Kevin Abbring will start day two of the Geko Ypres Rally on course for his maiden victory in the FIA European Rally Championship after he outgunned local hero and eight-time winner Freddy Loix during an action-packed opening day in Belgium.

The Peugeot Rally Academy driver powered his 208T16 to six stage wins out of seven and holds a lead of 24.8s at the overnight halt in Ypres as a result. However, with 190 kilometres of special stages remaining, Abbring's tenure of top spot is far from secure despite a dominant performance by the rapid Dutchman and his British co-driver Seb Marshall.

"I am impressed by the pace and the feeling with the car is great," said the 25-year-old. "We have a great rhythm and the car is really reliable on the limit."

Loix had narrowed Abbring's lead to 11.0s with his first stage win on the fourth test but a spin on the following run after service, Dikkebus, cost him vital time and he dropped back behind Luca Rossetti to third. However, a puncture for the Italian on stage six wrecked the three-time European champion's chances as Loix reclaimed second place. Rossetti is currently 14th and 4m13.4s behind Abbring and one place adrift of ERC Ladies' Trophy leader Melissa Debackere.

ERC title leader Esapekka Lappi, who is making his Ypres debut this week, elected to run first on the road in his Skoda Fabia Super 2000 and is 14.3s behind the similar car of Loix. Cedric Cherain is a strong fourth in his Ford Fiesta R5 with Sepp Wiegand demoting Hermen Kobus for fifth on Friday's final stage. The Dutchman reported being momentarily blinded by low-lying sun and almost crashed into a post by the side of the road. Robert Consani had been in sixth but retired at the end of stage six after his Peugeot 207 Super 2000 caught fire.

Craig Breen is seventh overnight and almost two minutes off the pace after a frustrating day in the second Peugeot Rally Academy 208. The Irishman was set to battle for his second ERC victory of 2014 in Ypres but a front-right puncture on the first stage proved costly in more ways than one when the flailing rubber damaged a brake line on his 208T16. With three stages to go until service, Breen dropped more than 90 seconds to the leaders. Despite repairs, he admitted to struggling for form as brake balance woes caused the talented Irishman confidence issues during the evening.

Davy Vanneste is eighth with Neil Simpson ninth in his ex-Loix Fabia and former Super 2000 world champion Xevi Pons 10th.

Meanwhile Andy Lefevere fought back from a puncture on stage three to top the ERC Production Car Category ahead of Andras Hadik with young Belgian driver Kevin Demaerschalk at the head of the ERC 2WD field in his Peugeot 208 R2 with ERC Junior contenders Guillaume Dilley and Andrea Crugnola first and second.

Bernd Casier's pursuit of an elusive podium finish in Ypres will continue after the Belgian damaged his Fiesta R5's suspension crashing out on the opening stage. Bruno Magalhaes was expected to fight for a strong result in Ypres but was unable to start when an engine problem developed during pre-event testing on Wednesday evening.

Pieter Tsjoen also endured a troubled start to the rally when his 208T16 momentarily caught fire after the engine failed during his second run of Free Practice on Thursday evening. After his mechanics worked through the night carrying out repairs he started with a five-minute penalty and has spent much of the opening leg adapting to the 208, which he's using in competition for the first time. An electrical fault and a stage-six puncture have hit Jaroslav Orsak's hopes in his self-run Fabia, while an off on stage three cost Antonin Tlus?ak vital time. Reported fuel pump problems have slowed Vincent Verschueren, who is giving Citroen's DS3 R5 its ERC debut.

The event now concludes today. Saturday's route consists of 13 stages over a competitive distance of 190.02 kilometres. The action begins at 10:48hrs local time with a return to the famous Reninge stage for the first time in 25 years. The finish is schedule for 22:15hrs local time.

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