Freddy Loix’s advice for Ypres Rally

DirtFish chats to the King of Ypres to understand how to win in Flanders


Gilbert Staepelare was, for a while. Then Robert Droogmans came along. He took the crown and wore it through the 1980s before Patrick Snjijers dominated the first half of the ’90s.

All three, with four wins apiece, could sensibly call themselves the King of Ypres.

But then the new boy started winning. Two decades later, nothing had changed. He was still winning. Topping the podium 11 times in 20 starts, there’s only one King of Ypres.

Step forward, Fast Freddy.

“Maybe I was once the King of Ypres,” Freddy Loix told DirtFish. “I don’t think so now.”

Whether he is or not, few are better placed to talk DirtFish through the way to win Belgium’s first ever World Rally Championship round this week.

We’ve picked up advice from former WRC team manager George Donaldson (see above) already this week, but now it’s time for a Freddy Loix masterclass.

Reading the road

“Ypres is a very specific event,” said Loix. “The roads are generally quite small (narrow) and slippery – but the thing which makes [this event] a bit more complicated are the many different kinds of Tarmac you can have in one stage.

“You have to understand how the grip changes, how to read the surface and how to understand what the weather will do to the road.”

Taking a cut


“As well as that, cutting the corners is a very big part of winning in Ypres. But you have to know which ones to cut. You can go very deep on some corners, really getting the car off the road and into the ditch and this can give you some incredible speed through the corner. But you have to be so careful as well, cut the wrong corner and take too much of a step off the road and you can risk a puncture.

“The tires we have in the WRC now are so strong, I think the risk of the puncture is less, but still you have to be careful. The cuts are a really important part of the recce for the crews – especially those drivers who have never been here before. They will need to take the recce car and put it off the road into the ditch to find the line.”

The perfect place

“The weather always plays a big part in this rally. The forecast is for it to be dry – I think Belgium has had enough rain. The roads and the ditches have been quite wet, but it doesn’t take long for them to dry out.

When you are first in, you are still getting some of the dirt and dust from the recce cars and this is not always providing you with the right line Freddy Loix

“People think the best place on the road is to be first, for the cleanest line. When I was competing and I could choose my place, I would always go with the second or third or even fourth place.

“When you are first in, you are still getting some of the dirt and dust from the recce cars and this is not always providing you with the right line. A car or a couple of cars in front of you will help to clean away some of that dirt. This is really important in the braking areas, you want as much grip as possible there.”

So Thierry Neuville is perfectly placed…

“I think he probably is, yes. Really Thierry has to be the favorite for this rally – it’s only logical really. He has the most experience of the roads and the stages and he’s the one who has driven the [World Rally Car] here before.


Photo: Belgian Rally Championship

“The whole event is really important for Belgian rallying – but if we could have a Belgian winner as well, this would be really special. But Ypres is a big, big event for Belgium. The organization is done so perfect, all of the other rallies in Belgium are following what [Club] Superstage is doing here.

“Ypres always attracts a lot of fans and a lot of attention. I always loved to compete on the event and this week I will, of course, be there.”

One more crown for the King?

“I couldn’t compete because I don’t have time. I now have an Aston Martin dealership in Brussels and, because of the pandemic, we have been closed and now we’re open again – it was too complicated to take the time off to compete.


Photo: Belgian Rally Championship

“But I couldn’t miss the chance to come to see the atmosphere. I will be here to spectate, but also to help two young Belgian drivers who I am supporting: Sébastien Bedoret and Niels Reynvoet. Both of those guys have had a tough time to keep their programs and their sponsors through coronavirus, so it’s great to see them out there.”

The former Mitsubishi, Hyundai and Peugeot factory driver made the WRC podium three times, but failed to land a win at the highest level. Record-breaking success on the biggest event in his backyard go someway to make up for that.

Forget what he said, Fast Freddy will always be King of Ypres.

Photography:FIA ERC Media, Belgian Rally Championship

Words:David Evans