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After a year off we returned to Ypres to see the British Rally Championship make its first foray on to Belgian soil. As well as the Belgian Rally Championship contenders there was the prospect of competing against Thierry Neuville & Nicolas Gilsoul (i20 R5). The British crews would be up against and the carnage on the opening night showed that the Flandrian roads take no prisoners as even Neuville was caught on on stage 6, rolling his car out of the rally lead but returning for the following day under super rally rules. Overnight, after 8 stages, Bryan Bouffier & Gilbert Dini (Fabia R5) held a 21.9s led over Kevin Abbring & Pieter Tsjoen (208 T16), thanks to 5 fastest stage times.

The following morning and Bouffier extended his lead with fastest stage on the opening test before Abbring pegged him to just 0.1s gain on the following stage. Abbring took the next stage before a resurgent Neuville found his pace again. On to stage 12, Reninge 1, and we were near the end of the stage and Bouffier was clearly in trouble with Abbring close behind on the road. Bouffier dropped almost 40s and the lead, dropping to 2nd overall and only just ahead of Vincent Verschueren & Veronique Hostens (Fabia R5). Problem fixed and Bouffier went fastest on stage 13 from Verschueren, with Abbring 3rd fastest. Verschueren was fastest on stage 14, marking the halfway point on Saturday and we had a 3 way battle for the lead with just 16.6s separating the top 3.

Six stages remained and with Neuville now back in the groove he went fastest on stages 15-19 but it was the times for the top 3 overall that mattered. Verschueren fell away over the remaining stages, dropping back to almost half a minute down going in to the final test. Abbring and Bouffier were locked in the heat of battle with Bouffier faster on 3 of the 5 stage to bring the gap down to just 4.1s going in to the final 17.5km stage at Westouter-Boeschepe.

We positioned ourselves on a fast downhill section with views across the early parts of the stage and the commitment from the top 2 overall was clear to see. Every cut was being taken to the maximum and there was no holding back and despite the 2nd half of the stage being on his native French soil Bouffier lost time to Abbring, ultimately finishing 8s behind after an enthralling battle. Verschueren, the Belgian Rally Championship leader, eased off through the final stage to finish 46.9s but with a healthy championship lead.

Elsewhere amongst the British Championship Runners Keith Cronin & Mike Galvin (Fiesta R5) played it cool and took victory by over a minute from Matt Edwards & Darren Garrod (Fiesta R5), who in turn were ecstatic with a career best result. Osian Pryce & Dale Furniss (Fiesta R5) completed an all Ford British podium consolidating a very solid start to their 2017 campaign.

Of the 2WD crews Timothy Van Parijs & Kurt Heyndrickx (997 GT3 Cup) were first home in 16th overall. Guillaume de Mevius & Louis Louka (208 R2) had a tremendous fightback to win the R2 category after closing in on Chris Ingram & Elliott Edmondson (Adam R2) through the Saturday for Ingram to then go off on the 18th stage. The BRC Junior category went to Callum Devine & Keith Moriarty (Adam R2) by over 6 minutes, after they had a largely trouble free rally.

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