Freddy Loix maintained his comfortable overnight lead to win the GEKO Ypres Rally in Belgium for a seventh time.
Loix led the Intercontinental Rally Challenge qualifier from start to finish and moves back to the top of the IRC standings as a result.
The Belgian’s victory, at the wheel of a Škoda Motorsport Fabia Super 2000, also puts him joint top with Juho Hanninen in the list of all-time IRC event winners, with seven triumphs to his name.
Loix, who was co-driven by fellow Belgian Frederic Miclotte, was in control throughout the event. Not even rainfall prior to Saturday’s opening test knocked him off his stride as he sped to a commanding victory by 1:41.6 over Peugeot France driver Bryan Bouffier. Hans Weijs claimed an impressive third on his debut behind the wheel of a Fabia and on his first start in this year’s IRC.
Guy Wilks began day two in second overall and on a high aboard his Peugeot UK 207 after he set the fastest time on the day’s first stage. But a double puncture on stage 10 wrecked his hopes and dropped him to 11th overall. Despite a slow puncture causing a spin on stage 15 and a further deflation on stage 16 holding him back, Wilks snatched fifth on the final stage with the fastest time.
Bouffier was the chief beneficiary of Wilks’ downfall when he moved up to second overall, having overtaken Pieter Tsjoen for the final podium place on stage eight. While Bouffier enjoyed a trouble-free run to the finish, Tsjoen was not so fortunate following a bizarre incident on the road section heading to stage 11.
The six-time Belgian champion had stopped by the side of the road for a short break but inadvertently struck a small metal post as he pulled away, which damaged his Peugeot 207’s radiator. Although he made it through the stage, he and co-driver Lara Vanneste were unable to stem a water leak despite frantic repairs and the advice of several rival crews.
With Tsjoen out, Dutchman Weijs was now third and embroiled in a close fight with Bernd Casier, which raged until stage 14 when the Belgian stopped with power steering failure. Weijs had only managed a two-hour test in his Fabia before the start.
Casier’s unfortunate exit promoted Michal Solowow into a fine fourth with his M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000. But the Pole needed all his ingenuity to rectify a sticking throttle and reach the finish in Ypres’s historic Grote Markt.
Andreas Mikkelsen recorded four stage wins for Škoda UK Motorsport after he restarted under SupeRally regulations following his stage one exit. Thierry Neuville, one of the pre-event favourites for victory in his Team Peugeot Belgium-Luxembourg 207, also returned for Saturday’s action but withdrew after stage eight with suspension damage caused by striking a rock.
Final Results – Ypres Rally
|1||Freddy Loix||Škoda||Fabia S2000||2:40:03.9|
|2||Bryan Bouffier||Peugeot||207 S2000||+1:41.6|
|3||Hans Weijs||Škoda||Fabia S2000||+3:56.9|
|4||Michal Sołowow||Ford||Fiesta S2000||+6:06.8|
|5||Guy Wilks||Peugeot||207 S2000||+6:33.8|
|6||Karl Kruuda||Škoda||Fabia S2000||+6:40.6|
|7||Toni Gardemeister||Škoda||Fabia S2000||+6:57.4|
|8||Luca Rossetti||Fiat||Grande Punto S2000||+7:25.0|
|9||Brinke Ten||Škoda||Fabia S2000||+7:37.3|
|10||Robert Barrable||Škoda||Fabia S2000||+7:53.8|