Thierry Neuville won the first ever WRC round in Belgium without a fight. It is true that Yohan Rossel from France won the RC2 category in which Cracco beat all the Belgians, and he is shouting about it as if he had won the rally. It is true that the gifted Gino Bux was so neatly above all the others in the GT class that the officials were disgusted and penalised him. However, the hero of the day was Sébastien Bedoret : he was dominating the whole Rally2 category before being betrayed by his transmission on Sunday morning…
26 years old Sébastien Bedoret is not really a rookie anymore. He has been competing in the Belgian Rally Championship since 2017 and has already taken part in the event in Flanders on two occasions, with mixed fortunes. In 2018, on his first Ypres rally, he finished fifth overall. The following year, he went out of the road before winning the Omloop van Vlaanderen run on rather similar roads a few months later.
“I’m originally from Donstiennes, in Wallonia. That’s not close to West-Flanders and yet, I love this race. I love the long fast sections before sharp turns taken with the urgency allowed by a race car. I absolutely wanted to take part in rallies before the Ypres meeting to get into the mood. I knew that the event was long and, as is often the case, I wasn’t that fast in the first stage, before setting the third fastest time in Westouter (SS2). I quickly got into a good rhythm and at the end of the first day I was third in class behind Yohan Rossel (Citroen C3 Rally2) and Oliver Solberg (Hyundai i20 N Rally2).
Quite an achievement, even if it was still provisional. Sebastien was dicing with the best Belgian pilots after the exit of the very fast Davy Vanneste (back in time, it was AutoNews magazine that revealed him). On board his Skoda Fabia Rally2 Evo prepared by the SXM Compétition team (created by Jourdan Serderidis), Bedoret seemed calm and composed during the first stage. He didn’t want to get carried away, but from the start of the second day, he nailed it : three best times in a row allowed him to take the lead in Rally2.
“I didn’t really decided to overdo it on these three special stages but I think the others were less awake. I knew that closing the 23 seconds gap witl Rossel meant it was there and then. I drove without a fuss, so it seemed to me it was the ideal rhythm for the end of the race. On the remaining Saturday special stages, I didn’t manage to be as fast but I nevertheless kept my leading position… being less than a second away from the Citroën C3 by the time we were back to the closed paddock. In the meantime, it was a real pleasure to be seventh overall in a WRC round… Unfortunately, on Sunday morning, it was soon all over as I got a mechanical problem in the last few kilometres of the Stavelot special stage. I lost my category first position. We had to remove part of the broken driveshaft to be able to continue with only front-wheel drive, and this meant an additional penalty.”
Hopes were definitely gone but Sébastien does not blame the team. On the contrary, according to him, his mechanics did a great job and he enjoyed a perfect car to run the three events he had on his Summer agenda.
“Indeed, I was able to take part in the Boucles Chevrotines (July’s last week-end), thanks to my co-driver : David Domblet definitely wanted us to take part in it. We won the event and that allowed me to get back into the rhythm. The following weekend, I took part in the Rally van Staden with Frenchman François Gilbert. He was replacing Hans Delorge, my regular co-driver who was unavailable for Ypres. François lives a few kilometres from Ypres and together we finished third, beaten by Reynvoet in the final lap while Princen won the event. Behind me were Verschueren, Tsjoen and Munster, all the guys I was to meet again in Ypres!
Our team’s mechanics were very busy and they got the car right for me within three weeks. The car set up seemed to be quite good for Ypres. In short, everything was in place for this WRC round. Even if he is visible in the service area now (COVID not allowing as many people in that area as before – editor’s note), Freddy Loix is still by my side but he does more fine-tuning now rather than all the coaching he used to do when I started. This time we were in touch on the phone but I hope to see him soon again with the team…”
Sébastien didn’t beat around the bush when we asked him if he had some tricks up his sleeve to tackle this second BRC 2021 event…
“Above all, what I wanted here was getting the right rhythm. I wanted to have total confidence in the car and not relive my particularly disastrous 2020 season, which ended rapidly without any significant results. It was not an easy time and I must admit that it’s made it even more difficult to get budgets. Fortunately, my loyal partners remained commited and Skoda Belgium even reallocated the 2020 unused budget this year. It is thanks to them that I was able to compete in Ypres. I’m going to take part in four more races of the Belgian Championship.
I will try to keep my title in Roeselare on September 3rd and 4th. For the rest, I came in Ypres without too much pressure knowing that I wasn’t competing for the Belgian title. The experience I gained here allowed me to free myself, bearing in mind that this is a long rally and that you can get out of it in any single bend. I also thought that the WRC2 drivers would dominate us but in the end it was the least expected of all who won.”
“Rallying will never be an exact science”. That’s what Sébastien’s parents, former rally drivers and co-drivers, repeated over and over again… His grandfather was once a successful hill-climb driver. Racing has been in the Bedoret family blood for a long time and the Skoda Belgium driver won’t say otherwise. Let’s wish him success for the rest of the season… (Translation: Dimitri Urbain)