Freddy Loix won the Kenotek by CID LINES Ypres Rally for a record-extending 11th time after a close battle with several other drivers on the classic FIA European Rally Championship event.

A fast start to the second leg in Belgium put Michelin-equipped Skoda Fabia R5 driver Loix into the lead on SS8 Kemmelberg 1 past day one pace-setter Bryan Bouffier, who remained well in victory contention over the next three stages before stopping on a road section with a gearbox problem on his Gemini Clinic Rally Team Citroen DS3 R5.

That didn't ease the pressure on Loix though, because Stephane Lefebvre was on a charge. Starting the day in fifth place, 31.7 seconds off the lead, the Citroen-driving World Rally Championship ace and 2014 ERC Junior champion won the first six stages of the day to climb to second and slash the gap to Loix to just 5.3s. However, just when it looked as if he might move into the lead, he stopped on SS14 (the second run over the event's longest stage, Hollebeke) with a broken gearbox of his own. The only consolation for the Frenchman was the Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy.

All this gave Loix a margin of 45.8s going into the final loop of three stages, stretching it to 56.8s en-route to his 11th Ypres win in total and fourth in a row.

Kris Princen took second in his Peugeot Belgium Luxembourg 208 T16, up from fourth at the start of the day. He lost some time when he spun on SS12 Westouter-Boeschepe 1 but fought back with a stage win on SS14 to take climb to second as Lefebvre retired.

Bernd Casier completed an all-Belgian podium in a Ford Fiesta R5 with a long-awaited top-three finish on the event after four previous fourth places. A late burst of speed helped him to move ahead of Vincent Verschueren by just 0.3s on the penultimate stage, and he then won the final stage to make sure of the result.

Verschueren won two stages on leg one in his Fabia R5 but had a much tougher second day, not feeling well during the afternoon and making some mistakes. That included a spin on the final stage that dropped him to fifth behind Dutch driver Hermen Kobus, who took two stage wins on the final loop in his Fabia R5.

Eight-time Belgian champion Pieter Tsjoen put a run of recent bad luck in Ypres behind him to have a trouble-free second day and climb to sixth. ERC regular Jaromir Tarabus battled throughout the second day with Claudie Tanghe - running first on the road - and got past the local driver for seventh on the last stage. Up-and-coming Belgian Kevin Demaerschalk's rally could hardly have started worse when he lost over three minutes when he had to change a tyre on the first stage, but he recovered to take ninth in his DS3 R5 in front of ERC stalwart Antonin Tlustak.

Didier Duquesne broke two wheels on his Fabia R5 with a spin on the same stage but made it to the finish in 11th. In 12th was 1994 ERC champion Patrick Snijers, who had a tough time in his new 208 T16 on an event he won four times in the past but rose from outside the top 30 over the final six stages. Jaroslav Orsak's chances of a second top-five finish from as many starts in his brand new Fiesta R5 were hit firstly by a puncture on SS9 and then an off on SS14, while David Botka was forced to stop with a mechanical issue on his DS3 R5.

After his first-stage crash, ERC title contender Alexey Lukyanuk restarted on leg two with a chance of some leg points, but made it no further than SS9.

The ERC now continues next month with auto24 Rally Estonia running from 15-17 July.

Top 10 positions (after 17 stages, 250.16 kilometres)

1. Freddy Loix (BEL)/Johan Gitsels (NED) Skoda Fabia R5 2h22m15.1s
2. Kris Princen (BEL)/Peter Kaspers (BEL) Peugeot 208 T16 +56.8s
3. Bernd Casier (BEL)/Pieter Vyncke (BEL) Ford Fiesta R5 +1m19.8s
4. Hermen Kobus (NED)/Erik de Wild (NED) Skoda Fabia R5 +1m27.0s
5. Vincent Verschueren (BEL)/Veronique Hostens (BEL) Skoda Fabia R5 +1m32.3s
6. Pieter Tsjoen (BEL)/Eddy Chevaillier (BEL) Ford Fiesta R5 +2m29.9s
7. Jaromir Tarabus (CZE)/Daniel Trunk?t (CZE) Skoda Fabia R5 +2m49.2s
8. Claudie Tanghe (BEL)/Filip Cuvelier (BEL) Ford Fiesta R5 +2m52.0s
9. Kevin Demaerschalk (BEL)/Bram Eelbode (BEL) Citroen DS3 R5 +5m45.9s
10. Antonin Tlustak (CZE)/Ladislav Kuera (CZE) Skoda Fabia R5 +7m46.0s

FIA ERC2: Giacomo Scattolon (ITA)/Paolo Zanini (ITA) (Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX)FIA ERC3: Marijan Griebel (DEU)/Stefan Kopczyk (DEU) (Opel Adam R2)FIA ERC Junior: Marijan Griebel (DEU)/Stefan Kopczyk (DEU) (Opel Adam R2R2)

Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy: Stephane Lefebvre (Citroen)



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