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GP Week : Issue 160
The former WRC team driver for Opel, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Hyundai and Peugeot this year ended up in second place in Ypres, after suffering a lot of pre-event troubles with a privately-run Peugeot 207 S2000. His almost historic six year-old car, originally built as a pre-production test car in 2006, had suffered an engine failure in pre-event testing. This caused delay so that the pre-event engine and suspension set-up work was never completed, and meant he was still using the pre-event shakedown test to finish off preparing the car. Freddy was also competing with a different co-driver (Lara Vanneste) on this event this time, yet he still finished within a minute of the winner Juho Hanninen in a works team Skoda, a car which was faster on the long fast stretches on the rally. This year Freddy is competing in the French rally championship, a series which he is enjoying immensely, as each event is held in a completely differently part of the country, with quite a different character. But coming back each year to Ypres is an essential part of his life of the sport. The event runs in the same area each year and is believed to be the single biggest sporting event in Belgium. GPWEEK: What is so special about the Ypres rally? FREDDY LOIX: Because it is very quick and to make good times you have to cut a lot of corners. You have to know exactly how and where to cut the corners so as avoid places where you might get a puncture and so lose all the time you have other wise gained. The surfaces are slippery though not anywhere near like they were 10-15 years ago. Compared with other special asphalt events like Sanremo or Corsica, it is a lot more slippery. There is a trick that helps the corner cutting. You must not start recce too early in the morning. You want to let the early drivers check out the corner cutting so when you come along a little bit later on, you can see exactly where they have been cutting. You mustn’t be scared during the recce to drive on the grass. You must test the cuts to see for yourself what it is like. And of course at Ypres, you always need at least two spare wheels in your recce car if you want to avoid any interruptions during the day because of inevitable punctures when you are checking how to cut the corners. You will always have punctures during the rally if you do not know exactly where it is safe to cut. It sounds like the challenge of Ypres is not unlike the challenge of the old WRC 1000 Lakes Rally in Finland. Drivers used to say they spent more time off the road than on the road in recce ... Yes, that is also a little bit like here. When you can see it will be safe to cut a corner, you have to do it because that will make the difference whether you go flat or you have to lift off a bit. There must be more to Ypres than just the technique of cutting corners. You've rallied all round the world but have you ever met a rally in another country with the atmosphere like here? To be honest, no. Earlier in my career I was always very impressed by Australia (Perth), because it was a very nice area where we did the rally, but really the fun was more outside the rally, doing things for the spectators in the city and in the service area and so on. No, Ypres has one of the best rally atmospheres in the world. There is a lot of pressure on the organisation on account of the spectators, because each year they have more than 100,000 of them. The organisers have to be very careful where spectators can stand, make sure they are in a safe place. It is clear what he have to do and they handle it all well. And there is a lot of commercial support, and a lot of this comes not only from the motor industry but from outside. Definitely. As you can see, my own sponsor (BFO) is someone completely outside of the motor business – it is a business consultancy company. The event sponsor Geko makes furniture, and is a big company in Ypres. The nice thing about companies in Belgium is that they understand there is a lot of positive publicity coming from motor sport, not just from other popular sports here like cycling and football” . Is this event a sinecure for Belgian drivers? Do foreigners really have a chance of success here? In fact, yes. The Italian Luca Rossetti and the Ulster driver Kris Meeke both won Ypres the first times they came here. Then of course in earlier times many famous foreign drivers like Jimmy McRae, Jean Ragnotti, the late Henri Toivonen and Walter Rohrl have won so it is possible. Do you believe the event could progress from the ERC and IRC into the world championship itself? No, not in the same style of event, because first of all Belgium is a small country. If the Ypres Rally were ever tobeintheWRCyouwillhavetogo round other areas in Belgium, finding new stages. One year they did it. We went to new areas elsewhere in Belgium on the Ypres Rally, but the event did not have the same feeling. Ypres Rally is an event which runs close to Ypres itself, and concentrates on doing things 100% perfectly. That is the way they do things. If they tried to expand, it would lose its character! Definitely, the event must stay in this area like it is. 5 MINUTES WITH FREDDY LOIX The 41 year-old Belgian rally star went to the Ypres Rally looking for one more victory on top of his seven previous wins on this event. At rally’s end he spoke to MARTIN HOLMES 5 MINUTES 18 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: