IRC: Peugeot Ypres Rally preview

Stephane Sarrazin returns to rallying in a 207 Super 2000 One of the 207 Super 2000s will be driven by Stephane Sarrazin: "Everyone says that this is a very complex rally, and that the stages are slippery and very tricky. Everything will be new...

Stephane Sarrazin returns to rallying in a 207 Super 2000

One of the 207 Super 2000s will be driven by Stephane Sarrazin: "Everyone says that this is a very complex rally, and that the stages are slippery and very tricky. Everything will be new for me, and I haven't driven the 207 Super 2000 on asphalt since January. I've been told that there is plenty of heavy braking, but that doesn't bother me unduly; as a racing driver I should feel at home. My role will be to help Kris Meeke by trying to finish ahead of his rivals..."

The Frenchman won't be the weekend's only Ypres rookie, since the list also includes Bruno Magalhaès. "It's a unique and very famous rally," says the Peugeot Portugal driver. "You only need to look at the entry list to realise how difficult my job will be. There are so many other drivers who have good knowledge of the stages. The only opportunity I will have to fine- tune the set-up recommended by Peugeot Sport will be shakedown, but everyone in the team is looking forward to the challenge!"

Belgian drivers are traditionally very strong in Ypres, and many of this year's local stars have chosen to contest the event in a Peugeot 207 Super 2000, including Melissa Debackere, the 2001 winner Pieter Tsjoen and Patrick Snijers. The Belgian veteran clearly has the most experience of the event since he has won it four times, a record which is far superior to that of Thierry Neuville who is 30 years younger than Snijers. "I have done this event twice so far, and I have yet to reach the finish," recalls the Peugeot Belgium-Luxemburg youngster. "That's something I would dearly like to put right this year, so I intend to start cautiously and gradually up my pace..."

Last but not least, Burcu Cetinkaya will use the weekend to continue to familiarise himself with the IRC: "I've done this event twice in a two- wheel drive car and I went off each time," smiles the Peugeot Turkey driver. "I hope it will be third time lucky this year... Both times, I was caught out by one of the sudden changes in grip. This time round, I will be able to benefit from a pre-rally test. I intend to use that opportunity to find a set-up that makes the car as easy to drive as possible."

The Geko Ypres Rally starts at 4pm on Friday June 25, and finishes at 10:40pm the following day. The total stage distance is 293km.

The Peugeot 207 S2000 looking to defend its unbeaten record in Ypres

The Belgium Ypres Rally - which has this season changed its name to become the Geko Ypres Rally - has been a round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge since the creation of the series in 2007. In that time, has been won every year by a 207 Super 2000. This time round, Peugeot seems to be in particularly strong position to maintain its unbeaten record on the event.

The best qualified driver to talk about the Belgian event is the 2009 winner and defending IRC champion Kris Meeke.

"Last year, when I first discovered the route during recce, I wondered where I had landed. It's such a strange, unique event," recalls Kris Meeke. "It's not until you actually get to do the stages in anger that you realise what a challenge they are. The roads are very fast, but also incredibly narrow, so your driving needs to be extremely precise and it isn't easy to pull out any real gaps. You have to hit the ground running and keep up a quick pace all the time, otherwise you can soon end up losing two or three places."

That said, the Peugeot UK driver's win at first attempt in 2009 suggests that he lost no time in coming to terms with the Belgian rally: "I want to win again this year. However, if I don't, I will settle for a top result. Experience of Ypres has taught me that you mustn't push too hard here. If your driving isn't natural, your stage times won't be good..."

Ypres calls for a very specific asphalt set-up

"The surface can be quite cut up in places," says Bertrand Vallat, the Peugeot Sport engineer in charge of the 207 Super 2000's development. "Good traction is vital, as is stability under braking. Grip varies considerably, especially when the weather is changeable. That's why you need a forgiving set-up that isn't too pointy. Rather than maximise cornering performance, you have to be sure that the car is easy to drive whatever the conditions..."

The entry list for Ypres features no fewer than twenty-three Super 2000 cars, including eleven 207 Super 2000s.

-source: peugeot

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Stéphane Sarrazin , Kris Meeke , Bruno Magalhaes , Thierry Neuville