Azores - Peugeot Belgium-Luxemburg - Finish
Peugeot Belgium-Luxemburg drivers Nicolas Vouilloz and Freddy Loix completed their Rally Azores campaign with a formation finish, taking positions three and four at the conclusion of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge's fourth
round of the season.
For the most part of the final day Loix had been battling hard to overtake the Abarth team's Anton Alen. With only 5.4 seconds between them going into the last two stages, the Finn spun his car and dropped down the standings, allowing the Peugeot Belux team driver to gain the fourth-place finish he had been striving for.
"I was confident, but my chances of succeeding were cut in half when the final stage was cancelled," said Loix. "I went flat-out on what became the last timed portion. All was going well when, coming around a corner, I was taken aback by Alen's car blocking the road."
"I spent several minutes finding a way through the fields, working around the obstacle," he explained. "I continued without rushing too much: the final fourth place was assured."
The five points thus taken allow the Belgian to count only a two-point deficit in regards to new IRC drivers' championship leader - and Rally Azores winner - Kris Meeke. The Peugeot UK driver also raced aboard a Kronos Racing-prepared 207 S2000.
"I am clearly in a better position than 12 months ago before taking on Ypres, my favourite event," Loix pointed out.
"And the adaptation to my new co-driver, Fred Miclotte, went perfectly. That's why I'm confident for the rest of the season."
Loix did not step onto the podium as was his objective at the outset, but teammate Nicolas Vouilloz was in a position to do so and claimed third place overall for himself and the Peugeot Belgium-Luxemburg team.
"Victory wasn't within my reach here," the Frenchman recognised. "With identical cars I was simply not fast enough to compete with Kris Meeke."
"However, second place was surely within reach," he stated. "I was heading along a rhythm similar to (Skoda team driver) Jan Kopecky, who finished 11 seconds ahead of me. But we weren't really in the same state of mind."
"He was willing to do anything to be ahead," Vouilloz said. "I was telling myself that ensuring six additional points could be important at season's end."
Thanks to his third-place result in the Azores, Vouilloz jumped from sixth to third place in the provisional IRC standings, four points behind teammate Loix.