“Neuville helps validate Ypres BRC move”
Ypres has got to be the event featured most in MN that isn’t part of the World championship or in the British one. It has a mystique about it, an aura. And it’s always been popular with British crews. The event was once a staple of the likes of Tony Pond, Jimmy Mcrae and Mark Lovell’s rally calendars and it’s easy to see why.
The stages are unique, with heavy cuts on bumpy and rapid asphalt. It persuaded the legendary rallies editor David Williams (DKW) out on many occasions, and it’s easy to see why. On a not unrelated note, the atmosphere of the event – which of course provides time for a lot of beer drinking – is still alive. The event had a stand at the Autosport International show and on Thursday, beer in plastic cups was the order of the day.
But the stages, atmosphere or drinking were prior knowledge about Ypres a long time ago, and yet onlookers still doubted whether the move was the correct one for the BRC at the time MN broke the news of its inclusion in the 2017 British Rally Championship.
Being at the show, the interest in Ypres was phenomenal, with organisers claiming that the major hotels sold out in two days after the event was announced as part of the BRC. That’s quick, even for an event the size of Ypres!
The inclusion of Thierry Neuville has gone some way to making the event even more attractive, especially for the frontrunners. The Belgian home favourite will take a Hyundai i20 R5 out for the weekend, thus giving the chance for BRC hopefuls to compete against someone who – on his day – is as quick as any driver in the WRC. That’s an opportunity too big to turn down, imagine the scalp of beating Neuville over his home stages. In fact, most will have to imagine as it isn’t likely. But drivers need an ego, and the chance to feed that ego is always attractive.
But for me, the atmosphere is the biggest thing attracting the BRC crews. Rallying in the UK has lost a lot of its social nature, and all too often negative headlines dominate some of our own events. Last year, the Circuit of Ireland and Isle of Man rallies were spectacular, but the events in mainland UK often lacked the ‘big event’ atmosphere. The trip to Ypres will give crews the chance to relive times gone by, not only in returning to stages where Mcrae, Lovell and Pond flew, but also a return to the atmosphere of a major rally, and the universal support of the local public. This is the BRC event that will thrill the most in 2017.
BRC is craving atmosphere, which Ypres provides