Meeke, Kopecky, and Loix
At his very first attempt at the notoriously difficult and tricky Belgium Ypres Rally, IRC series leader Kris Meeke took on the slippery asphalt stages, committed no mistakes, and even succeeded in beating five-time Ypres winner Freddy Loix.
Peugeot UK driver's winning performance allowed him to increase his lead in the drivers' championship to six points over Loix.
It was a hard fight throughout however as the competition coming from Loix was very strong and faultless as well, with both drivers taking only snippets of time from each other's results.
The direct battle came to an end when Loix's Peugeot Belgium-Luxemburg car punctured a tyre only four stages from the end. The Belgian dropped down to fourth overall but pushed hard to reach the podium again, applying constant pressure on Juho Hanninen.
Who would step onto the podium was uncertain when the final run began, but a puncture on Hanninen's Skoda tipped things in Loix's favour as he claimed third place at the finish following a very determined performance at the Ypres Rally.
The Skoda team's Jan Kopecky nearly always signed strong top three results at the Belgian round and was the only driver to take a stage win away from Meeke or Loix. However, when Loix lost time with his puncture, Kopecky took hold of the overall second place right until the end, repeating the result he recorded at the previous round at Rally Azores.
The Belgium Ypres Rally was quite a battle indeed, with competitveness being the key word.
Kris Meeke, Peugeot UK, Winner:
"I never thought for a minute that I could be in a position to win here, so to be on the top step of the podium on such a prestigious event is a dream come true for me.
I think this is certainly the biggest moment of my career to date. Everyone knows the reputation of this rally: victory here feels very special. But it takes more than one person to make a race, and it's been fantastic to have such a fight, with just tenths of a second separating us all. I think this weekend is the most fun I've ever had behind the wheel."
Jan Kopecky, Skoda Motorsport, Second:
"Second place is a very good result for us, particularly as we had the accident with the motorcyclist today, which was not a nice feeling as it distracted us. Luckily everyone is OK, but it is not a nice thing to happen on a rally. I tried as best as I could, but I think this result is a real testimony to just how good our car is. I'd like to thank our entire team: we have had two second places now and we are third in the championship, which is a good sign that we are making progress."
Freddy Loix, Peugeot Belgium, Third:
"Of course it's a shame for everyone that we had the puncture, as before it was a really great fight with Kris. I tried not to push my hardest all the time, because this is not the sort of rally where you can take big risks, but in the end it was a really close battle between the two of us. The most important thing in any sport is to have good competition, and we certainly had that all weekend."