Freddy Loix won the Ypres Rally for the seventh time in his career with a dominant performance on his home round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge.
The Belgian veteran was barely threatened throughout the two-day event, pulling clear of early rival Guy Wilks with a string of stage wins on Friday, and ultimately winning by over one and a half minutes as problems hit all the other main contenders. The result put Loix into the IRC championship lead, with pre-rally points leader Juho Hanninen not entered for this event.
Loix's factory Skoda team-mate Jan Kopecky did not even make the start after his co-driver Petr Stary suffered a collarbone injury in a shakedown crash. Skoda UK's Andreas Mikkelsen and Corsica winner - and rising Belgian star - Thierry Neuville (Kronos Peugeot) both crashed on Friday's opening stage. Peugeot Portugal driver Bruno Magalhaes then had an engine failure while running in the top four.
Wilks remained in second until a double puncture on Saturday afternoon cost him five minutes and dropped him outside the top 10. A brilliant recovery drive eventually saw him back up to fifth place, despite a third puncture on the penultimate loop this evening.
Bryan Bouffier did minor damage to his PH Peugeot with some early incidents, before getting back up to what became a straightforward second place.
Last year's Junior World Rally Championship runner-up Hans Weijs' S2000 debut ended with a brilliant podium finish in third.
Local driver Pieter Tsjoen and Bernd Casier were both podium contenders for much of the event too, until Tsjoen damaged his Peugeot's radiator in a strange road section incident, and Casier suffered power steering failure.
Michal Solowow was top Ford driver in fourth, despite late throttle scares, with Wilks denying Karl Kruuda fifth place on the very last stage.
Leading finishers after SS18:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Freddy Loix Skoda 2h40m03.9s
2. Bryan Bouffier PH Peugeot + 1m41.6s
3. Hans Weijs Wevers Skoda + 3m56.9s
4. Michal Solowow Cersanit Ford + 6m06.8s
5. Guy Wilks Peugeot UK (Kronos) + 6m33.8s
6. Karl Kruuda ME3 Skoda + 6m40.6s
7. Toni Gardemeister TGS Skoda + 6m57.4s
8. Luca Rossetti National Proklama Abarth + 7m25.0s
9. Bernhard Ten Brinke Skoda (private) + 7m37.3s
10. Robert Barrable Skoda (private) + 7m53.8s