IRC: Belgium Ypres Rally shakedown notes

A promising shake down The entry list for the 45th Belgium Ypres Rally already looked very promising and the results of the shake-down confirmed that there will be a close battle for the win. This were back to normal near Ypres as the opening...

A promising shake down

The entry list for the 45th Belgium Ypres Rally already looked very promising and the results of the shake-down confirmed that there will be a close battle for the win.

This were back to normal near Ypres as the opening practice for the Belgian leg of the European Championship and the IRC attracted a large number of spectators. Everything went well with no incidents reported either on the track or with the safety of the spectators. And the public got what they came for as the drivers were showing off their skill during the one and a half hour session which was reserved only to the 25 top drivers on the entry list.

Six of drivers (four from Peugeot and two from Skoda) put down a time between 2'49"2 and 2'49"4. It cannot get any closer. Straight away Francois Duval showed why he was in the Westhoek by setting a time of 2'50"2 on his first run through the stage. The other had to have a few go's at it but managed to better his stage time. It was dark and the roads were dirty by the time the Skoda Belgium driver came out again but he anyway equalled the best performance, despite having badly set-up headlights.

The big surprise of the shake-down was Thierry Neuville. The young man is only competing in his 13th or 14th rally ever and drove a Super 2000 for the first time. He still equalled the best time, which confirms that the jury made the right choice to award him the wheel of the BF Goodrich car.

The only other driver to go as fast as Neuville and Duval was Jan Kopecky. He reinforces his performance last year in Ypres and the promising performance of the Skoda Fabia. Kris Meeke went all out to but unfortunately took a wheel of his Peugeot 207 before being still setting a good time.

"These roads really leave no margin for error," said Meeke. "You really have to be careful. I will have to be careful also if I want to remain in the race for the IRC title. Every driver also has 'his' rally. Kopecky has the Barum and here, Freddy is the one to watch--"

Let's also not forget to mention the 14th and 15th best time for Alex Bengue and Guy Wilks on their original Opel Corsa and Proton Satria. The Frenchman was happy: "I don't really have any racing rhythm at the moment though as I haven't driven since last year November and it is the first time I take the Corsa out in the dry. We only held one short test in the area of Epernay, France, but unfortunately, it was raining. The objective is to gather as much data as possible for MSD. We shouldn't kid ourselves. Teams like Peugeot, Skoda and Abarth really test a lot." For Guy Wilks it was also the first time in the Proton in these conditions: "It's the first time I take the car out on tarmac and we didn't do any testing before. We can still improve."

Bernd Casier was quite surprised: "I really feel well in the Punto; I thought we were really going fast but our time wasn't really so good. I must admit that I did brake a bit early every time I saw the walls of the farm where I 'parked' my car last year."

Andy Lefevere was less fortunate as he put his C2 on its roof on the market place of Nieuwkerke while the C2 of Andy Gaban ran on three cylinders only. It is going to be a long night for Caen Rallysport.

-credit: ypresrally.com

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