Bjorn Syx and Ari Vanrobaeys win by 0.3 seconds on the Monteberg

Bjorn Syx does not give up on pursuit of victory

What a final stage! Just like last year, when rain on the very last stage led to a tie between Jos Verstappen and Davy Vanneste, this year the Bernard Degroote Monteberg Rally was also decided on the very last stage. After Niels Reynvoet, leader in the Belgian Rally Championship, and Bjorn Syx fought a fierce duel all day, the Reynvoet in his Skoda seemed to make the difference on the penultimate test in Wijtschate. He took the lead by 2 seconds. Bjorn Syx, however, did not give up. With a great time on the Monteberg, he managed to take a last stage win in Poperinge. The Citroën driver, together with his comrade Ari Vanrobaeys, recorded the best victory of his career, after he also won the Hemicuda in 2023 and triumphed in the FIA Historic Rally in Ypres.

Late breaking

“We were in a duel with Niels Reynvoet all day long. I was very satisfied with that, because he is currently driving at a very high level. His victory in the Rallye de Wallonie last week was the best proof of this. But, when he took the lead on the penultimate stage, Ari and I decided that we would not give up. We drove perfectly on the last stage. Braking a little later everywhere, even faster through the corners… We were on the limit and we succeeded, without having a hot moment. Finally the efforts and work on our car are rewarded,” Bjorn Syx enjoyed.

“I pushed Bjorn on the last test, because we absolutely wanted that victory! Winning in Poperinge is wonderful, especially for Bjorn, but our next important appointment is Ypres. We will try to score well there too,” laughed co Ari.

Strong debut with the Skoda.

Niels Reynvoet set a top time on the final test, but this time he ended up in second place. “When I saw our time, I thought it would be enough. We attacked really hard, but Bjorn did even better. Bravo,” Niels Reynvoet resigned to second place. “I am very satisfied with this second place, because for us it was a test session with our Skoda Fabia RS. It felt very good.”

Vincent Verschueren finished in third place 51.9 seconds behind with the Citroën C3 Rally2 of Team Godrive. “I can’t be really satisfied, because we should have been to be closer to Bjorn and Niels. The Monteberg Rally was a test for Ypres. We drove very hard, but we still have to do better,” said Vincent Verschueren. Gilles Pyck finished fourth on his debut with the VW Polo from SXM. “The same result as last year with the Hyundai. I am satisfied. The car feels good, we quickly got into the right rhythm,” said Gilles Pyck.

After Davy Vanneste made a mistake on the opening test that damaged his Hyundai i20 N Rally2, Vanneste had to retire. He was able to start again to get to know the Hyundai better before Ypres. “I still lose time in the short situations. We still have work to be ready against Ypres. We will work on that in Wervik,” said Vanneste.

After Gunther Monnens’ early retirement (engine problems), Cedriek Merlevede finished in a good and unexpected fifth place overall with the BMW M3 E36 of Mats Van den Brand. With this he beat the winner of the Historic competition, Pieter-Jan Maeyaert, who was in a duel with Paul Lietaer all day with his M3 E30. De Polle slid wide on the first test and was no longer able to close the gap.

Maeyaert beats Lietaer

“The rally was exciting again until the very end,” said PJ Maeyaert. “I really had to get the most out of the BMW to keep Paul behind me. Our M3 has a top speed of 196 km/h, while Paul’s Ascona 400 tops out at 218 km/h. With such a duel, we really had to push. It makes a great practice for our next appointment in Ypres.”

“Confident and fixated,” promised Paul Lietaer, who was doggedly in pursuit all day, but ultimately had to be satisfied with 7th place.

Steve Bécaert, who made a small mistake on the last passage at KP Busseboom, was stranded with his girlfriend Hanne in 8th place with his Mitsubishi Lancer EvoX. “Finishing on the Markt in Poperinge, in front of our own audience, that makes up for everything. We know so many people here, friends, neighbours… As far as the result is concerned, I underestimated the BMWs a bit in the beginning. I know how fast I drove I have full respect for the times they drove with their rear-wheel drives on this slippery course!”

Ben Van de Laar, winner of the Dutch Clio Trophy at the Rally3’s, was the best foreigner with 9th place. He enjoyed his debut on the West Flemish course. “The atmosphere, the tests, this was a really nice experience. The course cannot be compared to what we are used to in the Netherlands. This leaves us wanting more. It was a shame for the tension that Willem Wouter Overbeek made a mistake halfway through the rally went,” Van de Laar said.

Piet Declercq achieved his goal, a top 10, with the Skoda Fabia R5 from SXM. He completed a problem-free rally. The fastest among the pioneers was Lander Depotter in his new Opel Corsa Rally4. He was able to benefit from the intervention of Stijn Sonneville, who went off while in the lead in his Peugeot 208 Rally4 on the very last test.

The between Belgian Rally3 drivers Xavier Dekeyser, at the start for the first time with a Clio Rally3, and Frederic Berville, with a Ford Fiesta Rally3, was only decided in the final stage when Berville made a small mistake. Dekeyser went onto finished 14th overall, just 1.7 seconds ahead of Berville.

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