Ypres would be “atypical” challenge for WRC drivers

Neuville says his home rally would add something different to the calendar - and Toyota rival Evans agrees


Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville says the Ypres Rally in his home country would be an “atypical” challenge should the Belgian event join this year’s World Rally Championship calendar.

Ypres has long been linked to the WRC calendar since the coronavirus pandemic forced the FIA and WRC Promoter into rethinking and reworking the 2020 schedule.

Rally Turkey looked to be an obstacle for the Ypres organizer, as it was initially set to run just a week before Ypres on September 24-26, until it was moved forward one week at the end of last month.

Though Ypres is yet to be confirmed as a WRC round, it now looks as if it could run on the November 20-22 weekend previously occupied by Rally Japan, with the current final round of the season destined to be canceled.

Speaking before the Japan rumors broke on the latest episode of DirtFish Debates, Neuville – who won the Ypres Rally in 2018 with an i20 R5 and Ypres Rally Masters last year in an i20 Coupe WRC – expressed his desire to see the WRC head to Belgium for the first time.


Thierry Neuville in action on another asphalt event - Rally Germany

Photo: Hyundai Motorsport

“I’m probably not the only one [who wants Ypres’ inclusion],” Neuville said.

“Ypres is a very challenging rally on Tarmac, probably one of the most atypical Tarmac events any of the drivers have seen before. I’m really looking forward to that.

“I think the chances are very high that we’re going to see this event in the WRC calendar.

“It would be a good opportunity for us as well to aim for a good result but before that there are some other tough events to manage before we are going to probably head for Ypres.”

Toyota team principal Tommi Mäkinen previously expressed his concern about Ypres joining the calendar, believing Hyundai would have an unfair advantage with home rallies for both Ott Tänak in Estonia and Neuville in Belgium.

But one of his drivers, Elfyn Evans, disgarees.

Evans is an advocate of more asphalt rallies joining the calendar, which is currently skewed towards loose surface, gravel events. Of the original 2020 calendar, just two of the 14 events were pure asphalt – excluding the Monte Carlo Rally, which is widely considered to be a mixed-surface event.

Although he has never rallied in Belgium before, Evans was sure Ypres would be a positive and welcome addition, with its unique characteristics of narrow, junctioned roads with deep and notorious cuts likely to randomize the pecking order.

He said: “We’ve all seen a difference in form when we go from Corsica to Germany, and Germany to Spain. It’s not necessarily the same guys fighting at the front.

“We don’t really have so much variation of Tarmac now in the championship, it has become very much a gravel-dominated championship, so for me there’s room for one or two more Tarmac rallies on there.”

When asked if he would therefore like to see Rally GB – which has been linked with a move away from Wales to Ireland – become an asphalt round too, Evans said: “Personally I’ve always enjoyed rallying in Ireland.

“I have to be careful with what I say because obviously it’s fighting for its spot against my home rally, Rally GB.

“But I’ve done a lot of rallying over there, I’ve always really enjoyed it and some of the classic Northern Ireland stages are really rewarding to drive, and I think it’ll be pretty exciting with these cars.

“So I would definitely like a rally in Ireland, but I would like to have it not at the expense of Rally GB if possible!”