Ypres Rally Belgium is yet another new entrant to the World Rally Championship following its coronavirus calendar shake-up. It may be fresh to the WRC but few rallies across the world hold as much heritage as Ypres.
Ypres’ WRC debut was set to be made in November 2020 but an autumnal rise in Covid-19 cases forced the rally’s cancellation.
The asphalt-based rally is famous for its cuts across the low-lying grass on either side of the Ypres roads.
It certainly isn’t the first asphalt rally in the world championship but it will definitely provide a new challenge for the crews as they step into the relative unknown. Ypres Rally Belgium will test car and crew in a completely different manner to WRC’s tarmac regulars: Germany, Corsica, and Spain.
One interesting facet will be how the cuts affect the performance of competitors running further down the road. In the championship’s predominant gravel rounds, a lower road position is desirable but the opposite will be true when it comes to seeking the clean lines through Flanders.
Over the years Ypres has been mastered by several Belgians: Robert Droogmans in the late eighties, Patrick Snijers in the nineties before the arrival of the all-conquering Freddy Loix. Loix claimed his first of 11 Ypres Rally wins in 1996 driving a Toyota Celica.
The few foreign drivers to win the event include Kris Meeke and Craig Breen who won the rally 10 years apart, in 2009 and 2019 respectively. Both were co-driven by Kerryman Paul Nagle.
The stalwart of European, Belgian, and British Rally Championships in the past is a very welcome addition to the 2021 World Rally Championship.
The question is, can anyone stop local hero and 2018 rally winner, Thierry Neuville, when he brings his Hyundai i20 WRC back to his home stages.