The 59th Ardeca Ypres Rally, the sixth round of the Kroon Oil Belgian Rally Championship, was exciting right until the very end. The front runners set a scintillating pace, which caused a lot of slips and mistakes. Not even the winner could put in a flawless drive. Yet, Stéphane Lefebvre was clearly the class of the field this weekend. The 32-year-old Nordist, who was fascinated as a child watching the rally cars in Ypres, won with a lead of 40.46 seconds over Maxime Potty, while Cédric Cherain finished third.

“I have dreamed of this victory for years. I already have won here in WRC2 against the world’s top drivers in that category, but that is not the same as an overall victory. I was able to add my name to the great list of winning drivers. It was also one of the most difficult editions of Ypres. You saw that this morning in Dikkebus, where I was taken by surprise in a braking zone. Fortunately, there was room in the field ahead and I only lost a few seconds,” laughed Lefebvre, who won his first rally competing in the Hyundai i20 N Rally2.

Lefebvre recorded the first three fastest times of the rally. Then came the attacks. First, on Friday evening it was Jos Verstappen, until the Dutchman suffered a flat tyre in Zonnebeke. On Sunday morning, Verstappen, who started attacking once again, but had a hard crash in the forest on the Kemmelberg. Niels Reynvoet, was next and clocked the fastest time on stage four on Friday evening, but his rally took a turn for the worse on the very next stage, leaving the road in Vleteren. He turned in a little too early, hit a wall and broke the front suspension. The leader in the BRC had to retire immediately.

On Saturday, Maxime Potty continued to follow Lefebvre, until the Toyota driver made two mistakes in Dikkebus. As a result, Cédric Cherain moved up to second place, until he was surprised in the second loop on the last T-junction at SS Dikkebus, where he lost just under a minute. Second place once again went to reigning champion Maxime Potty. It would be his fifth second place finish this season in the BRC.

“Due to the retirement of Niels Reynvoet, the championship is completely open again. Of course, I would have preferred to win, but with this second place we are showing that we are doing a great job again. If this result was offered to me, I would have signed for it, given it is on my debut in the Toyota Yaris GR Rally2. We only decided to drive the Yaris last week and I immediately felt good in the car,” said Potty, who was happy that the adjustment went smoothly. “I have been driving a Citroën for a few years now. This car change was a new challenge that I successfully completed.”

Cédric Cherain, who took the opportunity to compare his data on the qualifying stage with Theirry Neuville, both of which drove the Hyundai i20 N Rally2, took third place after a fight. Cherain was barely 3 seconds ahead of Bernd Casier. “It’s in the details this year in Belgian Championship. I made a mistake in Dikkebus, but hardly anyone remained error-free. Everything remains possible in the championship. On the last stage I went all out to get the 5 points of the Powerstage and I succeeded.”

Bernd Casier was satisfied with the unexpected fourth place after a strong drive, even if he regretted the 2.5 seconds that kept him off the podium. “I tried, but I almost went off the track in that last T-junction and we also had a perilous moment earlier on the stage. Maybe that’s the 3 seconds that we were short of. But, I certainly would have taken this beforehand. Our first rally with the Skoda Fabia RS was more than successful. It went very fast and it’s great that I can still handle the level ,” said Casier.

Fifth place went to the revelation of the competition, Bjorn Syx who hails from Poperinge. “I would have also signed for this in advance!” said Syx. “We were in third place for a while, but I knew I didn’t have the speed to keep Cherain and Casier behind me. We drove a flawless rally. Only on Friday evening did we lose some time due to a broken front differential. In the final phase, I don’t take excessive risks, because I wanted to thank the people who helped me for their trust with a great result,” says Syx.

Freddy Loix, the record holder in Ypres, had lost a nice 4th place due to a flat tyre, but on the last stage overtook Gilles Pyck, who made three small errors. Fred Miclotte finished 8th and was the first to come home in the Master category, ahead of the winner in GT, Kris Princen and Tim Van Parijs, who completed the Top 10.

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There were some big names who were unlucky in the top class, including Niels Reynvoet (accident), Tom Boonen (accident) and especially Davy Vanneste. Vanneste took a stage win on SS11 in Watou but on the very next stage he left the road and lost time. That compounded his issues on Friday after he had a fuel problem.

Among the youngsters, the victory went to Pierre-Manuel Brasseur, who also won the Stellantis Cup, ahead of Jonas Dewilde. In Historic there was no limiting Pieter-Jan Maeyaert with his BMW M3 E30. Paul Lietaer had to retire after going off the road. Thomas Mart made his debut in class RC5 with a great victory after an ultimate attack on the final stage, to take the class win by 0.5 seconds.

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In Division 2, Filip Pyck was fastest in a Renault Clio Rally3.

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