challenge. While they are more flowing in nature, they are not to be underestimated.

 

RALLY DATA

Total distance:   949.49 km
Stage distance:    295.78 km
Number of stages:  20

 

MEDIA ACCREDITATION

Media accreditation and attendance is strictly managed by modified terms under COVID-19 regulations. All attendees are required to comply with the COVID protocol as defined by the event organisers (Please refer to information published on the event website, www.ypresrally.com, and Bulletin 2 in particular in the Official Notice Board section).

Media accreditation must be collected personally by accredited Pass Holders at the Accreditation Desk, located at the Media Center at the Novotel Ieper Centrum, Sint Jacobsstraat 15, 8900 Ypres, Belgium (GPS coordinates: 50.8504° N, E 2.8894° E)

The opening hours are:
Tuesday 10 August: 14:00 – 20:00 hrs
Wednesday 11 August: 10:00 – 18:00 hrs
Thursday 12 August: 10:00 – 18:00 hrs

 

2021 WRC YPRES RALLY BELGIUM TIMETABLE AND MEDIA OPPORTUNITIES

Wednesday 11 August 
Mandatory media safety briefing via video conference (details TBC)17:00 hrs
  
Thursday 12 August 
FIA Press Conference, via video conference (details TBC)17:15 hrs
-FIA WRC17:15 hrs
-FIA WRC217:25 hrs
-FIA WRC317:35 hrs
-FIA Junior WRC17:45 hrs 
WRC family photo in front of the Menin Gate (P1 drivers/co-drivers)19:30 hrs
Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate (3 nominated P1 drivers)20:00 hrs 
  
Friday 13 August 
Shakedown for P1 drivers and invited drivers, SD Langemark08:01 – 09:30 hrs
Shakedown for all Priority drivers except P4 (optional), SD Langemark09:31 – 11:30 hrs
Start of Sections 1 & 213:00 hrs
First car arrives media zone, tech. zone, regroup & service (TC4A), Ypres16:34 hrs
First car arrives for media zone, tech. zone, & service (TC8A), Ypres21:13 hrs
  
Saturday 14 August 
Start of Sections 3 & 4, Ypres08:10 hrs
First car arrives media zone, tech. zone, regroup & service (TC12A), Ypres12:33 hrs
First car arrives for media zone, technical zone & service (TC16A), Ypres17:33 hrs
  
Sunday 15 August 
Start of Sections 5, 6 & 7, Ypres04:50 hrs
Media zone at TC19A Regrouping, Pitlane Box 42, Circuit de Spa10:56 hrs
Media zone during Podium holding (TC20A), Circuit de Spa12:38 hrs
Podium Ceremony & Prize Giving, Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps13:30 hrs
FIA Press Conference, via video conference (details TBC)14:45 hrs
-FIA WRC2, WRC3, Junior WRC winning drivers14:45 hrs
-Top three overall drivers and winning manufacturer representative14:55 hrs

 

FIA PRESS CONFERENCE ATTENDANCE

Thursday 12 AugustFIA WRC
 Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT – Sébastien Ogier (FRA)
 Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT – Thierry Neuville (BEL)
 M-Sport Ford WRT – Adrien Fourmaux (FRA)
  
 FIA WRC2
 Hyundai Motorsport N – Oliver Solberg (SWE)
 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team – Tom Kristensson (SWE)
  
 FIA WRC3
 Yohan Rossel (FRA)
 Ghislain de Mevius (BEL)
  
 FIA Junior WRC
 Sami Pajari (FIN)
 William Creighton (IRL)
  
Sunday 15 AugustWinning FIA Junior WRC Championship driver
 Winning FIA WRC3 Championship driver
 Winning FIA WRC2 Championship driver
 Top three drivers in the overall classification
 Representative of the winning manufacturer

 

MANUFACTURER WRC ENTRIES, 2021 YPRES RALLY BELGIUM

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRTSébastien Ogier (FRA) / Julien Ingrassia (FRA) - #1
 Elfyn Evans (GBR) / Scott Martin (GBR) - #33
 Kalle Rovanperä (FIN) / Jonne Halttunen (FIN) - #69
  
Hyundai Shell Mobis WRTThierry Neuville (BEL) / Martin Wydaeghe (BEL) - #11
 Ott Tänak (EST) / Martin Järveoja (EST) - #8
 Craig Breen (IRL) / Paul Nagle (IRL) - #42
  
M-Sport Ford WRTGus Greensmith (GBR) / Chris Patterson (IRL) - #44
 Adrien Fourmaux (FRA) / Renaud Jamoul (BEL) - #16

 

2021 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP CLASSIFICATIONS

The provisional classifications for all the WRC championships are available here.