A strong contingent for the Ypres Rally
It looks like the Belgium Ypres Rally will again beat the record number of participants in the Super 2000 category. The entry list has not been closed by the organisers yet but there are already 17 S2000-spec cars on the list, representing
seven different manufacturers.
The big guns of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge will face the tough challenge given by the top of the Belgian rally field. The front runner of the Belgian armada will of course be Ypres record-holder Freddy Loix, who took his fifth win there last year at the wheel of his Peugeot Belgium-Luxemburg 207 S2000.
Peugeot is the official partner of the organisation this year and returns with a significant number of cars. Firstly there will be the top three drivers of the IRC, each handling a Kronos Racing-prepared 207: Kris Meeke, Freddy Loix and Nicolas Vouilloz.
They will be joined by two extra teams from the Kronos outfit. 20-year-old Thierry Neuville represents the hopes of the Belgian rally world and has been selected by national journalists to drive the Peugeot of the BF Goodrich Drivers Team. Additionally, four-time Belgian champion Pieter Tsjoen has also decided to compete in a Kronos Racing-run car.
The other 207 S2000s will be handled by Michal Solowow of Poland, Swiss racer Brian Lavio, and Italian drivers Luca Betti, Davide De Benedetto and Corrado Fontana.
The official Abarth team is counting on Giandomenico Basso's skills at the controls of the Grande Punto, but the Italian operation created a bit of a surprise recently by replacing usual teammate Anton Alen with Bernd Casier, who showed two years ago that he can aim for the top spot in Ypres.
The factory Skoda team will align its regular Fabia S2000 drivers, Jan Kopecky and Juho Hanninen, but it will also have a sister car running for the Belgian René Georges team with none other than François Duval at the wheel. Duval hasn't participated for quite a few years in the Ypres rally, but the former driver of Ford, Citroen and Skoda cars in the WRC remains one of the fastest men around on tarmac.
René Georges Rallysport will also align a Volkswagen Polo S2000 for seven-time Belgian Champion Patrick Snijers.
One of the main 'unknown quantities' in Ypres will be the new Opel Corsa Super 2000 that has been developed by the British MSD team. Frenchman Alexandre Bengué will drive the car, which will be celebrating its IRC debut in Ypres.
They might well play the main role, but the naturally aspirated two-litre cars will need to keep an eye out for the turbocharged 4WD Group N cars. Mitsubishi will put its trust in Jasper van den Heuvel who is all geared up to fight the Super 2000 machines at the wheel of his impressive Lancer EvoX.
Franz Wittmann Jr is another driver wishing to confirm that his good start to the season was not incidental. Finally, there will be a raft of fast Belgian drivers with Mitsubishi or Subaru Group N cars.
It is an impressive entry list and, as mentioned earlier, the enrolment for the 2009 Belgium Ypres Rally has not closed yet.