FIA European Rally Championship leader Craig Breen tops the leaderboard of the Kenotek by CID LINES Ypres Rally after a brilliant performance on leg one today.
Co-driven by Scott Martin, Breen was delighted to be able to drive with full commitment and confidence on fast Tarmac stages, reaching the overnight halt with a slender 4.6 second lead in his Peugeot Rally Academy 208 T16.
Bryan Bouffier spun his Citroën DS3 R5 on the opening stage and flirted with a ditched on SS2. He found his rhythm after that and, despite a slow puncture, set four fastest stage times on the opening day’s seven stages to reach the overnight halt in second place.
ERC Junior champion Stéphane Lefebvre might only live 40 kilometres away from Ypres, but he has only done the event once before, and that was last year in a Peugeot 208 R2. His maiden Ypres Rally appearance in a four-wheel drive car has been stunning, as he lies third overnight in his Peugeot 208 T16, despite losing the front bumper after a small mistake on SS5.
Kris Princen spun on the Qualifying Stage and had to start 22nd on the road today. Despite this, he is a strong fourth overnight in his Peugeot 208 T16 – enjoying a great run 20 years after making his Ypres Rally debut and 10 years after winning the event. Freddy Loix is fifth and experimenting with set-ups in his new ŠKODA Fabia R5. He lost time with a front right puncture SS4 and hasn’t yet set a fastest stage time, so has a real fight on his hands if he wants to make it 10 Ypres Rally wins this weekend.
Bernd Casier is the top Ford Fiesta R5 runner in sixth, just ahead of Vincent Verschueren, who ran first on the road today in his Citroën DS3 R5. Marty McCormack had a dramatic start, with a sixth gear moment on SS1 and two offs on SS2, the second of which damaged the front of his ŠKODA Fabia S2000. He is an excellent eighth, just ahead of Romain Dumas in the leading FIA R-GT Cup Porsche 911 GTS. Bruno Magalhães completes the top 10 overnight in his 208 T16, on his first Tarmac rally for eight months.
Kevin Abbring was recovering from food poisoning, which had put him in hospital for half a day last week. He started too aggressively, putting his privately-entered Citroën DS3 R5 perilously close to a ditch on the opening stage and damaging a wheel. He was driving brilliantly and led until he lost 20 seconds with a front right puncture on SS4, but rolled three times on SS6 when attempting to regain lost time.
Irish brothers Sam and Josh Moffett have had a dramatic start in their Ford Fiesta RRCs. Sam had a massive spin through a field on SS2, and felt very lucky to have not destroyed his car, let alone still be in the rally. He then lost time on the second loop, taking wet tyres as the rain held off. Josh’s car suffered a misfire, in every gear except sixth, while his afternoon loop was delayed with a rear puncture.
The Moffetts weren’t the only ones to hit early problems in Belgium. Didier Duquesne overshoot a junction on SS1, Davy Vanneste lost two minutes after a turbo pipe came off his similar Fiesta R5 on SS2 and Jaroslav Orsák spun his ŠKODA Fabia S2000 on SS5. Cédric Cherain finished second in Ypres last year, but his hopes of a repeat podium finish were dashed when his Citroën DS3 R5 stopped on SS1.
Text and photo: www.fiaerc.com