Belgian rally excitement over the edge at Condroz

Dré Galiart’s idea of ideal weekend involves rallying or rallycrossing, so don’t go looking for Dré at home, if there is a rally nearby (or farby?). Few days ago he took part in the madness that is Condroz Rallye. This is Dré’s report.

Belgian rally excitement over the edge at Condroz

Huy (B) – Petter Solberg, Yves Matton, Kris Meeke, Daniel Elena and Freddy Loix at the start of an event? The sound of that line-up doesn’t make it very hard to link to the WRC. Being current and (former?) stars of the World podium they were to be the shining stars of the Belgian Condroz Rallye. And their stars shined, but the crowds almost managed to throw a huge shadow.

Phil’s back!
What a relief! The pre-event testing onboards already brought back this trusted voice from the codrivers seat. Phil Mills was back at the codrivers seat of a Citroën WRC. And more important, the guy driving it made it like Batman and Robin reunited. Petter Solberg at the wheel of a C4, it’s an event on it’s own! Ok, we have to give in, Phil has visibly enjoyed life since he stopped his active co-driving career, but boy-o-boy is that voice just one big chunk of recognition! And the crowd (including us) queuing up in front of the D-Max service still shows the huge popularity of the duo. All just to get that one autograph.

Huge dedication
Solberg might have taken the early lead during the Rallye Condroz, but the real star to us was Kris Meeke. Seperating the WRC-cars Meeke showed the huge potential of the car, which privateers sometimes still seem to struggle with; the Citroën DS3 R5. Ok noted, also local driver Cedric Cherain showed a fair amount of speed, but the dedication Meeke showed was huge and visible by using every inch of road he got.

Beaten by?
Would it seriously be? That flat tyre on one of the stages caused a time loss. Would that mean that Solberg was on the edge of being beaten by his former teammate’s car? The Subaru Kris Princen is driving, is the former AT06 SRT that Chris Atkinson used to drive in the Prodrive team. But no! For Solberg it went from bad to worse! He had shond a great pace all day with loads of scratches, but a broken driveshaft after the team had changed his gearbox caused that Solberg couldn’t win Rallye du Condroz. He sadly retired at the end of day one following teamboss Matton. Using superrally Matton restarted but crashed under slippery conditions.

Great list, poor fans
Rallye du Condroz was one big party for those that love rallysport. Great stages, an entrylist full of the older and latest WRC’s, not to forget about the load of R5 spec cars. The R5’s of all makes were present; Ford (3x), Citroën (2x) and Peugeot (1x) is a diversity not even seen in all WRC events. But there was a downside to the big names and huge entry; too many irresponsible fans.

Fireworks, drunk people and disrespect. The good weather (18 degrees Celcius) invited over fans that in rainy weather sometimes decide to stay home. The ones that go out to get drunk or ‘have some fun’ for obvious reasons. “Drivers are afraid to go at full speed” stated one of Belgians journalists on Twitter relating to safety issues. Even if a rally is as popular as it was this year, alcohol and rally aren’t a combination. At the same time the event seems to suffer from specialists that normally deal with traffic issues. Ourselves being send away by Police officers in an area where a car couldn’t even come if it lost total control and being send into a braking zone where the same car could have come easily in case of brake loss. It’s a reality we find hard to deal with. Luckily no major accidents happened, but it proves once again that rallysport can still become victim of it’s own popularity in some countries.

Waving goodbye
After a strong battle with the DNF list filling faster than under ‘wet’ conditions Kris Princen managed to win the rally in his mighty Subaru Impreza WRC S12B. Kris Meeke was a strong second before good old Freddy Loix. Might this be one of the last wins of a Subaru WRC in such a big event? With more and more of them being ruled out of National Championships, it’s a realistic chance that we see this beasts slowly disappear. At least it seemed a final ‘Goodbye’ from Loix to his trusted Fabia S2000 as he is likely to start the Belgian championship in a Fabia R5. With also Peugeot and Citroën officially involved and some Ford privateers present, the Belgian championship might be Europe’s country to follow when it comes down to R5 in 2015! Let’s see what surprise Rallye du Condroz will present in 2015!