Toyota WRC pair expecting high puncture risk in Belgium

Toyota duo Elfyn Evans and Sebastien Ogier believe Belgium’s peculiar tarmac roads will present a high risk of punctures as several World Rally Championship crews venture into the unknown at the Ypres Rally.

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The championship’s top two are among a majority of WRC drivers tackling Ypres' famous asphalt roads for the first time this weekend as the famous Belgian event finally joins the WRC calendar.

Ypres is known for its fast and narrow tarmac roads featuring several surface changes punctuated by several junctions that provide plenty of opportunities for cuts.

These conditions, coupled with the new Pirelli rubber, which proved susceptible to punctures on tarmac in Croatia in April has both Ogier and Evans concerned.   

"There are a lot of things to discover. They are very specific roads and really narrow most of the time and lots of grip changes, and lots of cuts, even if there are less than before,” said Ogier.

“It is a big challenge and for the tyres we have kinda weak tyres on tarmac and the puncture risk is pretty high this week. 

“I hope this does not decide the result, but we have to keep in my that can be an issue.    

“We had a lot of punctures and a lot of slow punctures for many drivers [in Croatia] and it was very difficult to estimate how it happened. It is clear that the tyre is weak in this situation and with the amount of cuts we have this weekend that is the main concerns about the tyre.”

It is a view echoed by Ogier’s teammate and title rival Evans, who is also expecting Ypres to provide a tough challenge to master.      

“I think there are a lot of very fast sections and a lot of very tight junctions and with that a lot of cutting and quite a lot of surface changes,” said Evans. 

“It is very difficult coming here the first time to pick out the bits that will give odd grip and bad grip. We will have two discover that. 

“The biggest challenge is the unknown and the puncture risk is relatively high throughout the rally. 

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Given Ypres' unique tarmac roads, even seven-time world champion Ogier has sought advice from a specialist in these conditions prior to the event. 

The 53-time WRC rally winner has been consulting with former factory Citroen WRC driver Stephane Lefebvre, who contested the Ypres event five times when it was part of the European Rally Championship.

As previously reported, M-Sport Ford driver Gus Greensmith has enlisted the services of four-time Ypres Rally winner Patrick Snijers for valuable advice.  

“I had Stephane Lefebvre with me here during the recce and trying to give me some tips a little bit, he has quite some knowledge from these roads and that’s definitely a help for me and for Simon [Jean-Joseph] as well which is my usual gravel crew,” added Ogier, who leads Evans in the championship by 37 points.  

“But also, of course they’ve been talking together and trying to get the most experience we can from the guy who has the experience here because obviously I haven’t.

“To have some experience for some local guys or a guy who did the rally before is good for the first pass I would say, to try to anticipate a little bit where are the tricky places, where are the very slippery corners because some, visually you [can] see that the grip is lower but on some sections it’s actually not that easy to see it when we drive very slow during recce.”

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