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GP Week : Issue 17
F IVE-times Ypres Rally winner Freddy Loix has become the most successful driver in the history of his native Belgium’s top rally, an asphalt event run on farm roads in the Flanders region. Apart from changing the gearbox after losing fifth gear, Loix had a trouble free event and led from start to finish. The win was momentous. The late Gilbert Staepelaere, Patrick Snijers and Robert Droogmans, as well as Loix, had each won this event four times before – with Droogmans also winning the Historic Ypres Rally twice, and finally Loix had shaken himself clear of all his compatriots in the event’s table of winners. Loix headed a Peugeot top-three result last weekend, with teammate Nicolas Vouilloz nearly one minute behind and last year’s winner Luca Rossetti third, after suffering a puncture on the first day. Rossetti’s delay dropped him to 11th place at the end of the first day, but in the later stages of the event he became involved in a huge fight between four cars for third place. He eventually jumped from fifth to third on the long final stage of the event, thus retaining his lead in both the European championship and the IRC series. This was Rossetti’s fifth IRC entry and the first time he has failed to win. By winning seven of the 18 stages, Vouilloz was the fastest driver on the course but a spin ended his hopes of a win. Peugeot cars won every stage. In another Peugeot was former European champion Patrick Snijers who drove the BF Goodrich promotional entry. He finished fifth after being delayed by a broken exhaust near the end. After a tragic testing accident earlier in the season, this was the first major event contested this year by the VW S2000 team. Bernd Casier finished fourth, top non Peugeot driver, but he nearly failed to make the start. He suffered a remarkable accident in Shakedown, when his car left the road and became jammed off the road between two buildings! Mark Higgins drove an MG S2000 on its first continental event, but was delayed by fuel and power steering troubles. Fiats had a bad time. Basso and Alen both punctured, Sola crashed on a road section when arriving at a control, Fontana broke the gearbox and Travaglia went off the road. Many of the Peugeots also failed to finish. Tirabassi and Toth both broke their suspension after hitting the same roadside stone, Solowow retired on the first day with a broken suspension top mounting point, Isik went off the road, and Kopecky crashed heavily after hitting a concrete block placed in the road. No fewer than 18 Super 2000s started the event. The Renault Clio R3 car of Kris Princen dominated the two-wheel drive category of the event until retiring on the penultimate stage with engine failure, so eventually the best 2WD car was the Citroen C2 S16000 of Aaron Burkart. Dutch driver Jasper van der Heuvel pleased the crowds in the top finishing orthodox Group N car. 40