The reign of Freddy VI We saw it coming, this sixth victory of Freddy Loix in the GEKO Ypres Rally. But rallying isn't exactly an exact science and anything could go wrong... It was clear from the stage one that Freddy Loix did not come...
The reign of Freddy VI
We saw it coming, this sixth victory of Freddy Loix in the GEKO Ypres Rally. But rallying isn't exactly an exact science and anything could go wrong...
It was clear from the stage one that Freddy Loix did not come to Ypres to play the second violin. We witnessed a fierce battle with Kris Meeke (Peugeot 207 S2000) straight away. This fight ended on Saturday morning inevitably in a big 'off', the Irish driver being the victim. " We were going flat-out and it was clear one of us was going to make a mistake ", admitted the former fellow of Colin McRae. Freddy suddenly found himself in the lead on his own... Well, nearly at least as Jan Kopecký did not give in without a fight. Early Saturday evening some of the TRC's reported how the Czech was taking few seconds back on his rival, but then lost few again against Fast Freddy. It sure was one way to show his team mate that his efforts would be in vein this weekend. " I cannot lift off really as Kopecký is really pushing still. To be honest, the rhythm was a tad lower than when were going head-to-head with Meeke. I was a bit anxious when I came here as I did not know how I would compare with the young guns in S2000. The competitiveness of my Skoda Fabia S2000 made me feel more comfortable quickly. This car is really fantastic. The handling and engine of this evolution are considerably better than those of my normal car. I am happy it's finished though..." And the car did, offering the friendly driver from Riemst his 6th victory in the City of Cats. Freddy VI really is the Emperor of Ypres.
That being said, for Kopecký and Skoda this was an excellent operation for the Championship. The party would have been perfect if Juho Hanninen had waltzed into the scenery on Friday evening. He was not the only one to fall victim to the treacherous Flemish roads. Stephane Sarrazin and Pieter Tsjoen (Peugeot 207 S2000) are probably two of the best known drivers to go off too. As a result, Belgium's most promising driver inched towards the podium. Thierry Neuville put down a fantastic performance here in Ypres and clinches third place. A clear sign of his growing level of maturity. Just behind him, Bernd Casier, driving the Skoda Fabia S2000 normally driven by Loix focussed on safeguarding his fourth position. His dream was a top five finish so he was really pleased. Andreas Mikkelsen was the other surprise of the weekend driving his new Ford Fiesta S2000 (for which Ypres was a first) into the Top 5 on Hankook tyres.
THE disappointment of the day surely must have come for Patrick Snijers (Peugeot 207 S2000) who managed to fend off the attacks of a well focussed Bruno Magalhães (Peugeot) while clearly driving a less competitive car... Until fate struck on the last run through Heuvelland. The engine of his 207 packed up and Snijers missed out on a well deserved sixth spot.
And this last stage claimed more victims than the seven-time Belgian Champion. Mathias Viane (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X) suffered a puncture and sees Stephane Lhonnay (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX) take home victory in Group N, despite suffering a puncture too. Jasper van den Heuvel (Evo X) had led this category fairly easily until his car left him stranded along a stage on Saturday morning. Alexandre Romain took over from the Dutchman but his intercooler started playing up. In short, the battle in this category surely was not one we would have predicted.
In the same way as van den Heuvel reigned over the Group N, Kris Princen led comfortably in the Renault Clio R3 series. A broken alternator sent him back home and Kevin Abbring took over the lead, winning the Clio Cup ahead of Pierre Campana and Eric Mauffrey, who in turn kept Alessandro Bettega at bay. The Dutch also dominated the Citroen C2 R2 Trophy, with Hans Weijs Jr. . Caren Burton was the only driver to give Weijs a run for his money but after suffering some clutch problems, he went off in a pretty spectacular way (he sent his car over the nose as the steering broke after a pretty bad landing, jumping over a crest). Martin McCormack inherits second place. Another memorable moment came when Burcu Cetinkaya destroyed her Peugeot 207 S2000 against a big concrete pole, just near where Burton made his fatal mistake.
No 'fiesta' for everyone at Ford either ! Cedric Cherain and Cedric De Cecco took the lead but the first broke his engine while the other disappeared in the depths of the rankings. Kevin Demaerschalk was going very well too, but also went off. This left the road wide open for Ghislain de Mevius to claim victory ahead of Anthony Martin who was too careful. Filip Pyck comes home 3th.
We also want to mention the performance of local driver Didier Vanwijnsberghe (Skoda Fabia S2000) who finishes for the 20th time on 20 participations to the Rally of Ypres. Well done!
The 46th edition of the GEKO Ypres Rally was sure a lively one and will definitely go down as one of the better ones in the history of the race.