Vincent Verschueren made a strong start to the season at the Rally van Haspengouw. Rival Kris Princen dominated the early stages and opened up a decent lead. But as he took his foot off the gas over the final four stages, Verschueren pushed hard to close the gap. He won two of the final three special stages and came agonizingly close to reeling Princen in, ending up in second place, just 4.8 seconds behind his fellow FABIA R5 driver.

Vincent Verschueren / Veronique Hostens, ŠKODA FABIA R5, Duindistel. Rally van Haspengouw 2017 (Foto: BRC Media)
Vincent Verschueren / Veronique Hostens, ŠKODA FABIA R5, Duindistel. Rally van Haspengouw 2017 (Photo: BRC Media)

Next up was a rain-affected Spa Rally, where a mistake on the opening special stage cost Verschueren more than three minutes. But form that point he drove with precision and consistency until a double-puncture in the middle of the second leg cost him another two and a half minutes. But in treacherous conditions which saw 34 cars fail to finish, Verschueren got his FABIA R5 to the finish line and was rewarded for his efforts. Princen, who had again been leading, rolled out on the final stage, while Cédric Cherain, who crossed the finish line in first place, was disqualified for using illegal tyres. That elevated Verschueren up to a second place and gave him the championship lead.

Vincent Verschueren / Veronique Hostens, Duindistel. Spa Rally 2017 (Foto: BRC Media)
Vincent Verschueren / Veronique Hostens, Duindistel. Spa Rally 2017 (Photo: BRC Media)

The third round of the championship was the TAC Rally, where Verschueren extended his championship lead with his first ever victory in a Belgian Rally Championship event. It was a thrilling contest as Princen once again pushed him all the way. Verschueren won eight of the fourteen special stages and finished second in all the rest as he led from start to finish. But Princen was never more than a few seconds away and ended up finishing just eight seconds behind. To claim his maiden victory at his home rally was a special moment for Verschueren.

The Rallye de Wallonie was up next and for a long time, Verschueren looked set for another top two finish as he battled Kevin Abbring for the lead. But a tyre issue on stage 20 saw him drop back to fourth place and in the end, it was only by winning the final stage that he managed to sneak past Guillaume Dilley and finish on the podium by just 0.5 seconds.

Vincent Verschueren / Veronique Hostens, ŠKODA FABIA R5, Duindistel. Rallye de Wallonie 2017 (Foto: BRC Media)
Vincent Verschueren / Veronique Hostens, ŠKODA FABIA R5, Duindistel. Rallye de Wallonie 2017 (Photo: BRC Media)

The importance of those points was evident at the next round, the Sezoens Rally where after leading for twelve stages, Verschueren was forced to retire after an accident. The next round was the Ypres Rally, but in the Belgian championship, each driver chooses one event which won’t count towards final championship standings. This one was Verschueren’s choice, so even though he finished second in the Belgian standings and third overall, he didn’t score any points and as a result, fell four points behind Kris Princen in the championship.