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Jos leads Rally de Wallonie after first day: 'Very satisfied'

Published on 27 April 2024 by Misha van der Kroon

Jos Verstappen started today, together with his navigator Renaud Jamoul, in the Rally de Wallonie, part of the Belgian Rally Championship (BRC). It is a two-day rally, consisting of a total of twenty stages. The 52-year-old Dutch driver kept improving his times throughout the day and ended the Saturday on the top of the timesheets.

Jos tells us after the first day: “I am very satisfied. The whole team did a good job. We made good notes, analysed everything well and the car was going great. So, I’m very pleased, it is looking very good.”

The Rally de Wallonie is a new challenge for Jos, as it is a new course for him. “The first round will therefore be difficult,” Jos predicted before the start of the rally. “It’s a matter of learning and quickly adjusting the notes for the next round. That is a lot of work, and it is going to be difficult. We explored the course well, and of course we will do our best. It is a fairly wide course, it is fast and that suits me well. But it will always remain difficult, because in a few stages there are parts that are treacherous and slippery.”

The two-day rally started on Saturday with the Mohiville-Nettinne, Natoye, Crupet and Wartet stages. The first three were driven three times, the last stage only twice, bringing the total number of stages on day 1 to eleven.

The first four stages were won by the two-time Belgian champion Adrian Fernémont in his Citroën C3 Rally2. The weather conditions were changeable, so the top drivers, including Jos, started on a combination of rain tyres and soft slicks.

“For my first time here, I am satisfied. It took some time to search and find where the smooth parts were,” Jos commented after the first round. The fourth stage was wet and slippery: “It was incredibly slippery, and in the fast corners I had understeer, and we were sliding.” Still, the results of the first round weren’t bad at all: a fifth, third, sixth and fourth place. This gave Jos the second place in the general classification, 13.7 seconds behind Fernémont.

On the fifth stage, Jos immediately put his newly acquired knowledge into practice and scored his first P1 of the day. That was followed by P2, P3 and another P1. Meanwhile, Fernémont suffered a minor technical setback, and on the final stretch of the Wartet stage, two other important competitors made a mistake on the jump. Cédric Cherain broke the radiator of his Hyundai i20 N Rally2 on landing, and Maxime Potty broke the suspension of his Citroën C3 Rally2. Finally, top driver Stéphane Lefebvre also suffered damage: a broken gearbox forced him to drop out of the competition. 

Jos performed consistently and closed the gap to Fernémont to only 3.9 seconds. He commented: “In the first round I took quite some margin, but after that I was able to attack fully. It is going very well, it all feels very good. We have adjusted the notes a bit. It runs perfectly, we can’t go much faster. It looks good.”

Jos also went for it on the last three stages of the day. Verstappen finished first, second and first again. As a result, Verstappen and Jamoul lead the standings after 102 kilometres on the first day of the Rally de Wallonie, 12.0 seconds ahead of Adrian Fernémont and Antoine Podgorny. Maxime Potty and Renaud Herman are third, 30.3 seconds behind Verstappen.

“Tomorrow is a new day with new stages, which I will first have to learn again,” Jos concludes. On Sunday, the second day of the rally, nine new stages are on the program, spread over three different rounds. The final classification of the BRC Rally de Wallonie will be decided after those rounds.