M-Sport driver Adrien Fourmaux has won the Ypres Rally for the first time, defeating Chris Ingram as early leader Stéphane Lefebvre suffered a monumental crash.
It was an important result for Fourmaux who crashed out of the lead of the final stage of his most recent World Rally Championship appearance in Sardinia, and who had never finished Ypres on either of his two previous attempts.
Fourmaux eventually won by 17.6 seconds over Ingram’s Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, with Maxime Potty finishing third after a puncture for 11-time Ypres winner Freddy Loix dumped him to 10th.
After two years as a round of the WRC, Ypres returned to its traditional two-day format for the first time in 2019 with eight stages on Friday afternoon and evening before a further 10 tests on Saturday.
Top seed Stéphane Lefebvre (Citroën C3 Rally2) – who won Ypres in the WRC2 category in 2022 – and Fourmaux (Ford Fiesta Rally2) were the two favorites for victory ahead of the weekend, and lived up to the billing with an intense fight over the first loop.
Lefebvre drew first blood but Fourmaux and Ingram – competing in a Polo and with co-driver Alex Kihurani for just the second time – were only 0.5s and 0.7s back respectively.
Fourmaux won the two last stages of the opening loop but scratch times on SS1 and SS2 earned Lefebvre a slender 1.8s lead at first service.
The former Citroën works driver then won both SS5 and SS6 to pull 4.2s clear of Fourmaux, before the Frenchman suffered what he described as the biggest accident of his career on SS7.
In a medium-speed left-hander, Lefebvre lost control and the car slid off the outside of the corner into a ditch which pitched the C3 into a terrifying series of barrel rolls.
— British Rally Championship (@BRCrally) June 23, 2023
Mercifully both Lefebvre and co-driver Loris Pascaud were OK, but their rally was over.
Lefebvre’s exit released Fourmaux who built a 16s advantage over Ingram at close of play on Friday, and then dominated Saturday’s opening loop to stretch over half a minute clear.
From there the M-Sport driver engaged cruise control, but there was a brief scare as he encountered an electrical issue on SS15 which cost him 12s.
But the ECU was changed after the stage and Fourmaux and co-driver Alexandre Coria were able to bring home a third British Rally Championship victory in succession.
His closest British championship opponent was one-off registrant Davy Vanneste, who finished sixth overall in his VW.
Ingram scored top points in the Belgian championship ahead of runaway championship leader Potty who recovered superbly from an SS2 puncture to grab third, and second in the points, by just 0.2s over Cédric Cherain on the final stage.
Jos Verstappen, father of two-time Formula 1 world champion Max, was 13th in a Škoda Fabia RS Rally2.