Ypres Rally - CitroŽn Sport - Finish
After losing time following an off early on the second and final leg, Simon Jean-Joseph and Jack BoyŤre reached the finish with their CitroŽn C2 Super 1600 in 4th place in the final standings for European Rally Championship (ERC) runners.
"It's practically a lottery," commented Simon Jean-Joseph when choosing his tyres in the dying moments of Saturday morning's first service halt as changeable weather moved in over the Ypres region to transform what initially seemed to be a clear-cut decision into something of a headscratcher as the CitroŽn crew prepared to set out for the day's opening loop of four stages.
In the end, they opted for lightly re-cut dry weather tyres, with two rain tyres onboard as spares, just in case... Their choice proved well-founded when a surprise storm broke while the first crews on the road were already tackling SS7.
"We just had enough time to swap the front tyres before the start," reported Simon. "Luck was on our side but I thought at one point that we wouldn't reach the end of the stage when we slid off the road down into a field in the last corner but one." Jack BoyŤre estimated that the incident cost them around fifteen seconds, although their CitroŽn C2 Super 1600 suffered little damage.
The weather took a milder turn later in the loop and Simon and Jack were forced to switch back to dry weather rubber, but the conditions remained as delicate as ever. "I'm on the defensive all the time," admitted Simon. "We had a few 'moments', which wasn't ideal for our confidence on such a specific event as this."
For the second loop, the French pair stayed with the same tyre choice for the group's two "excellent stages" as Simon described them, including the particularly daunting 33km Heuvelland test on which the CitroŽn crew dropped a further four minutes after another off...
"I got my braking from 6th gear wrong for a 'T' left," related the CitroŽn driver. "I locked my wheels, lost control and ended up in a ditch. The spectators had difficulty getting us back on the road. I think it's about time the rally ended. Despite of everything I've tried, I don't feel conformable in these conditions and that's particularly frustrating because the CitroŽn C2 Super 1600 has so much potential, but I just don't seem to be able to make the most of it here."
Simon found out to his cost how fatal the ditches Ė known locally as 'wateringues' - can be. "They're as beckoning as they are deep," as CitroŽn Sport's Customer Competition Manager Yves Matton remarked before the start.
Back at service, it took PH Sport just 17 minutes to repair the damage to the front left of the C2 1600 before working on the suspension to give Simon a set-up to his liking for the final stages. The last two loops of four and two tests respectively saw Simon and Jacques concentrate on reaching the finish in the fast-drying but equally demanding conditions.
Their bid was rewarded with 12th place overall, 3rd in Group A and 4th in the Classification for European Rally Championship (ERC) contestants.
"No doubt because of his big scare during shakedown, Simon unfortunately didn't succeed in finding the ideal pace for this weekend's lottery, especially as the conditions weren't ideal for a two-wheel car," concluded Yves Matton after a taxing weekend during which Ypres lived every bit up to its reputation weather-wise.
"One positive aspect of this event, however, was the CitroŽn C2 Super 1600's reliability. It ran like clockwork from start to finish and I hope that will again be the case next time out at the beginning of July on the all-asphalt round in Bulgaria where everyone in the team will be looking to repeat our recent podium finish in Croatia," Matton concluded.