Kris Meeke, 22 years after Jimmy McRae
The leader in the International Rally Challenge, Kris Meeke, confirmed his ambitions in the title race by taking first spot in the Belgian leg of the championship after a fierce battle with Freddy Loix, five times winner of the event in the Westhoek.
"When I came to Ypres, I never really thought I would stand a chance here", explains the Ulsterman, "When I saw I could keep up with Freddy, I decided to go for it and it worked. This is actually my first real great victory in a rally with a legendary name. I have to thank Kronos for having supplied a perfect car and win on my first participation to this event."
The main loser of the day, Freddy Loix, was the first man to congratulate Meeke, first over the air with Eurosport, later in person few metres after the finish of the marathon stage of Heuvelland. "We were in for a perfect run through, but then we suffered this fatal puncture. No doubt, it was my fault and this is where I lost the race," explains the friendly Belgian. "Still, this was one of the most fun rallies I competed in as it is much nicer to fight for every second than to finish miles ahead of the second in the ranking."
The other surprise of the rally was Jan Kopecky of Czech Republic who finished a mere 20 seconds from Meeke. Despite only setting one fastest time over the entire rally, this morning in Dikkebus, the Czech really performed constantly at a very high level hence finishing so close behind the winner.
Behind our three musketeers, we had a three way fight for fourth place between Tsjoen, Basso and Hanninen. The Finn seemed to have the upper hand but when he suddenly found Loix chasing him and found himself in a race for a podium spot, he upped the pace. This unfortunately ended up in suffering a puncture in the last stage. This did shake up the ranking as Pieter Tsjoen now found himself in fourth with Hanninen nearly one minute behind him. Giandomenico Basso was really unfortunate suffering multiple punctures and being overtaken by Gilles Schammel and Jasper Van den Heuvel who were fighting it out for, what they thought seventh place. Although Van den Heuvel lost out finally by one tenth of a second, he still won the 'classic' group N in an authoritarian way.
Caren Burton showed off his talent by finishing 15th overall and first in the Citroen Sport Trophy Belux. Matthias Boon took first spot in the Ford Fiesta Trophy.
In summary, we could say that with Meeke, Van den Heuvel, Burton and Boon each winning their category with some margin, this 45th Belgium Ypres Rally made quite some victims. Only 34 cars out of 70 entries reached the finish. The biggest losers were Francois Duval, who didn't make it past the first corner and 2008 IRC champion Nicolas Vouilloz who really misjudged an overtaking opportunity and parked his car in a ditch when trying to pass Solowow on the 8th stage.