“Ypres, or Wipers, has al­ways been spe­cial” ”

Motor Sport News - - Rally News - Photos: mck­lein-im­age­database.com, FIA ERC

eper. Ypres. Wipers.

There’s al­ways been a spe­cial place for this week’s Bel­gian clas­sic in the Mo­tor­sport News of­fice. Back when we were known as Motoring News and David Wil­liams ran the show, Ypres was a very, very big deal. In his own slightly ec­cen­tric way, DKW re­fused to call the event by any­thing other than its Flem­ish name, Ieper. To the rest of us, it was Wipers. What­ever you call it, the Ypres Rally was and still is one of the world’s best. And DKW knew that bet­ter than most – he’d seen it from the in­side: from the in­side of his Rover 114 GTI, the car he used to fin­ish the 1993 event.

David was a fear­some ped­aller on asphalt, never truly trusted him­self on the loose, but he couldn’t half scare of­fice ju­niors when it came to an asphalt rally or get­ting around the North Cir­cu­lar to Crouch End be­fore clos­ing time at his lo­cal.

DKW loved Bel­gian ral­ly­ing and Ypres in par­tic­u­lar. I well re­mem­ber con­ver­sa­tions with him and with Colin Mcrae about what made it so spe­cial. Mcrae drove a Ford Sierra RS Cos­worth on the 1990 event and sim­i­larly en­joyed the at­mos­phere – par­tic­u­larly on recce, where crowds would be three and four deep as the crews prac­tised into the night. The roads might have been open, but the lo­cals knew bet­ter than to stray onto them.

The am­biance around the Grote Markt in the cen­tre of town is spe­cial and one many world cham­pi­onship rounds could learn a lot from. Ypres re­mains a cor­ner­stone of Euro­pean ral­ly­ing, but it seems its time at the heart of the Euro­pean Rally Cham­pi­onship could be com­ing to a close.

Ypres Rally man­ager Alain Pe­nasse lays plain his con­cerns for the ERC over the page and it’s hard to dis­agree. The pol­icy of sell­ing cal­en­dar slots to the high­est bid­der has al­ways been a ques­tion­able one, but what the ERC lost in terms of some du­bi­ous events, it made up for in terms of a great tele­vi­sion prod­uct. With­out a cast, even that’s look­ing like a stretch right now.

And, let’s face it, Eurosport’s rac­ing equiv­a­lent, the World Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship is hardly a pow­er­house se­ries is it? I know we’re grap­pling with the con­cept of a level play­ing field in the WRC, but the WTCC’S use of suc­cess bal­last surely demon­strates the low­est com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor in turn­ing sport into en­ter­tain­ment.

So, all is far from rosey in Eurosport’s gar­den. But through the clouds gath­er­ing over­head, there’s a flash of sil­ver lin­ing in the shape of Fran­cois Ribeiro. Ribeiro’s a sharp mo­tor­sport busi­ness op­er­a­tor, some­body well ca­pa­ble of sail­ing the ship through such stormy seas.

The ERC has its strengths, in­clud­ing a £150,000 pri­va­teer prize purse and an ad­mirable Ju­nior se­ries, but clearly some­thing will have to change if it’s to avoid a re­turn to the pits of un­pop­u­lar­ity ex­pe­ri­enced through the com­pli­cated days of co-ef­fi­cient rounds.

Even DKW strug­gled to find favour with that for­mat.

Harry Hunt will re­turn to Dakar in Jan­uary – but this time he’ll do it on the back of even more test­ing as he aims to eclipse this year’s de­but top-10 re­sult. The 27-year-old Bri­ton will con­test next month’s Silk Way Rally, a 6,000-mile race from Rus­sia to China, in the same X-raid-run Mini ALL4 Rac­ing he’ll use in South Amer­ica in Jan­uary. Hunt and co-driver Andy Schulz will then re­turn to Oc­to­ber’s Ral­lye du Maroc to re-ac­quaint them­selves with driv­ing in the dunes. “Our Dakar this year was a dream run,” said Hunt.“it will be a hard act to fol­low, with the op­po­si­tion get­ting stronger and stronger, but this is our aim.” Be­fore those off-road events, Hunt and his Union Flag-liv­er­ied Mini will be seen at this week’s Good­wood Fes­ti­val of Speed.


El­fyn Evans/craig Parry Fredrik Ah­lin/ Morten Erik Abra­ham­sen David Bogie/ Kevin Rae Tom Cave/james Mor­gan Josh Mof­fett/john Rowan Desi Henry/ Liam Moyni­han Jonny Greer/ Kirsty Rid­dick Euan Thor­burn/ Paul Beaton Jock Arm­strong/ Paula Swin­scoe (SRC) Garry Pear­son/ Rob­bie Mitchell (SRC)

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