After two pulsating rounds of the Motorsport UK British Rally Championship, the series heads into Europe for the third round of the season, the Ardeca Ypres Rally [22-24 June].
The Belgian event is one of the most popular rallies in the world and the legendary closed-road asphalt lanes in the Flanders region offer up some of the most challenging and unforgiving stages seen in the BRC roster.
The world-class event has attracted a star-studded entry list with over 25 top-flight Rally2 contenders set to embark on the three-day showdown. The historic Grote Markt in the heart of Ypres town centre hosts the rally with its now famous atmospheric service park a prominent feature of the event.
After the qualifying stage on Thursday evening determines the road order, contenders will be flagged away on Friday afternoon under the gaze of the impressive Cloth Hall in the eye of the town, with two action-packed days and over 137 miles of competitive action ahead, in both daylight and under the cover of darkness.
Iconic stages such as Westouter, Hollebeke and Kemmelberg lie in wait, as 18 special tests bring British Rally Championship protagonists head-to-head with some of the best drivers in the business.
Heading the over 100-strong field is reigning Belgian champion and former Citroën factory driver, Stéphane Lefebvre and co-driver Loris Pascaud who made a last-minute decision to sign up to the British Rally Championship for the event. The French pairing will also give the Michelin-shod Citroën C3 Rally2 its debut in the series and Lefebvre knows exactly how to handle the Ypres roads, winning the WRC2 category on the event in 2022 when it was a World Rally Championship qualifying round.
However, he will have a very on-form fellow countryman to deal with in the shape of Adrian Fourmaux who has two BRC wins from two starts to his name already this season. The Pirelli-supported Ford Fiesta Rally2 ace lives just a stone’s throw from the stages and he and co-driver Alexandre Coria are set to lock horns with their compatriot for the prestigious Ypres victory. With four-time BRC champion Keith Cronin electing to skip the event, Fourmaux could well extend his championship lead further still.
James Williams and Dai Roberts will be looking to right the wrongs of a torrid Jim Clark Rally, which saw them leave the road after fighting for the podium places. Piloting a Ford Fiesta Rally2, Williams’ last performance here saw him beat the locals in their backyard when in two-wheel-drive machinery and could well throw some surprises this time around.
Another looking to forget last month’s Scottish Borders round, is Garry Pearson and Daniel Barritt who failed to emerge from the opening leg. Pearson’s Hankook-supported Polo GTi left the road on the second test, and now he lines up in Ypres for the very first time, eager to make amends and get his championship aspirations back on track.
BRC3 ace Johnnie Mulholland is eager to see how he stacks up against the asphalt experts of Belgium, as he heads to Ypres to give his Ford Fiesta Rally3 its European debut.
The 2021 Academy Trophy champion made the switch to the Rally3 category in 2023 and has spent the opening two rounds of the season acclimatising to both four-wheel-drive and the new-driving style required in the step up from his Rally4 Fiesta from last season. He and Eoin Treacy will be battling with a large Rally3 contingent on the event and has some tough competition for the category honours.
Like his BRC1 counterpart, Junior BRC leader Kyle White has enjoyed two BRC wins already this season and is eager to make it a hattrick in the Belgian lanes. Along with co-driver Sean Topping, White has enjoyed winning ways but will now pit himself against the rapid asphalt aces on mainland Europe. Expect fireworks if he has a scent for an overall event class win in his Peugeot 208 Rally4.
An ultra-resilient Kyle McBride endured a nightmare round at the Jim Clark after crashing his Fiesta Rally4 on the opening night stages. However, stellar work by the team saw them rebuild his Fiesta Rally4 enough to continue the following day and secure valuable points in his Junior BRC campaign trail. McBride and Liam McIntyre have their sights set on White but could also spring some surprises overall during the weekend, despite making their European rally debut.
Casey Jay Coleman was forced to skip the Jim Clark but returns in Belgium for a shot at the Junior BRC. The young Irishman already has some experience abroad, including outings in Italy, but this marks his first trip to Ypres and will drive his familiar Fiesta Rally4.
The fight for National Rally Title top spot sees Mike East and Emily Easton-Page take their Fiesta R2 across the channel. With Jim Clark winner Alan Carmichael sitting this one out, it’s the ideal opportunity for a good score and East will battle with Opel Kadette GT/E driver Stuart McLaren for that honour.