Jos wins East Belgian Rally after thrilling battle: 'Very happy'
Published on 23 September 2023 by Misha van der Kroon
Jos Verstappen and navigator Renaud Jamoul have won the East Belgian Rally after a thrilling battle. The 51-year-old drove extremely well in his Skoda Fabia RS Rally2 car and was all Saturday involved in an intense battle for the lead with Cédric Cherain. With a difference of just seven-tenths of a second in Jos’ favor, the competing duo started the final stage in Sankt-Vith. Cherain was the quickest in this stage, but only two-tenths ahead of Jos. By just half a second, Verstappen won his first victory in the Belgian Rally Championship. Earlier this year he already was the best in the regional Monteberg Rally.
“I am really happy with my first victory in the Belgian Rally Championship,” he says afterwards. “We had to give everything all day, and drove extremely well. It was an intense battle until the very last moment. I’m very happy. I didn’t think I would be able to fight with such an experienced driver as Cédric Cherain, especially because he knows these stages like the back of his hand. But thanks to the perfect notes of Renaud, my co-driver, I have made lots of progress. And even in the evening, when it was dark, I trusted those notes so much that I could keep pushing as hard as possible. This really is a victory of the whole team.”
The East Belgian Rally consisted of four different stages, named Bullingen, Butgenbach, Amel and Sankt-Vith. Each stage had to be driven three times, meaning that there were a total of twelve stages on the programme, a total distance of 152.1 kilometers.
Jos started the first round in the early morning and finished the stages in third, first, second and second, which put him 4.7 seconds behind Cherain in the overall standings. However, in the second round Verstappen managed to convert his experience from the first round into a faster pace. He finished first in all four stages, and turned his deficit into a lead of 4.4 seconds.
“We’ll go a bit faster in the second round,” Jos had already predicted. “In the first round I had to discover the track and we had to fine tune certain notes. We’ll go on the attack.” And he did as he predicted.
The battle was going to be decided in the third round over four stages. Cherain recovered and Jos had to settle for three second places, although the difference per stage was no more than two seconds. After eleven of the twelve stages, Jos was still in first place overall, but only 0.7 seconds ahead of Cherain and his co-driver Damien Withers.
The twelfth and final stage would be the all-decisive battle. In the dark both drivers went around as fast as they could, fighting for the victory. Cherain completed the stage as fastest, but only 0.2 seconds ahead of Verstappen. Meaning that Jos was still half a second ahead in the overall standings, which was enough for him to win the East Belgian Rally.