Vincent Verschueren takes his maiden Belgian championship win at the TAC Rally
The 2017 Belgian Rally Championship continued last Saturday (8th April) with its third round, the TAC Rally. This event, which took place in and around the town of Tielt, consisted of 14 stages and 162.5km of competitive distance on asphalt roads, which are often narrow and slippery.
There was controversy ahead of the rally after Cédric Cherain, the winner of the previous round, the Spa Rally, was excluded from that event after being found to have been running illegal tyres. This meant that ŠKODA FABIA R5 driver Benoît Allart was declared the winner of that rally, with fellow FABIA R5 driver Vincent Verschueren also being promoted up the leaderboard to second.
And it was Vincent Verschueren, driving a GoDrive Racing FABIA R5, who capitalized on this to boost his lead at the top of the Belgian championship standings after securing a thrilling victory in what is his home event over the weekend.
Ably supported by co-driver Veronique Hostens, this was Verschueren first ever victory in the Belgian Rally Championship and came after his lead in the championship meant that he was the first driver on the road, a disadvantage at this event because tractors often leave a thin layer of slippery dust on the roads.
But Verschueren took everything in his stride to lead from start to finish, winning eight special stages along in the way, in what on paper looks like a dominant victory. But in reality, he was chased all the way by fellow FABIA R5 driver and championship rival Kris Princen, who finished up just 8 seconds behind him.
For Kris Princen, a runner’s-up spot was more than satisfactory after his participation was in doubt at all right until the start of the rally. He suffered a broken rib in the final stage of the previous round, the Spa Rally, and doctors had to assess his fitness before he was allowed to compete. That same crash damaged his car a lot, so for this round he was driving the new BMA car, which Guillaume Dilley piloted at the Spa Rally.
Despite the far from ideal preparations, Princen stayed right with Verschueren throughout, winning the other six stages and finishing just eight seconds behind the winner.
Further down the field, the newly crowned winner of the Spa Rally, Benoît Allart, alongside co-driver Kevin Fernandez and in Team San Mazuin FABIA R5, prepared and run by the Racing Technology team, could only finish in eight position overall on this occasion.
The next round of the Belgian Rally Championship, the Rallye de Wallonie, will take place from 28th to 30th April.
ŠKODA FABIA R5s fill the podium at the Hessen Rallye Vogelsberg
The Hessen Rallye Vogelsberg (7th to 8th April) was the second round of the 2017 German Rally Championship and this year saw a fantastic ŠKODA performance over its 12 stages and 134km of competitive distance as the FABIA R5 filled the podium.
The headlines were all about ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland driver Fabian Kreim who - along with co-driver Frank Christian - continued his astonishing run of form in his home series.
Kreim has now won seven successive German championship events and, having finished second at the Hessen Rallye Vogelsberg in 2015 and leading last year before a mistake forced his retirement, he came into what is his home event with confidence but didn’t have everything his own way.
A slow start saw Kreim placed fifth after the third stage, but victory in the next one lifted him to second at the end of the first leg. He began the second leg with five successive stage wins to climb to the top of the standings, but a puncture on stage 9 cost him valuable time. But victory in the penultimate stage put him back on top and he showed enough in finishing second in the final stage to pip rival Dominik Dinkel to the victory by a margin of just 5.1 seconds.
The win sees Kreim extend his lead at the top of the German championship standings to 28 points already after just two events.
For fellow FABIA R5 driver Dominik Dinkel, driving alongside co-driver Christina Kohl in a car prepared and run by the BRR team for Brose Motorsport, it was a case of so near and yet so far. He held the lead twice during the rally, including with just two stages to go, and won four stages over the course of the event. But crucial lost time because of tyre damage on stage four ended up costing him, and despite winning the final stage, he wasn’t quite able to close the gap on Kreim ahead of him.
Completing the all ŠKODA FABIA R5 podium were Sandro Wallenwein and Markus Poschner. They finished just 38 seconds further back and drove a solid and consistent rally, winning one stage and never dropping out of the top 3 throughout the event.
The next round of the German Rally Championship will be the Rallye Rund um die Sulinger Bärenklaue which takes place on 5th and 6th May.
2017 Hessen Rallye Vogelsberg
NEWS IN BRIEF
- The fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) took place in Corsica. It proved to be a good rally for ŠKODA, with the works team pairing of Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jæger winning the WRC2 category and finishing seventh overall. Other notable performances included Stéphane Sarrazin, who finished third in the RC2 class for his own Sarrazin Motorsport team, and Ole Christian Veiby who finished 5th in the WRC2 standing. You can read more in our Tour de Corse ŠKODA Customer Teams Review.
2017 Tour de Corse
- Tomáš Kostka won the Ageus Rallysprint, the opening round of the Czech Rallysprint Series. The event, which was formerly known as the Rallysprint Kopná, saw Kostka and his co-driver Ladislav Kučera, whose FABIA R5 was prepared by the MM Rally Team, win all but one of the eight stages to finish 24.8 seconds ahead of their closest rivals. Antonín Tlusťák / Ivo Vybíral finished fourth in their Tlusťák Racing FABIA R5 while the Melico Racing car of Jaroslav Melichárek / Erik Melichárek was one place further back in fifth.
- At the Lavanttal Rallye, the second round of the Austrian Rally Championship, Andreas Aigner / Ilka Minor-Petrasko brought their FABIA R5, prepared by the Eurosol Racing Team Hungary, home in second place. “I am just happy, because towards the end of the rally we got lucky. We had to drive the last stage with only rear-wheel drive, so it is a good result,” explained Andreas Aigner at the finish. Raimund Baumschlager, who was the championship leader after winning the opening round, was forced to retire his BRR Baumschlager Rallye & Racing Team FABIA R5 after a huge accident on the stage 9, whilst sitting in third place. The experienced Austrian driver hit a tree stump which rolled his car and left it on its roof. Fortunately, both Baumschlager and co-driver Pirmin Winklhofer were unhurt.
- In the second round of the Swiss Rally Championship at the Critérium Jurassien, Nicolas Althaus / Alain Ioset finished third overall in their FABIA R5 for the Lugano Racing Team. The result leaves them sitting 3rd in the championship standings.
- In Italy, Luca Rossetti / Eleonora Mori won the Rally Internazionale Lirenas in the International Rally Cup. Their FABIA R5, run by the Promo Sport Racing team, finished 13 seconds clear of their closest rivals.
- Anthony Puppo continued his fine form in the French Rally Cup with victory at the Rallye Régional du Frontonnais. Alongside co-driver Matthieu Belhacene, his FABIA R5 finished 53 seconds ahead of his nearest rival over the six-stage, 39km event. It was Puppo’s already sixth podium finish in the French Cup in last six weeks!