SNIJERS GETS VOLKSWAGEN FOR BELGIUM YPRES RALLY … AND ALL THE OTHER NEWS FROM THE IRC
Legendary Belgian driver Patrick Snijers will chase his fifth Belgium Ypres Rally victory at the wheel of a Volkswagen Polo Super 2000.
The 51-year-old, who finished fifth on the event last year in a BFGoodrich Drivers‘ Team Peugeot 207, will drive for Rene Georges Rally Sport on the asphalt event, round five of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, which runs from June 18-20.
Rene George Rally Sport engineer Jack de Keijzer said: "Patrick has been looking to use a Super 2000 car on Ypres. We were in contact with him last year about driving our Polo but in the end he won the chance to drive a Peugeot 207. For sure he can aim for a top-five finish although he is already thinking only about a podium."
De Keijzer confirmed Snijers would complete a two-day test alongside his new team-mate Francois Duval at an undisclosed venue in Belgium in the build-up to the rally. Duval will drive a Skoda Fabia Super 2000.
"It is very important Patrick and Francois are both well prepared for this opportunity," said de Keijzer.
Andreas Waldherr, who was due to compete in Ypres in a second Rene Georges-run Polo, has elected to concentrate on his Austrian championship title challenge instead and will therefore not be making the trip to Ypres.
LOIX CONFIDENT OF RECLAIMING IRC TITLE LEAD
Freddy Loix believes he can still win this year’s Intercontinental Rally Challenge despite losing the title initiative to Kris Meeke on the Sata Rally Acores earlier this month.
Loix led the standings prior to the IRC’s inaugural visit to the Azores but slipped two points behind Meeke following his fourth place finish on the island event.
However, Loix is the favourite to win his home event, the Belgium Ypres Rally, next month, a result he reckons will reinvigorate his title challenge.
"I am in a better position than I was 12 months ago before taking on Ypres, my favourite event," said Loix, who finished runner-up to Kronos Racing team-mate Nicolas Vouilloz in last year’s standings. "It’s going to be a big fight to win the championship and it’s going to be very close, just like it was last year."
Loix, who has won the Belgium Ypres Rally on five occasions, is also confident that working with new co-driver Frederic Miclotte will increase his chances of claiming the coveted drivers‘ crown.
"The adaptation to my new co-driver went perfectly in the Azores and that has made me more confident for the rest of the season," said Loix. "But I have to be consistent and make sure I score points in every round."
PEUGEOT TEAM EXPECTS BIG FIGHT WITH RIVAL SKODA
Kronos Racing boss Marc van Dalen is bracing himself for a big battle for Intercontinental Rally Challenge honours with the factory Skoda outfit.
Van Dalen’s team runs the Peugeot 207 Super 2000s of Freddy Loix, Kris Meeke and Nicolas Vouiloz. It is also responsible for the BFGoodrich Drivers‘ Team entry on selected rounds of the series.
Although Kronos-run drivers have claimed victory on three of the four rounds run so far this season, defeating Skoda on two occasions in the process, van Dalen expects the threat posed by the works Skoda drivers Juho Hanninen and Jan Kopecky will intensify as the season progresses.
"Skoda is a very good team with two good drivers so I am sure we will continue to have a big fight with them," said van Dalen.
While Kronos has committed to contesting nine of the 12 IRC rounds this year, it’s unclear when the Czech team will compete next.
"We’re going to Rally Russia but we are also studying the possibility of participating on the Belgium Ypres Rally, which will be an additional event to what we originally planned," said Skoda team manager Pavel Hortek.
VAN DEN HEUVEL REVEALS IRC PROGRAMME
Jasper van den Heuvel will contest three rounds of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge this year, starting with next month’s Belgium Ypres Rally. The 30-year-old Dutch driver is also planning to enter Barum Rally Zlin in Czech Republic in August before tackling the series finale, the RAC MSA Rally of Scotland, in November.
Van den Heuvel will drive a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X for his van den Heuvel Motorsport team, which could field as many as seven cars on the asphalt event.
"I want to show the Evo 10 is quick on what is, for me, the fastest rally in Europe and not just against the other Group N cars but the Super 2000 cars as well," said van den Heuvel. "I have a long history with this rally. My father used to drive on it and I did my first Ypres Rally when I was 23. I was second overall for a time in front of all these guys so it is a tradition for me to always try and do this rally."
Van den Heuvel said running seven cars in Ypres would not be a problem for this team.
"We are used to dealing with 11 cars on Dutch championship rallies so it is not a concern for me," said van den Heuvel.
MEEKE PREPARES FOR UK PUBLIC APPEARANCE
Fans of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge living in Great Britain will get an early taster of what’s in store on the RAC MSA Rally of Scotland, the final round of the IRC in November, when Kris Meeke appears at The Rally Show, a two-day rally-orientated festival in the country from June 6/7.
Meeke, who leads the IRC standings by two points, will be performing a series of demonstration runs in his Peugeot UK-backed 207 S2000. The occasion will mark the first time the 29-year-old from Northern Ireland will have driven his Kronos Racing-run Super 2000 car on British soil.
"We’re delighted he’s coming to The Rally Show," said Malcolm Neill, the event director. "Kris is a very talented driver and the fact he is leading the IRC makes this a real honour. It’s also going to be fantastic to see his Peugeot 207 Super 2000 car in action. It makes a great sound and will be terrific for the fans."
Meeke has won two of the four IRC rounds held so far this season. His co-driver Paul Nagle, from the Republic of Ireland, will also be appearing at the event, which is held on Tarmac roads within the grounds of the Chatsworth stately home in the county of Derbyshire.
Meeke will drive his Peugeot at a motorsport festival in England