Geko Ypres Rally 2014
19-21 june 2014
The Geko Ypres Rally is invariably one of the highlights on the FIA European Rally Championship (FIA ERC) calendar. An immensely popular event, it has attracted this year a field of no fewer than 100 competitors, including all three Peugeot Rally Academy drivers: Craig Breen and Kevin Abbring in 208 T16s and Stéphane Lefebvre in a 208 R2. With Abbring – runner-up on the Rallye Açores – and Breen, who currently sits second in the overall championship standings, the Peugeot Rally Academy is once more joining the fray with two genuine contenders for the top step of the podium. Young French hope Lefebvre, meanwhile, turned heads when he upset the applecart at the Portuguese round by storming to an unchallenged victory in the Juniors class behind the wheel of his 208 R2.
Ypres…the longest rally of the season
At 294.79km, the Ypres Rally – the sixth outing on the 2014 FIA ERC schedule – is the longest event of the season, and the Peugeot Rally Academy trio will need to successfully negotiate 20 special stages to reach the finish. Taking place around the old city, the event is renowned for its tight junctions, narrow roads bordered by ditches and telegraph poles.
Craig Breen: A title contender
Sitting second in the chase for the coveted crown, Craig Breen and co-driver Scott Martin will be giving it their all in their 208 T16 in an effort to erase the 29 points separating them from Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm at the top of their respective championship tables. The Irishman is also in the hunt for the ERC Asphalt Master trophy – a new addition for 2014. It was introduced to reward excellent performances on different types of surfaces by asphalt specialists, and is being fought out across six events including the Geko Ypres Rally. Points are awarded to the five fastest drivers on each stage on the following basis: 10-6-4-2-1. With 156 points to-date, Lappi presently leads Breen (105) in this contest, with Sepp Wiegand third on 83 and Abbring next up on 60.
Kevin Abbring: Always on the pace
The Dutchman has consistently demonstrated since the season began that he has the rhythm to fight up at the sharp end in his 208 T16. Abbring and co-driver Seb Marshall know this rally well and are fully aware that it will be no easy task – particularly given that the entry list includes a number of extremely rapid rivals. A new challenge awaits them in the shape of a rally that looks set to be fiercely-disputed. The test planned ahead of the Ypres Rally will doubtless enable the crews to go into the Belgian event in a state of confidence.
Stéphane Lefebvre: On-track for another triumph?
Let off the leash in the Azores, the youngest member of the Peugeot Rally Academy annihilated the opposition behind the wheel of his 208 R2. Lying fourth in the Juniors classification after two appearances, he is optimistic that this Belgian outing will enable him to continue gaining ground on his nearest adversaries. Chief amongst them will be championship leader Jan Cerny, who similarly has designs on victory in his 208 R2. It is shaping up to be an enthralling battle. Remember that after finishing as top Junior in the ‘208 Rally Cup’ in 2013, Stéphane earned the opportunity to compete in four rounds of the FIA ERC in 2014 alongside co-driver Thomas Dubois. It should also be noted that Lefebvre currently leads this year’s Peugeot 208 Rally Cup.
“I really enjoyed the Ypres Rally last year, so I can’t wait to return to compete on the event a second time. Following a few setbacks of late, it will be very important for us to get back on terms in the title race. Ypres is a tricky rally with very narrow roads that really tighten in places. The weather can also play a very significant role. The competition will be fierce, but I’m confident that our speed will see us in the fight for victory. I am sure that our test on Tuesday with the whole Peugeot Rally Academy team will enable us to fine-tune our set-up for the event and in so doing, to come away from the rally with a strong result!”
“I competed at Ypres in 2011, and even if the stages are not the same this year, I’m nonetheless familiar with the nuances of this rally and its tight, narrow nature. I have participated on the event twice before, but both times in two wheel-drive machinery. It will obviously be an entirely new experience in the four wheel-drive 208 T16. The car is competitive on asphalt, but Ypres is completely different to the other events on the calendar that take place on the same type of surface. Testing at the beginning of the week helped us to determine the best set-up for the car and the 208 is increasingly reliable. Nevertheless, Saturday will be a real challenge, both for the crews and the cars with some 200 timed kilometres to conquer. I’ve never covered so much ground in a single day of stages before.”
“This will be our first time competing on this rally, and we will approach it with the same objective that we had in the Azores – winning the Junior ERC class. It is the first asphalt event of the championship for us, and we are eager to see how we stack up in relation to our Junior ERC rivals. From fourth in the title standings, we are targeting a maximum points haul at Ypres to gain ground in the classification.”
The 208 Rally Trophy: Peugeot’s flagship series in Belgium
As part of the hotly-contested FIA European Rally Championship round at Ypres, no fewer than 12 crews will participate in the 208 Rally Trophy – the third outing of the campaign for Peugeot’s flagship series in Belgium. Current leader Guillaume Dilley will also feature in the FIA ERC itself, competing in the Juniors class in his 208 R2. It will mark his second FIA ERC appearance this year after the Azores last month. Supported by Automobiles Peugeot Belux, the winner of the Belgian event in 2001 and 2005, Pieter Tjoens, will take the start of the FIA ERC rally in a 208 T16.
Provisional championship positions:
Esapekka LAPPI (Skoda S2000), 98 point. 2- Craig Breen/Scott Martin (Peugeot 208 T16), 69 points.
3- Vasily GRYAZIN (Ford Fiesta S2000), 53 points. 4- Sepp Wiegand (Skoda S2000), 48 points. 5- Kajetan KAJETANOWICZ (Ford Fiesta R5), 48 points. Etc.
Thursday, June 19: Free Practice and Qualifying
Friday, June 20, and Saturday, June 21: Rally