Kris Meeke (Ford Escort MK2) leads the pack prior to tackling the forest on Sunday
As expected, the rain was the main guest of the first stage of the Legend Boucles @ Bastogne 2020. As from the day’s first section, Les Eoliennes, the scene was set with the spectacular off-road of the German Georg Berlandy (Opel Kadett GT/E), forced to throw in the towel with a right front wheel torn off, but also the broken universal joint of the young Frenchman Nicolas Ciamin (BMW M3) following a jump, and who promptly lost any chance of putting in a good performance, prior to being able to return to the event and ensure the show!
Already leader on the Saturday evening last year, Fred Caprasse (Ford Escort MK2) claimed the first part of the day, dominating Kris Meeke (Ford Escort MK2)… prior to being the victim of a puncture during the second passage in the Les Eoliennes, which allowed the British driver to grab the lead of the race prior to a Sunday forest stage, which will once again be the decisive one, true to tradition.
If on the one hand one expected Mikko Hirvonen (Ford Escort MK2), Adrian Fernémont (Ford Escort MK2) or Cédric Cherain (Ford Escort MK2) in the provisional top 3, it’s Gino Bux (Ford Escort MK1) who created the sensation with excellent performances, enough to keep him in 3rd place ahead of the Belgian Rally Champion Adrian Fernémont and a Cédric Cherain victim of a puncture in Vaux-sur-Sûre. Near the end of the stage windscreen wiper problems created the complete collapse of Bux in the rankings, also being awarded a penalty for non-respect of the average in a Slow Zone. To be confirmed this Sunday morning.
As for the 2019 winner Mikko Hirvonen, he experienced clutch issues, refining the fine tuning of the DB-R team’s new machine over the various Regularity Tests. The best is probably still to come
Which means that the outsiders of this first day have done well, starting off with Christophe Daco (Ford Escort MK2), Stefaan Stouf (Ford Escort MK1) and Fred Bouvy (Porsche 911), all three ahead of Mikko Hirvonen, as also an Yves Matton (Porsche 911). For the moment they retain the better of a Harold de Hemptinne (Ford Escort MK2) who impatiently awaits the forest sections, getting the better of Romain Delhez (Opel Kadett GT/E), local driver Frédéric François (Ford Escort MK2) and a Bernard Munster (Porsche 911) slowed down due to brake issues. On the other had bad luck for Sébastien Bedoret (Skoda 130 Groupe B), victim of a broken universal joint in the RT5, as also for Renaud Verreydt (Ford Escort MK1), who experienced gearbox problems at the beginning of the second loop.
Blerot-Dauby already leading in ‘Challenger’!
In the ‘Challenger’ category, where the average is 80 km/h, the BMW machines quite clearly left their mark on this first stage, the 323i of Pirot-Bodet and 325i of Blerot-Dauby going head to head for the top of the rankings, to such a point that after the day’s eight section, the two German machines received an identical times! Unfortunately the 323i E21 of Pirot-Bodet disappeared from the rankings in the evening, which means that Charles Blerot and Antoine Dauby, who had already won in ‘Challenger’ last year, will be tackling the second stage in the leaders position, enjoying an advantage of 91,00 over the Audi Quattro of another local driver, Luc Caprasse, just back from the Rallye de Monte-Carlo, with Tony Kairis at his side. Up in the top 3 as from early on in the day, Dimitri Van Hove and Lionel Windeshausen (Alfa Romeo GTV6) confirmed their stranglehold of the category, this Saturday evening leading the Porsche 911 of Pascal and Germain Moutschen, as also the Peugeot 205 GTI of Victor Burtomboy and Joanny Grandjean.
Total uncertainty in ‘Classic 60’!
If there is one category where everything remains possible the second day of the race, it is definitely the ‘Classic 60’. Since the beginning of the stage, the leaders succeeded one another, the best specialists of Regularity battling it out for the lead, with Schoonbroodt-Gehlen (Ford Escort MK1), later victims of ‘electrical issues’, Weiller-Meunier (BMW 1602), Lambert-Lambert (BMW 2002 Ti), but also Alexandre Delhez et Benoît Deflandre (Ford Escort MK1). Silver medal holders last year, these young lions did not enjoy their yellow jersey for very long, clutch worries followed by gearbox issues obliging them to park their machine boasting the blue oval…until tomorrow!
This Saturday evening, under reserve of modification to the ranking as the result of one or other penalty being applied, Patrick and Joseph Lambert were holding out, ahead of Claude Ninane and Christophe Simon (Opel Kadett C), the double reigning winners Marc Van Dalen and Julien Minguet (Ford Escort MK2), ideally placed, Eric Piraux and Catherine Monard (Renault 11 Turbo), Johan and Joppe Gitsels (Porsche 911 SC), but also the regional competitors Jonathan Georges and Elisabeth Fagnant (Peugeot 205 GTI).
In the ‘Classic 50’ category, Michael and Noah Bartholemy (Porsche 911 S) created the break from Georges and Stéphanie Tomsen (BMW 325i). The Eupen based duo seemed to have matters in hand, fully determined to open the record of achievements of this category reserved for the hardy Regularity competitors with a lower average speed.
It is at 8.56hrs that the marathon section of Hautes-Virées will kick-off, with on the early morning programme more than 38 kilometres through the forest. And in one word as in a hundred, everything is still to be done on the Legend Boucles @ Bastogne 2020 front…