Freddy Loix came from almost 30 seconds behind to score a sensation 10th victory on the Kenotek by CID LINES Ypres Rally, and in doing so gives the ŠKODA 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, Stéphane 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 Citroën DS3 R5, and despite the attacked 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 Citroën 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.
Text and photo: www.fiaerc.com