Freddy Loix came from almost 30 seconds behind to score a sensation tenth win on the Kenotek by CID LINES Ypres Rally, and in doing so gave the brand new Skoda Fabia R5 victory on its FIA European Rally Championship debut.

Co-driven by Johan Gitsels, Loix had to adapt his driving style to make up for a lack of mechanical grip with his new BMA-run car, which struggled to find the required grip coming out of the many tight T-junctions. Having been tipped as pre-event hot favourite, Loix was fifth overnight, 25.8 seconds behind the leader after seven stages.

His first of five stage wins was only registered on SS9. But Loix gradually closed the gap on the cars ahead, and victory was assured when Craig Breen retired after SS12, Stephane Lefebvre picked up a puncture on the same stage and leader Bryan Bouffier was forced to stop to change a puncture on SS15. Loix also scored maximum ERC Asphalt Masters points.

"We started not so quick, with a new car that we had to get used to," said Loix. "It was not such a good feeling to start off with changing direction, but we worked very hard as a team and step-by-step we did it. To win the Ypres Rally for a tenth time is pretty special. For a 45-year old driver, twentieth time here, against all these young drivers, is not so bad! It is a highlight of my career."

Bouffier had driven brilliantly in his Citroen DS3 R5, and despite the attack by Loix held the lead by 1.4 seconds entering SS15. Such had been his pace, that even though he lost two minutes with his mid-stage tyre change, he still finished second, 1m 27.5s behind.

Vincent Verschueren put previous Ypres Rally bad luck behind him to finish third on his home round of the ERC. He had a nervous run to the finish, as his Citroen DS3 R5 had lost first gear - although he didn't reveal that until the end of the final stage, as he didn't want his rivals to know.

Craig Breen had been leading the event by 12.6s in his Peugeot Rally Academy 208 T16, until he picked up a puncture and lost 15s and the lead to Bouffier on SS11. Worse was to happen on the following stage, when he slipped off the road on a left-hand corner and into a field. Having lost over 30 seconds, he arrived at the end of the stage with his car's radiator full of vegetation and the water temperature reading 155?C. Unfortunately, the car then refused to start, and he was forced to retire. Despite this, Breen's three wins sees him maintain his ERC lead.

On his first tarmac rally for eight months, Bruno Magalhaes drove brilliantly in his Peugeot 208 T16. The Portuguese driver acted as dust sweeper by running first on the road during leg two, but never put a foot wrong on his way to a fine fourth.

After a brilliant first Ypres Rally in a four-wheel drive car, Stephane Lefebvre was in third position in his Peugeot 208 T16, just 1.3s off the lead, when he picked up a front right puncture six kilometres into Hollebeke, which, at 23.23 kilometres, was the longest test of the event. The Frenchman lost over three minutes and with it all hope of victory, yet he still managed to finish fifth - just ahead of Jaroslav Orsak, who survived intercom problems in his Skoda Fabia S2000.

Josh Moffett battled with an early misfire and brake problems in his Fiesta RRC, and was about to finish seventh when he crashed out on the final stage. His brother Sam was going well, although he retired on a road section out of service today, when an electrical problem cause his water pump to fail and, with the water temperature rising, he had to park his identical Ford to avoid damaging the engine. Jaromir Tarabus lost a minute with a rear left puncture on SS11, after he clipped a bank in his Skoda Fabia S2000, although an otherwise good run saw the Czech driver finish seventh.

Didier Duquesne, who put his Fiesta R5 into a ditch for one minute on SS9 and then survived a huge spin on SS11, initially came home eighth, but was later excluded after a discrepancy at a time control (TC 17C). This allowed a typically hard-charging Marty McCormack to move up to eighth, after an eventful rally which saw his Fabia S2000 in various fields and ditches from time to time. Had Davy Vanneste not lost over two minutes when a turbo pipe came off his Fiesta R5 on SS2, he feels he would have beaten his sixth placed finish of last year, yet he was pleased with ninth. Euan Thorburn's first visit to Ypres had its fair share of overshoots, as the fast and often unsighted junctions caught the Scottish champion out. Only a last minute transmission problem denied him a top 10 finish, as his Fiesta S2000 came home 11th, behind the Fabia S2000 of Petter Kristiansen. Bernd Casier was the top Fiesta R5 runner and had moved from sixth to fifth when he retired on SS12. Kris Princen, who was fourth overall overnight in his Peugeot 208 T16, was forced to withdraw from the event on doctor's orders, and did not start leg two.

Top 10 positions (after 17 stages, 253.38 kilometres)

1. Freddy Loix (BEL)/Johan Gitsels (BEL) ?KODA Fabia R5 2h21m29.9s
2. Bryan Bouffier (FRA)/Thibault de la Haye (FRA) Citro?n DS3 R5 +1m27.5s
3. Vincent Verschueren (BEL)/Veronique Hostens (BEL) Citro?n DS3 R5 +2m02.5s
4. Bruno Magalh?es (PRT)/Hugo Magalh?es (PRT) Peugeot 208 T16 +2m53.1s
5. St?phane Lefebvre (FRA)/St?phane Prevot (BEL) Peugeot 208 T16 +3m01.9s
6. Jaroslav Ors?k (CZE)/David ?meidler (CZE) ?KODA Fabia S2000 +3m20.8s
7. Jarom?r Tarabus (CZE)/Daniel Trunk?t (CZE) ?KODA Fabia S2000 +4m25.0s
8. Martin McCormack (GBR)/James O'Reilly (IRL) ?KODA Fabia S2000 +5m48.2s
9. Davy Vanneste (BEL)/Eddy Snaet (BEL) Ford Fiesta R5 +5m48.3s
10. Petter Kristiansen (NOR)/Ole Kristian Brennum (NOR) ?KODA Fabia S2000 +6m59.9s

FIA ERC2: Tibor ?rdi (HUN)/Gergely Patko (HUN) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution XFIA ERC3: Aleks Zawada (POL)/Cathy Derousseaux (POL) Opel Adam R2FIA ERC Junior: Aleks Zawada (POL)/Cathy Derousseaux (POL) Opel Adam R2Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy: Romain Dumas (CHE)

 

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