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Jos Verstappen eight after first day of Ypres Rally: 'The victory is gone'

Published on 21 June 2024 by Misha van der Kroon

On Friday, Jos Verstappen and navigator Renaud Jamoul were at the start of the Ypres Rally, part of the Belgium Rally Championship (BRC). The Dutch-Belgian team started very well, but a flat tyre in the fourth special stage set them back far. After eight stages, Stéphane Lafebvre is leading the general classification with Jos in P8. The rally continues Saturday with ten more stages to go.

The Verstappen-Jamoul duo drove the second fastest time in their Skoda Fabia RS Rally2 car on Thursday, during the Qualifying Stage (in which the starting order for the Friday would be determined). Therefore, the duo starts the rally as second, and given the changeable weather, the starting order can play a decisive role.

During the press conference ahead of the first round of stages, Jos said: “We will see, we have to see how quickly we can master the stages. Starting second on a dry course may not be perfect. It would be better to start fourth or fifth, but we will see. It is all fairly new, and we have Maxime Potty ahead of us, so if we can follow him, we will be fine. It is a long race, and you have to finish first.”

The first stage, named Vleteren, is scheduled for late in the afternoon. The tyres that all the pairs chose will be used during the first four stages. Stéphane Lefebvre wins the first stage, 0.2 seconds ahead of Jos, who takes second place. The Dutchman had a 0.6 second lead to Niels Reynvoet, who finishes the first stage in third place. “It was difficult. The car moves a lot, but we will see if we can adjust it a bit. I’m happy with the dry conditions, I think it is better for everyone, and the whole rally. I’m pleased with that,” Jos said after the first stage.

Westouter is the second stage, and again Lefebvre goes round fastest. P2 goes to Gilles Pyck, who is 0.3 seconds ahead of Jos. The Limburger ends the stage in P3 but is still second in the general standings.

The third stage is Mesen-Wijtschate, and again the differences are small: Jos, just like in the first stage, finishes second, 0.2 seconds behind Lefebvre, who again takes P1. The gap to the Frenchmen who is leading the general standings increases to 3.3 seconds for Jos, while the gap to number three, Niels Reynvoet, increases to 6.6 seconds.

The fourth stage on the Friday is Zonnebeke, and during this stage Jos encounters his first setback. Due to a flat tyre, he loses almost 56 seconds to Reynvoet, who finishes this fourth stage in P1, ahead of Lefebvre in P2. In the general standings, Jos drops back from P2 to P15, which means that he will have a tough time catching up during the rest of the rally. Under normal circumstances, that gap is very difficult to close. “I hit a big rock on the inside of a fast left turn along a hedge. We drove for more than eight kilometres on the rim. The victory is gone, but the rally is still long,” is Jos’ down-to-earth comment after the stage.

After a short break, the second round of the day starts, and the fifth stage is again Vleteren. Jos has regained the speed he already showed in the first three stages and ends the fifth stage in P1, ahead of Potty. Lefebvre finishes fourth this time, but the differences in the times are again very small. By winning this stage, Jos climbs from P15 to P12 in the general standings, but the gap to Lefebvre is only gradually shrinking. Niels Reynvoet, leader in the BRC, has to withdraw due to technical problems.

The following stage is Westouter. On the 7.32-kilometre-long stage, Potty goes round fastest, while Jos finishes in P4, behind Lefebvre. The Frenchman remains the leader of the rally, while Jos continues in P12.

Jos wins the seventh stage, Mesen-Wijtschate. After this round, his competitors show disbelief and appreciation about the speed that Jos showed. He climbs to P10 in the general classification and sees the gap to the leader shrink to a little under 50 seconds.

The second round of Zonnebeke is the eighth and last stage of the first day in Ypres. Jos finishes the 10.18-kilometer-long stage second, behind Potty but ahead of Lefebvre. In the general classification, Jos ends the day after eight stages in P8, which concludes the first day in Ypres.