After securing victories on snow in Latvia, on asphalt in Ireland and on dirt in the Azores, the 208 T16 heads to Belgium’s famous Ypres Rally, round six of the 2015 FIA European Rally Championship (FIA ERC). The competition’s current leaders Craig Breen/Scott Martin will be joined by Stéphane Lefebvre/Stéphane Prévot, while Diogo Gago/Jorge Carvalho will be back in action in the ERC Junior class in their usual 208 R2.
The Kenotek Ypres Rally is one of the FIA ERC’s classic fixtures and one of the most important rounds of the season. It invariably attracts huge crowds, while competitors face a challenging cocktail of fast, narrow lanes with countless junctions and lined by deep ditches, leaving no margin for error. The event’s format is an added difficulty, since two-thirds of the total competitive distance – 170 kilometres – will be packed into a single day.
The Belgian event has attracted a high number of Peugeot 208 T16s and R2s. In addition to the two 208 T16s that will be in the hands of the Peugeot Rally Academy’s pair, there will be similar cars for the 2005 Ypres victor Kris Princen, who will be in the colours of Peugeot Belgium Luxemburg and who is currently second in the Belgian championship, as well as for Portugal’s Bruno Magalhães. Last year’s Peugeot Rally Academy runner Kevin Abbring and nine-time Ypres winner Freddy Loix stand out among the event’s other favourites. Eleven of the 16 cars entered in the ERC Junior class are 208s R2, including a car for the competition’s pace-setter, Peugeot UK driver Chris Ingram. The list continues with competitors in the Peugeot 208 Rally Trophy Belux which is currently dominated by Cédric De Cecco. Thanks to a score of three victories from the last three rounds, Craig Breen tops the provisional 2015 FIA ERC standings ahead of Ypres with a 14-point cushion over second-placed Kajetan Kajetanowicz. The Irishman has contested the famous Belgian event twice before, once in 2013 when he came third for the Peugeot Rally Academy in a 207 S2000, and again in 2014. Although he is clearly determined to add a fourth straight success to his 2015 record, Craig’s priority will be to defend his championship lead despite the Ypres Rally’s highly specific terrain.
It’s nice to arrive in Ypres with the last three wins under my belt and I’m really looking forward to driving my 208 T16 on asphalt again. It would obviously be nice to make it four-in-a-row but Ypres is a very hard event. The stages are narrow and the weather can be changeable. There are a lot of drivers who are a capable of winning; not just the ERC regulars but also the locals who know the stages by heart. I can’t wait to get started and hopefully continue my run of top results with the Peugeot Rally Academy.
The defending Junior-WRC champion Stéphane Lefebvre, who also won the ERC Junior title in 2014 with the Peugeot Rally Academy, is making his return in the colours of Peugeot Sport. This time last year, the Frenchman won the Junior contest in Ypres driving the Academy’s 208 R2, so he will be eager to build on that experience to challenge for another strong showing, this time in the overall order. The native of northern France has a good understanding of R5 machinery now since he drives a DS3 in the WRC2. His participation in this year’s Ypres Rally is his reward for winning the 2014 Junior ERC title. With Belgian co-driver Stéphane Prévot – winner of the event in 2002 in a 206 WRC – sitting alongside calling out the notes, the French youngster has high hopes of a top performance.
I thoroughly enjoyed Ypres last year and I want to do well again this weekend. Having Stéphane [Prévot] as my co-driver will be an advantage because he knows the event so well. My aim is to battle for a podium finish even though I’m on a run of gravel events in the WRC at the moment. I’ve tested the 208 T16. It’s a very easy car to drive, so that will boost my chances of a good result with the Peugeot Rally Academy.
After coming second on his home round in the Azores earlier this month, Diogo Gago has decided to change tactics for the Belgian rally.
My objective is the same as it was in Ireland, and that’s a top-five finish. That would be a good result for me because I’ve got less experience on asphalt. In Ireland, we ended up fourth, so that shows we are capable of adapting to specific stages. I’ve already competed in Belgium because I did the Rallye du Condroz which was a round of the 208 Rally Cup in 2013. Although the stages aren’t the same, I will be able to count on the first class handling of my 208 R2 on all types of surface. I will need to finish in the big points ahead of the last two rounds of the ERC Junior championship because only the best four results count at the end of the season.
1, CRAIG BREEN / SCOTT MARTIN (PEUGEOT 208 T16), 117 points. 2, Kajetan KAJETANOWICZ (Ford Fiesta R5), 103. 3, Robert Consani (Citroën DS3 R5), 55. 4, Alexey Lukyanuk (Ford Fiesta R5), 43. 5, Siim PLANGI (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X), 28…. 12, CHARLES MARTIN / THIERRY SALVA (PEUGEOT 208 T16), 17. Etc.
1, Emil BERGKVIST (Opel Adam R2), 98 points. 2, Chris INGRAM (Peugeot 208 R2), 74. 3, Steve ROKLAND (Peugeot 208 R2), 59. 4, DIOGO GAGO / JORGE CARVALHO (PEUGEOT 208 R2), 54. 5, Ralfs SIRMACIS (Peugeot 208 R2), 35. Etc.
Wednesday, June 24: recce
Thursday, June 25: recce and qualifying stage
Friday, June 26: Leg 1
Saturday, June 6: Leg 2