Fresh after their victory in the second round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship in New Caledonia, the PROTON boys are now headed north of the equator for the Geko Ypres Rally, round five of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge.
Swedish P-G Andersson and Italian Giandomenico Basso will be reunited with their Satria Neo S2000s for the all-asphalt Belgian classic. Two-time European Rally Champion, Basso is a former winner of the Geko Ypres Rally; Andersson will rely heavily on his team-mate’s knowledge as the double Junior World Rally Champion has never competed on the rally previously.
The Geko Ypres Rally is based around the town of Ypres in north-west Belgium. And, next week, that town is taken over by hundreds of thousands of rally fans from across the continent. The event is a true classic and an enormous challenge. Unlike any other asphalt rounds in the championship, the smooth Belgian roads slice their way through the farmland with only square corner after square corner likely to slow the speeding Satrias.
In a hectic, 30-hour schedule, Basso and Andersson will tackle a 649-kilometre route, including 18 stages that comprise 287 competitive kilometres. What makes this event even tougher is the notoriously fickle weather and the fact that five of the stages will be run in fading light or complete darkness.
When the PROTONs arrive at the Grote Markt in the centre of Ypres at the end of Saturday, they will have completed one of rallying’s toughest tests.
And don’t forget, just six days earlier, Chris Atkinson and Alister McRae will have done the same thing on the earth’s other side.
P-G Andersson said:
“I have never done this rally before, but I have seen the stages and the number of people out there spectating is just incredible. I think we’re in for a rally with a lot of atmosphere! Unfortunately, I think it can be quite tough for drivers to go there without so much experience and try to win the rally; some of the roads are quite specialised. We showed last time in Ukraine that the team is making good progress with the car, the car is definitely getting quicker, and I’m sure we will continue to do the same in Belgium.”
Giandomenico Basso said:
“I’m looking forward to this event, I have won here before and it’s always a big challenge with a lot of really fast local drivers. The last rally we did [the PRIME Yalta Rally] with the car showed that we have made progress with the Satria. This is the good thing, the car is better and better, we are really improving. I want to come out and be fast in Ypres.”
Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“Ypres is one of the biggest rallies in Europe and you always get a great welcome when you get over there. As a team, we’re looking to deliver on the promise we showed in Yalta; analysing the times, you can see that we’re right on the cusp with the car. We believe we have the right package to deliver a result in Ypres, we’ve certainly got the most talented drivers in P-G and Giandomenico. P-G’s right when he says it will be tough to go to that event for the first time, but he’s going to be able to get some good advice from Giandomenico, who has won in the past. But, before that next IRC round, we’re competing in New Caledonia in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship this weekend. Obviously, we’re eager to see what the boys can do on that event. It would be nice to go to Belgium on the back of a second APRC win of the year.”
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