FAST FREDDIE TAKES 11TH WIN
Loix earns another victory on the Belgian classic
Freddy Loix recorded his 11th win on the Ypres Rally after mechanical problems halted challenges from French aces Bryan Bouffier and Stephane Lefebvre on the European Rally Championship event.
Driving a Citroen DS3 R5, Bouffier led throughout the opening seven stages of Friday evening. But Loix was only 6.9 seconds behind overnight in his Skoda Fabia R5 and he was able to snatch the lead on Saturday’s first stage.
Things remained close between the pair until Bouffier retired on a road section prior to SS12 after suffering a gear selection problem during the previous test.
Loix couldn’t rest easy however, because Lefebvre was closing in on him in another Citroen – this one having required an engine change on the eve of the rally, keeping its driver out of the qualifying stage and consigning him to 24th on the start list.
Delays over the first leg left Lefebvre – who returns to the Ph-sport Citroen WRC effort in Poland this week – fifth and half a minute adrift overnight, but he won the first six stages on Saturday to move to within 5.3s of Loix. It looked as if SS14, the second run of the event’s longest test Hollebeke, could be the scene for a change of lead only for Lefebvre to stop with a broken gearbox.
That gave Loix an advantage of 45s going into the final loop of three stages, and despite taking it easy he was able to edge it out to 56.8s as he secured a fourth straight success in Ypres.
Loix topped an all-belgian podium, with Kris Princen climbing from fifth to second in his Peugeot 208 T16 R5 during Saturday and Bernd Casier taking third away from Vincent Verschueren on the penultimate stage. An immediate 10s penalty for being late into a time control looked as if it could then deny the Ford Fiesta R5 driver, but he made sure of the place by winning the finale.
Skoda driver Verschueren had challenged for the rally lead on the opening day but had a difficult second leg, not feeling well and making a number of mistakes including a final-stage spin that relegated him to fifth behind charging Dutchman Hermen Kobus. Eight-time Belgian champion Pieter Tsjoen was sixth, with Jaromir Tarabus the top ERC regular in seventh.
Alexey Lukyanuk made his Ypres debut with a chance of overhauling points leader Kajetan Kajetanowicz (who has always left the event out of his ERC programmes) but crashed on the first stage, breaking his Fiesta’s suspension. A faulty ECU on his Fiesta stopped him again on Saturday.
Britain’s Chris Ingram extended his ERC Junior lead with a third second place from as many starts since joining Opel. He had a rally-long scrap with team-mate Marijan Griebel – driving the Adam on Ypres for the third time – and remained within 10s of the German until backing off in the final few stages. Julius Tannert made it a 1-2-3 in the class for Opel, while Callum Devine ran as high as fourth on his category debut in another Adam before sliding into a ditch.
With Wojciech Chuchala absent after four straight wins in the ERC2 category, Tibor Erdi Jr had half an hour in hand over his heavily-delayed rival Giacomo Scattolon before going off with four stages to go, handing the Italian an unlikely triumph. Results 1 Freddy Loix/johan Gitsels (Skoda Fabia R5) 2h22m15.1s; 2 Kris Princen/ Peter Kaspers (Peugeot 208 T16 R5) +56.8s; 3 Bernd Casier/ Pieter Vyncke (Ford Fiesta R5); 4 Hermen Kobus/ Erik de Wild (Skoda Fabia R5); 5 Vincent Verschueren/ Veronique Hostens (Skoda Fabia R5); 6 Pieter Tsjoen/ Eddy Chevaillier (Ford Fiesta R5); 7 Jaromir Tarabus/ Daniel Trunkat (Skoda Fabia R5); 8 Claudie Tanghe/ Filip Cuvelier (Ford Fiesta R5); 9 Kevin Demaerschalk/ Bram Eelbode (Citroën DS3 R5); 10 Antonin Tlustak/ Ladislav Kucera (Skoda Fabia R5).
Class winners ERC2: Giacomo Scattolon/ Paolo Zanini (Mitsubishi Lancer E10); ERC3: Marijan Griebel/ Stefan Kopczyk (Opel Adam R2); ERC Junior: Griebel/ Kopczyk.
Loix/gitsels avoided attrition to win Another Belgian victory for the Skoda R5 crew
Lukyanuk crashed out