YPRES RALLY SERVES AS TEST BED FOR THE NEW LOTUS EXIGE R-GT
Posted: June 28, 2012 9:32 PM
The Lotus Exige R-GT made its debut as a course car at the weekend’s Geko Ypres rally in West Flanders, among the most beautiful rally venues in the world.
Portuguese driver Bernardo Sousa, who is set to race the Lotus Exige R-GT in anger later this year, drove the official car ahead of its first race in the FIA European Rally Championship and the Intercontinental Rally Challenge.
As part of the continuous development programme of the Exige R-GT, Ypres offered the Lotus International Team the opportunity of track time and also gave the rally world a chance to have a close look at Lotus’s exciting GT class challenger with the team of Sousa and Corrado Mancini on board. Rival drivers and fans alike were clamouring to get up close to the Exige all weekend.
The team took advantage of the 18 special stages of the rally to test different set-ups, engine modes and electronics solutions. There were no major technical problems, only some small teething issues regarded as normal in the development of the car that has covered only 1,000 km of testing to date. The only issues were an alternator failure and a faulty brake connection.
“The car continues its phase of growth and evolution,” explained Bernardo Sousa. “Here in Ypres progress has been steady and significant. The great potential of the Exige R-GT is emerging day after day. In this phase the team and I are trying to achieve the highest reliability and are only relatively interested in the stage times, even if I must say that the car is proving to be faster every day. I am very satisfied with both the car and the level of professionalism that the Lotus International Team is showing every day.”
The next event for the team is this weekend at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, where Lotus is the featured marque, followed by two separate private test sessions to be held by July 15th.
DIFFICULT THOUGH POSITIVE DEBUT FOR MOLLY TAYLOR AT THE GEKO YPRES RALLY
Posted: June 28, 2012 9:19 PM
At the Geko Ypres Rally, valid for the European Rally Championship and the Intercontinental Rally Challenge seated in the picturesque town of Ypres in Belgium, Australian Molly Taylor, codriven by Englishman Seb Marshall, concluded the race with honour despite the difficulties encountered in the first special stages.
During the first day of competition, the United Business crew experienced a slight off in the first special stage, but despite the damages they were able to complete the first three special stages and to return to service where the team promptly repaired the Citroen DS3 R3 allowing them to continue and to complete the first leg. During the second and final day Molly and Seb, progressively improved their results also thanks to the increasingly greater feeling reached with the car from BP Racing.
Molly Taylor said: "After the time lost in the first stage we stuck to bringing the car back to service, where the Team did a fantastic job to put it back on track. Then in the second loop on Friday and on Saturday we chose only to gain experience rather than overdoing it, there is so much to learn! On the special stages on Saturday we went always better event though not as we wanted, but we focused on reaching the finish. This is the first race, a very difficult one which I did not know, as it was the first time I drove the Citroen DS3 R3 on event, to take it to the finish was the goal that Pier Liberali of United Business had given us, we reached it, for the next races in our programme I know that we will always do better, because what I have available, Pirelli tyres, car and team are a great sporting and technical package. Race after race, we will have plenty of satisfaction".
The next events, as per schedule d for the United Business crew will be in Italy at the Rally Coppa Città di Lucca followed by Neste Rally Finland and ADAC Rally Deutschland.
Frank Cunnigham/ Gary McElhinney finish 1st in class Fia D3.
Posted: June 26, 2012 11:12 AM
The Galway / Donegal crew are delighted with their result in the Ypres Historic Rally, which took them up as far as 13 th overall. With their class wins in Rally Mesck in Hungary and now in Belgium now puts them back in the hunt for an overall catergory D European championship win. Next round is rin San Marino in 2 weeks.
HANNINEN SETS NEW BENCHMARK WITH IRC WIN NUMBER 10
Posted: June 25, 2012 11:38 AM
Juho Hänninen has underlined his status as the most successful driver in the six-year history of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge by winning the Geko Ypres Rally in Belgium on Saturday, the first Finn to do so since the late Henri Toivonen in 1984.
Driving a ŠKODA Motorsport Fabia Super 2000, Hänninen led from Friday’s second stage to make it 10 IRC wins from 28 starts, three more than Freddy Loix, the next most successful driver who settled for the runner-up place on the asphalt showcase, round six of the 13-event all-action series.
Hänninen’s victory means ŠKODA has won more IRC rounds than any other manufacturer with 24 triumphs to Peugeot’s 23 (subject to confirmation).
In the battle for the IRC drivers’ crown, Andreas Mikkelsen was unable to add to his points total after skating off the road on Saturday’s first stage and retiring when he damaged the suspension on his ŠKODA UK entry. However, with closest rival Jan Kopecký contesting a clashing Czech championship round Mikkelsen’s six-point advantage remains intact.
Elsewhere, Andreas Aigner has moved to the top of the IRC Production Cup standings with his second successive win for Subaru. Martin Kangur, in a Honda Civic Type R, clinched the IRC 2WD Cup laurels to move joint top with Harry Hunt in the race for the two-wheel-drive crown.
“It was one of the most important victories I have ever had,” said Hänninen, whose performance earned him the prestigious Colin McRae IRC Flat Out Trophy presented in honour of the rallying great. “Before the start I didn’t think it was possible to beat Freddy on his home rally but in the end we did and that was fantastic. The set-up of the car was perfect, we didn’t have to change anything.”
Loix ultimately fell short in his bid to make it eight IRC wins in his 2C Competition-prepared Peugeot 207 S2000, despite claiming five fastest stage times. Although he possesses considerable knowledge of the narrow farmland roads around the historic market town of Ypres, the 41-year-old suggested his car’s inferior top speed compared to the Fabia would always hold him back in his pursuit of glory.
Multiple Belgian champion Pieter Tsjoen completed the podium for his country’s ŠKODA importer on a rare start in a Super 2000 car. He is now within touching distance of a record eighth Belgian title. Polish driver Michal So 2;owow finished fourth in a Peugeot with Patrik Flodin completing the top five for Petter Solberg Engineering, having been delayed on Saturday morning by a broken driveshaft.
Mathias Viaene fought back to sixth place having dropped to 18th when he punctured a front-right tyre going off the road and into a ditch on stage eight. Jonas Langenakens, who won the IRC Production Cup in Ypres last season, stepped up to Super 2000 competition in style by finishing seventh having been slowed in the early stages by a damaged exhaust.
Behind IRC Production Cup winner Aigner in eighth, Czech Antonín Tlust’ák was ninth with Bob Colsoul rounding out the top 10. László Vizin took the Eurosol Racing Team’s Fabia to 13th with Skydive Dubai’s Rashid Al-Ketbi finishing a fine 15th on his Ypres debut.
ŠKODA Ireland’s Robert Barrable retired from sixth with a loss of gearbox oil at the completion of stage 14. Dream Team Ukraine’s Oleksandr Saliuk dropped out of fifth place when he slid into a ditch on stage 13 and got stuck for several minutes. He retired his Fiesta shortly afterwards.
IRC Production Cup
Andreas Aigner has moved to the top of the IRC Production Cup standings by making it two wins from two starts in his Stohl Racing-run Subaru Impreza R4 STI. Austrian Aigner began day two leading the class but slipped behind the flying Jasper Van den Heuvel on Saturday’s dramatic opening stage where frontrunners Kris Princen and Cédric De Cecco both crashed. But when transmission failure forced Van den Heuvel into retirement on the very next stage, Aigner was left in the clear to claim an impressive victory on his Ypres debut, despite brake problems causing him considerable concern on Saturday morning. Bob Colsoul finished second having dropped out of the lead on Friday with turbo failure. Robert Consani scored points for the third time this season to keep his title hopes on course after surviving a hefty collision with a tree on the penultimate stage. Martinique’s Johan Heloïse and Ukraine’s Vitaliy Pushkar both scored points for the second event in a row.
IRC 2WD Cup
Estonian Martin Kangur overcame the challenge of a host of rivals including Mathieu Arzeno, Harry Hunt, local hero Kris Princen and Germany’s Christian Riedemann to win the IRC 2WD Cup for the first time in 2012 with Melissa Debackere second and Davy Vanneste third. Arzeno led until he inadvertently drove into a ditch following a spin on stage five. The young Frenchman fought back into contention only to crash out on stage 10. Riedemann’s hopes of winning ended when he got stuck in a ditch for several minutes on the first stage. His recovery to ninth in class, which was blighted by a puncture and brake issues, netted several stage wins. Briton Harry Hunt was heading for a podium finish only for an electrical fault to trigger his retirement 100 metres after the start of stage eight.
Roberts remembered in Ypres
Intercontinental Rally Challenge crews paid tribute to Gareth Roberts – who lost his life co-driving for Craig Breen on Targa Florio-Rally Internazionale Di Sicilia – during the Geko Ypres Rally. Several IRC regulars held up a board with words of remembrance to Roberts at the official event photoshoot, which was followed by a period of silence. Cars carried a special tribute sticker, while a video featuring Roberts in action earlier this season was shown on the official IRC website, www.ircseries.com.
Posted: June 25, 2012 11:25 AM
TOP 10 IRC POSITIONS
1 Juho Hänninen (FIN)/Mikko Markkula (FIN) ŠKODA Fabia S2000 2h36m52.7s
2 Freddy Loix (BEL)/Lara Vanneste (BEL) Peugeot 207 S2000 +46.5s
3 Pieter Tsjoen (BEL)/Eddy Chevaillier (BEL) ŠKODA Fabia S2000 +2m14.6s
Patrick Snijers (BEL) / Johan Gitsels (BEL) Mini John Cooper Works S2000 **
5 Michal So?owow (POL)/Maciej Baran (POL) Peugeot 207 S2000 +5m25.4s
6 Patrik Flodin (SWE)/Göran Bergsten (SWE) M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000 +5m55.5s
7 Mathias Viaene (BEL)/Pieter Vyncke (BEL) Peugeot 207 S2000 +9m37.8s
8 Jonas Langenakens (BEL)/Nico Beernaert (BEL) Peugeot 207 S2000 +9m55.6s
9 Andreas Aigner (AUT)/Daniela Ertl (AUT) Subaru Impreza R4 STI +10m27.1s
10 Antonín Tlust’ák (CZE)/Jan Škaloud (CZE) ŠKODA Fabia S2000 +10m38.9s
11 Bob Colsoul (FRA)/Tom Colsoul (FRA) Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X +12m24.3s
IRC Production Cup: Andreas Aigner (AUT)/Daniela Ertl (AUT) Subaru Impreza R4 STI
IRC 2WD Cup: Martin Kangur (EST)/Andres Ots (EST) Honda Civic Type R
AUDIO: Interview with Robert Barrable - End of Day 1 - Ypres rally 2012
Posted: June 22, 2012 9:54 PM
AUDIO: Interview with Robert Barrable before the start of Ypres rally 2012
Posted: June 22, 2012 6:44 PM
AUDIO: Interview with Frank Cunnigham / Gary McElhinney (Ypres)
Posted: June 21, 2012 9:38 PM
Trevor Payne Motorsport Correspondent for West Limerick 102 interview from Ypres Rally 2012.
Frank Cunnigham / Gary McElhinney compete in Ypres Rally Belgium.
The Galway / Donegal crew are contesting the FIA European historic Championship . There last round was of great success in Mecsek Rally Hungary 3 weeks ago in there Ford Escort Mk 2 where they came 1st in class and 7th overall.. The pair are hoping for a good run in Rally Ypres as they had success here in the previous years..
GEKO YPRES RALLY PREVIEW: IRC HERO LOIX RETURNS
Posted: June 21, 2012 12:55 PM
The Intercontinental Rally Challenge resumes on the Geko Ypres Rally in Belgium from 21-23 June with Gareth Roberts, co-driver to Craig Breen, in the thoughts of the IRC community following his sad passing on Targa Florio-Rally Internazionale Di Sicilia yesterday, Saturday.
Despite being one of the many success stories of the IRC, Ypres Rally organisers haven’t held back from revamping up to 60 per cent of the asphalt showcase’s demanding route in northwest Belgium.
An IRC highlight since the series began in 2007, the rally features a competitive distance of almost 300 kilometres over 18 special stages. With the action contained in a fast and furious 30-hour window mainly on testing farmland roads, the task facing competitors is enormous.
The fight for glory begins late in the afternoon on Friday 22 June with the first of six stages, two of which will be repeated. The itinerary includes the new technically demanding Westouter plus the double-use Mesen-Sauvegarde and Dikkebus tests.
Following service and the overnight halt in Ypres, Saturday’s competition starts with the 26.75-kilometre Heuvelland test shortly before 11:00hrs local time. The stage, the first of 12 on day two, uses an all-new route for 2012 and is set to provide a tough early challenge.
In other changes, the Proven-Vleteren stage has been rerouted and renamed Vleteren-Krombeke, while Kemmelberg has also been completely redesigned. Among the other highlights are two stages across the border in France, including the Wasquehal street run.
But Ypres – or Ieper to Flemish speakers – is more than just a rally. The town, which was painstakingly rebuilt after it suffered heavy damage and loss of life during World War I, becomes the event’s epicentre for the duration of the event with the central service park, the Ieper Rally Center, dominating the famous Grote Markt and filling the surrounding streets. With tens of thousands of spectators flocking to the town to watch the numerous service halts and start and finish ceremonies, the atmosphere is electric, particularly when darkness falls.
All drivers competing in Ypres will be in contention for the prestigious Colin McRae IRC Flat Out Trophy, which is awarded to the driver whose performance best embodies the spirit of the rally legend.
Appearances can be deceptive in Ypres. While the stages, comprising mainly long, narrow and flat straights and 90-degree junctions through areas of open farmland, appear tame, the competitive route is littered with hazards waiting to catch out the unwary driver.
Drainage ditches and telegraph pylons pepper the roads, which can become notoriously slippery due to mud and gravel being dragged onto the surface by drivers taking ‘cuts’ through corners. With changeable weather conditions and stages run at night adding to the challenge, not to mention a condensed timetable, the Ypres Rally tests all participants to the limit.
The proliferation of long straights and tight corners put the onus firmly on driver commitment and accurate pacenotes. With top speeds of up to 180kph being recorded, drivers have to judge their braking points to perfection to maximise the amount of speed they carry into and out of corners, meaning it’s not just the competitor with the most powerful engine and strongest brakes that wins.
While drivers such as Luca Rossetti and Kris Meeke won on their Ypres Rally debuts in 2007 and 2009 respectively, local knowledge is considered essential, particularly knowing where to cut the tight corners and when to play safe by taking a more conventional line to avoid punctures. Belgian hero Freddy Loix is testament to that theory with a record seven victories.
*Freddy Loix has won the Ypres Rally more times than any other driver with seven triumphs to his name, including three since the advent of the IRC in 2007
*There’s a political twist to this year’s event with Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne co-driving Tuur Vandenabeele
*Don’t be confused by signs to Ieper: it’s how Flemish-speaking Belgians spell Ypres
*The service park in the centre of Ypres is a must for rally fans. And with Ypres being in Belgium there’s a ready supply of vendors serving one of the country’s most popular dishes, frites mayonnaise
*With two stages in France on day two, the Ypres Rally is one of two rounds of the IRC with stages in two different countries. July’s Rally San Marino includes stages in the republic and in neighbouring Italy
THE BATTLE FOR VICTORY
While established Intercontinental Rally Challenge regulars Juho Hänninen and Andreas Mikkelsen will be in the mix for victory on the Geko Ypres Rally, the return of IRC legend Freddy Loix provides added intrigue.
Not only has the Belgian veteran won seven rounds of the IRC in the past, he is also a seven-time winner in Ypres, an event record. Co-driven by Lara Vanneste and back in a Peugeot 207 Super 2000 following two seasons spent competing in a ŠKODA Fabia S2000, Loix is set to fight for top spot on the narrow farmland stages he knows so well.
Hänninen, meanwhile, starts his first IRC counter since winning the Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally in April for ŠKODA Motorsport. However, the Finn’s focus will be on extending his lead in the European championship, which runs in tandem with the IRC. Defending champion Mikkelsen (ŠKODA UK Motorsport) will be out for revenge after crashing in Ypres last season.
Former IRC Production Cup frontrunner Florian Gonon joins rising star Mathieu Arzeno in the Saintéloc Racing Peugeot team, his first appearance in the IRC in an S2000 car. European championship regular Micha 2; So 2;owow will also rely on Peugeot power for his first start in this year’s IRC.
Other names expected to fight at the front include Ypres regular Pieter Tsjoen and Sweden’s Patrik Flodin, who begins his IRC campaign in a Petter Solberg Engineering M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000 after a broken collarbone ruled him out in Corsica last month. Dream Team Ukraine duo Oleksandr Saliuk and Oleksiy Tamrazov will also compete in Fiestas.
ŠKODA Aut7o Deutschland’s impressive youngster Sepp Wiegand will continue to build his experience of IRC competition in Ypres, while Skydive Dubai’s Rashid Al-Ketbi and Eurosol Racing’s Janós Puskádi will be hoping to gain more knowledge of their Fabias. Robert Barrable, who enjoys support from ŠKODA Ireland, shone on his Ypres debut last season and will be hoping to impress once again.
IRC Production Cup
Andreas Aigner will be bidding to make it two wins out of two in the IRC Production Cup in the Stohl Racing Subaru Impreza R4 he shares with fellow Austrian Daniela Ertl. However, with Dutchman Jasper van den Heuvel set to offer a formidable challenge in his Ralliart Lancer R4, Aigner will face a difficult test. Belgium’s Kris Princen will also be a contender in his Renault Mégane RS, as will his younger countryman Matthias Boon in an Impreza. Dominique Bruyneel, Cédric De Cecco and Bob Colsoul have all been tipped for success while Renault privateer Robert Consani, the IRC Production Cup leader, Martinique driver Johan Heloïse and Ukrainian Vitaliy Pushkar will also chase honours.
IRC 2WD Cup
Kris Princen is also eligible for the IRC 2WD Cup in his front-wheel-drive Renault and the local hero will be one of the favourites for glory. Martin Kangur will head the Honda charge in his Civic Type R, while Germany’s Christian Riedemann, French rising talent Quentin Gilbert and Briton Harry Hunt will fight hard in their Citroën DS3 R3Ts. Luxembourg’s Hugo Arellano, who has Chilean ancestry, is one of several leading M-Sport Ford Fiesta R2 drivers in action, while Caren Burton, Cédric Cherain and Kevin Demaerschalk are among a number of rapid Belgian drivers chasing class success. Mark Donnelly will be one to watch in his Renault Clio R3, as will leading female drivers Molly Taylor from Australia and Ekaterina Stratieva from Bulgaria.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: FREDDY LOIX
Seven-time Ypres Rally winner is back in the IRC for his home event and hoping for more glory
It’s been more than six months since your last IRC appearance in Cyprus. What have you been up to?
“I have been driving a Peugeot 207 Super 2000 in the French championship. It has been a good start to the season for me driving against World Rally Cars.”
What have you missed about the IRC?
“I am missing the battle with the good drivers although on the other side the fight with Bryan Bouffier in the French championship is very interesting. He is in the same car as me and knows the Peugeot very well so we have some good battles.”
As a seven-time winner in Ypres it’s fair to call you the favourite for victory. Do you agree?
“Everybody is calling me the favourite but the level is very strong in the IRC and this is currently the only rally I am doing in the IRC this year. For sure my experience of the rally is helping me but it will be a big challenge against the ŠKODAs.”
How are you preparing for this year’s Ypres Rally?
“We will have two one-day tests, the second is on Monday [18 June]. The Peugeot is working well but we still have to make some improvements to make it more progressive and not so nervous. The stages in Ypres can be very slippery so the car needs to be precise.”
Much is made of the changeable weather conditions in Ypres. What do you know about the forecast for next week?
“Let’s say I am not concerned about the weather because I have won in wet and dry conditions. It doesn’t matter to me.”
FAST FREDDY SET FOR IRC RETURN IN YPRES
Posted: June 14, 2012 2:29 PM
Freddy Loix, one of the most successful drivers in the history of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, will return to the series on the Geko Ypres Rally in his native Belgium from 21-23 June.
Loix, a winner in the IRC on seven occasions and known affectionately by fans around the world as ‘Fast Freddy’, will pilot a Peugeot 207 Super 2000 alongside Lara Vanneste on the demanding asphalt event, which he has won three times since it joined the IRC in 2007.
“It’s good to be back because I have been missing the battle although [in the French championship] I have been having a good fight with Bryan Bouffier who drives the same car as I do,” said the 41-year-old ace. “I expect the factory ŠKODAs will be strong in Ypres but on the other side I have lots of experience.”
The Lotus Exige R-GT at the Geko Ypres Rally
Posted: June 13, 2012 12:06 PM
Legendary British sports car marque Lotus will make its debut as a course car at Belgium’s Geko Ypres rally on the 21-23 June. Portuguese driver Bernardo Sousa, who is set to race the Lotus Exige R-GT later this year, will drive this official car ahead of its entry in the FIA European Rally Championship and the Intercontinental Rally Challenge.
As part of the continuous development programme of the Exige R-GT, which has undergone tests in Italy, comes its first participation, albeit as a course car, in a rally event. The Geko Ypres Rally, which takes place in the town of Ypres in West Flanders, will be the fans first opportunity to see the car up close and running, and with the team of Bernardo Sousa and Corrado Mancini on board.
The Lotus International Team will be present in full at Ypres. The race will be the first official event for the team, and represents a useful opportunity to bed itself in.
Ypres is one of the most charming and characteristic rallies in the European series and the IRC. The participation of the Lotus International Rally Team will be used to continue testing and to fine tune the set-up of the car, equipped with a new suspension evolution, Michelin tyres thanks to a new technical partnership with the French company, and of further refined electronics.
Claudio Berro: “Development of the Exige R-GT is going well whilst we are awaiting further clarifications of the GT category, which are due to be made by the FIA at their World Motor Sport Council meeting on June 15. But, until then, we’re looking forward to Ypres which will give us some useful mileage, and show off this spectacular car to the rally world.”
Bernardo Sousa: "I am very pleased to be at the Geko Ypres Rally, even if I’m only driving the Exige as a course car. This presence will certainly help us to start having some stage time comparisons against those who will be our next opponents. During the tests the car has improved continuously and I am discovering its great potential day after day”.
Posted: June 5, 2012 5:23 PM
Available under "Spectators" on the Rally Website: