IRC Belgium - Ypres Rally - Finish
After the recent, hotly contested Rally Turkey, this weekend's third round of the 2007 Intercontinental Rally Challenge turned out to be yet another fiercely fought affair, this time over the unique stages of Belgium's Flanders region.
Although the local drivers started their home event as favourites, victory ended up going to an Italian visitor for the second year running, this time in the person of the quick and consistent Peugeot 207/BFGoodrich driver, Luca Rossetti, who headed home Spaniard Enrique Garcia Ojeda (2nd , Peugeot 207/BFGoodrich) and the best-placed Belgian Larry Cols (3rd, Mitsubishi/BFGoodrich). Flemish stars Freddy Loix, Pieter Tsjoen and Bernd Casier all hit trouble.
Italy's Luca Rossetti took time off his national programme Ė in which he is currently second in his home championship's provisional standings Ė for a one-off outing on this weekend's Belgium Westhoek Ypres Rally. And despite having no previous experience of this notoriously difficult fixture, he succeeded in defeating not only all the other top 2007 IRC campaigners but also all the leading local specialists.
Despite the heavy rain that fell on Friday morning, the opening leg's stages were principally dry as competitors pulled out of the main square in Ypres for the evening's two loops of three stages each. Even so, the omnipresent threat of further rain and the promise of greasy corners prompted all the top drivers to fit wet weather tyres.
All, that is, except for provisional Intercontinental Rally Challenge leader Andrea Navarra who opted for BFGoodrich's dry weather rubber.
And the Italian's choice paid dividends since he retuned to the first service halt in Ypres in front after the first three stages, closely chased by Freddy Loix (VW Polo S2000/BFGoodrich) and Pieter Tsjoen (Abarth Grande Punto/BFGoodrich) who followed in second and third places.
"Rain tyres probably weren't the ideal choice, but the stages were very tricky and running on BFGoodrich W00s did my confidence a lot of good," confessed the four-time winner of this event, Freddy Loix.
The Volkswagen Polo driver went on to take command after the very next stage (SS4). However, two kilometres after the start of SS5, the Belgian was forced to park up to change a front-left puncture picked up while cutting a corner. The time lost dropped him to 19th overall, and the bid of the former works WRC driver to move back up the order came to nothing when he was sidelined shortly after the start of Leg 2 as a result of a cooling fluid leak.
Another driver to suffer a puncture on SS5 was Andrea Navarra (Abarth Grande Punto/BFGoodrich) while lying eighth and it was ultimately the winner of the recent Rally Turkey, Nicolas Vouilloz, who completed the first leg on top, 1.5 seconds clear of Pieter Tsjoen and 4.6s ahead of the surprising Luca Rossetti (Peugeot 207/BFGoodrich) who ended the first day of this highly specific event with a footing on the provisional podium.
Practically all the drivers chose the W00 rain tyre for Friday's dry conditions and BFGoodrich runners ended up monopolising the overnight top-three.
For the first loop of the second leg on Saturday morning, however, practically all the BFGoodrich drivers were caught out on dry weather rubber as a sharp but violent storm moved in over the region, causing havoc at the sharp end of the 43rd Ypres Rally.
Pieter Tsjoen fleetingly emerged in front before losing more than a minute following a straight-on on SS9, while Nicolas Vouilloz (Peugeot 207/BFGoodrich) rolled out on the following test. Driving the Peugeot Belgium 207/BFGoodrich, Bernd Casier then seemed to be on target for a win on home soil before he too fell victim to the event's notorious 'wateringues' Ė the local name for the ditches that line the stages Ė two stages from the end, while Pieter Tsjoen was eliminated by terminal transmission trouble.
Following Giandomenico Basso's triumph here in 2006, these incidents played into the hands of another Italian, Luca Rossetti. Despite the extremely difficult conditions, the 31-year old Peugeot Italy driver didn't put a foot wrong and went on to clinch a surprise win ahead of 'Kike' Garcia Ojeda.
Belgium's Larry Cols (3rd, Mitsubishi Lancer/BFGoodrich) could have hoped for a better conclusion to the weekend had he not been delayed by recurrent mechanical troubles. As it was, he only failed to clinch silver by a mere 6/10ths of a second!
Belgium's Kris Princen (Renault Clio R3) comfortably led the two-wheel drive category before losing six minutes. A similar fate struck CitroŽn driver Simon Jean-Joseph who lost four minutes getting his car back on the road after a straight-on and victory finally went to Estonia's Urmo Aava (Suzuki Swift S1600).
"Despite the tricky weather, I ran the dry weather BFGoodrich g-Force Profiler A01 with different degrees of 'cut' depending on the conditions. I really felt comfortable with this tyre."
"I picked up a front-left puncture while cutting a corner 2km into SS5. Every year, we seem to cut the corners more and more. Unfortunately, there was a concealed rock on the inside of this particular turn. I preferred to stop and change the wheel because there was still one stage to come in the loop. There is never a good time to puncture and that was especially true on this occasion because I had just taken the lead..."
Jacques Morelli, BFGoodrich Customer Competition Department
"The constantly changing weather made tyre choice difficult because of the importance of finding the ideal compromise for three or even four stages at a time. Our S2000 and Group N runners were able to choose between a soft re-cut dry weather tyre and the W00 rain tyre which is a special 'Belgium' tyre. We developed it after the 2003 Rallye du Condroz and then made it available to WRC privateers the following year before developing it for the S2000 runners. It's basically a rain tyre which is both durable and competitive in drying conditions. Both the top-two finishers at the end of Leg 1, namely Nicolas Vouilloz and Peter Tsjoen, used the W00 for Friday afternoon's predominantly dry conditions. On Saturday, all our drivers ran the g-Force Profiler A01, with varying degrees of cuts."Ypres Westhoek Rally: Final standings
1 Rossetti-Chiarcossi Peugeot 207 S2000 2h38'43"9
2 Garcia Ojeda-Barrabes Peugeot 207 S2000 + 18"6
3 Cols-Godde Mitsubishi Lancer + 19"2
4 Navarra-D'Amore Fiat Punto S2000 + 2'03"9
5 Casier-Miclotte Peugeot 207 S2000 + 2'25"6
6 Scandola-Pirollo Fiat Punto S2000 + 3'44"8
7 Aava-Sikk Suzuki Swift + 4'48"6
8 Snijers-x Mitsubishi Lancer + 5'54"5
9 Colsoul-Colsoul Mitsubishi Lancer + 6'10"8
10 Iliev-Yanakiev Mitsubishi Lancer + 8'46"5Drivers' Championship
1 Andrea Navarra 23 points
2 Enrique Garcia Ojeda 14 points
3 Nicolas Vouilloz 10 points
- Luca Rossetti 10 pointsConstructors' Championship
1 Peugeot 34 points
2 Fiat Abarth 31 points
3 Mitsubishi 26 points
4 CitroŽn 1 point
Press Release BFGoodrich