Freddy Loix now holds an advantage of half a minute in the Ypres Rally after Kris Meeke crashed out of second place this morning.
Meeke and Loix's head to head battle for the lead looked like it might run all day when they set times just 0.1 second apart on today's opening stage. But as Meeke tried to close down the 5.7sec gap between them in the overall standings, he rolled on SS5 and heavily damaged his Peugeot 207. Both Meeke and co-driver Paul Nagle were unhurt, and Loix was disappointed to hear of their exit.
"Of course I now have to drive in a different way," said the Belgian. "This wasn't how I wanted the fight with Kris to stop because it was quite exciting. It's important to me to have fun in the car and yesterday and this morning were fantastic. Now I have to change my strategy."
The crash leaves Loix 30.9sec ahead of his Skoda teammate Jan Kopecky, who could make big championship gains this weekend with Juho Hanninen and Meeke both having accidents.
Meeke's exit also elevated his young Belgian teammate Thierry Neuville to an excellent third place. Pieter Tsjoen was another retirement this morning, putting Bernd Casier into fourth and Andreas Mikkelsen up to fifth.
Mikkelsen had a quick excursion through a field on SS5, but held on to his place as the chasing Patrick Snijers was delayed slightly by a slow puncture.
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Freddy Loix Skoda 1h13m31.5s
2. Jan Kopecky Skoda + 30.9s
3. Thierry Neuville Peugeot + 1m03.9s
4. Bernd Casier Skoda + 2m15.1s
5. Andreas Mikkelsen Ford + 2m42.0s
6. Patrick Snijers Peugeot + 3m08.2s
7. Bruno Magalhaes Peugeot + 3m16.3s
8. Michal Solowow Ford + 3m43.3s
9. Alexandre Romain Mitsubishi + 4m41.1s
10. Maciej Oleksowicz Ford + 5m53.8s