The traditional Qualifying Stage for the Ardeca Ypres Rally took place in Nieuwkerke on Thursday evening. It was decisive for the starting order on Friday evening and given the changeable weather, the starting order can be vitally important.

Stéphane Lefebvre set the best time in the first two runs. The qualifying stage for the Ardeca Ypres Rally runs in three stages, where the first 15 from the first run progress to the second and the best 10 from the second go to the third and final run. Being fastest in the first two runs proved his pace but in the last and ultimate stage the Nordist pushed a little too hard and a gentle roll left the Hyundai i20 N Rally2 next to the road. “The feeling in the Hyundai was immediately good, but in the third run I had a puncture just before a right. Due to the flat tyre I moved a bit too far to the outside. Fortunately the damage was not too bad. We therefore start 10th, but that doesn’t have to be a disaster,” said the Nordist. 

The other drivers were evenly matched, as Maxime Potty (Toyota), Jos Verstappen (Skoda) and Cédric Cherain (Hyundai) finished within a second of each other. Ultimately, Potty’s Toyota Yaris GR Rally2 was fastest. The Belgian champion is settling in well with the Lifelive prepared Toyota, which is competitive.

Jos Verstappen, second, is ready for battle. Cédric Cherain, was able to ride with Thierry Neuville during the shakedown, received some tips for the set-up of his i20 N Rally2. Cherain starts third, ahead of brand mate Davy Vanneste (Hyundai).

Vincent Verschueren, who was happy to be in the leading group, followed withBjorn Syx coming next. Syx noticed that the pace was slightly higher than in Wervik. Bernd Casier clocked in a respectable 7th place.

Freddy Loix (Toyota Yaris) was 9th fastest, but a flat tyre in the final run meant he could not post a competitive time. One who could not manifest a fast time was current BRC leader Niels Reynvoet. Due to technical problems with the Citroën C3, the East Flemish ace could not take advantage of his pace. 

Fortunately he has confirmed that all problems have been resolved. “Normally, the handbrake releases the rear differential, so that only the rear wheels lock. This time the four wheels locked, so I could not use the handbrake. Especially on the Nieuwkerke Market, that took time. Without service, I had to do the three runs like this. I agreed, starting 15th is certainly not an advantage, but we are trying to make some progress tonight,” said Reynvoet.

Unusually the pilot of the 0 car attracted the most attention. It was none other than current WRC leader Thierry Neuville. He took on this task at the wheel of a Hyundai i20 N Rally2. In addition, the familiar face of co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe was present but so was a raft of interested onlookers who had a rare chance to sit beside a WRC winner. Clouseau frontman Koen Wauters and influencer Arno The Kid took place in the right seat over the day.

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