Ypres is a classic tarmac rally which got itself a WRC slot for 2021 and is back this year replacing Rally GB. This year the route revolves completely around Ypres instead of finishing at Spa, but only two stages are the same as last year. Ypres has a very distinct character of narrow tarmac roads with numerous junction turns and surface changes, as well as big ditches on the sides of the road and possibility make big cuts. The stages are also situated very close to each other and the service park, resulting in very short liaisons.
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Cover image by Hyundai Motorsport (C)
The shakedown is at Nieuwkerke. Last year it was the non-priority drivers’ shakedown, although it’s now extended from the start, combining two previous versions together.
This is a good representation of the rally with junction turns, flat corners, medium corners, cuts and surface changes. A tricky triple-junction features at 2 km. The stage ends at the town with a super special kind of section at the market.
SS1+5 Vleteren wasn’t used on last year’s route, as the Reninge – Vleteren stage didn’t use any of the same roads. However, parts of this stage have been used before, but some of it is actually quite rare. Many non-priority drivers also tested on this stage last year.
Like on all stages, there’s road type and rhythm changes here, but overall this could be one of the fastest stages of the rally. One indication for that is that there are fewer tight turns per kilometre than on the other stages.
The stage starts wide, smooth and straight. Next up is a more sinuous, narrow and worn section followed by a concrete road, this all in just 2 km! After that there’s a fast section on medium rough tarmac with long straights and sudden corners. There’s also a forest pass and crossing a main road after the 5 km mark. Subsequently the road becomes narrower and more bumpy. A concrete road is crossed at 7.7 km which could make up a jump. A wide main road is then joined with a short narrow and worn loop off it. What follows is another narrow and sinuous road and a handful of junction turns before the stage ends.
SS2+6 Westouter – Boeschepe is the longest stage of the day at just under 20 km. It’s unique by starting in Belgium and ending in France. This stage also has more elevation differences than most Ypres stages. The stage featured last year but in a different configuration. Parts of the first half of the stage are driven in the opposite direction to last year, while near the end there’s some shared sections.
There’s a lot of surface changes from smooth to worn. The road from 1.5 km to 3 km is particularly narrow, rough and sinuous, going through a small forest. The roads at 4.3 and 5.5 km are also very narrow and worn.
France’s border is crossed at 7.3 km and instantly the road becomes very worn, bumpy and slippery with only short bits of smooth in between. However, a very smooth and wide section appears at 13.1 km, with nice corners and a jump. In contrast, a very narrow and rough section starts at 14.7 km. The ending of this video is on that section while the beginning of the video shows the very last junction of the stage.
SS3+7 Mesen – Middelhoek is the first of the two stages to be run just like last year. It is also the shortest stage of the rally at just under 8 km. It will also likely be the slowest one with the most tight turns per km.
The stage starts with a super special kind of section at the Mesen streets, involving a loop around the cobblestoned market square and then exiting the town between the buildings.
After that it’s familiar Ypres with very straight and narrow country lanes with frequent tight junction turns. The surface varies from slightly rough to smooth. At 4.2 and 7.5 km there’s some nice medium corners but mostly it’s very very angular – straight between the junction turns.
SS4+8 Langemark was the priority drivers’ shakedown last year. The route is now slightly different from the end. In fact, this configuration was used in 2018. Last year’s route is matching until 3:23 on this video, where it will turn right now.
Langemark could well also be the fastest stage of the rally. Throughout the stage the road gets never very narrow. First up it’s smooth and angular, then bumpy and sinuous, then again very fast on concrete, and subsequently again more sinuous on tarmac. The last 650 metres are on worn bumpy tarmac.
SS9+13 Reninge is the exact same stage as Reninge – Vleteren from last year, completing the two stages run similarly as last year. Ypres is mostly just square or flat corners, but it gets interesting when there’s something from in between, and this stage has plenty of them! The country lanes are not the most narrowest out there but in addition, wider tarmac roads are visited from 1.4 to 2.1 km and briefly at 10.9 km. Meanwhile, a concrete road features three times on the stage, at 3.9-4.4 km, 7.3-8 km and the last 1.7 km altogether. There’s also many houses along this stage.
SS10+14 Dikkebus has been reversed, and this direction hasn’t been used before except for shorter sections. In addition to direction change, there’s a bit from the most Eastern route omitted and an alternative route used in the middle. This stage is where Takamoto Katsuta crashed out heavily last year.
The stage has very frequent tight turns, but also some junctions that go “almost straight”. The beginning of the stage is relatively wide and smooth, with lots of uphill and downhill, even some blind corners over crests. At 2.8 km the stage becomes narrower and more worn, and quite angularly fast. A road crossing could make up a jump at 3.8 km, although there’s a corner right behind it! At 10 km the stage becomes wider and also more sinuous.
SS11+15 Wijtchate was last year included in the Kemmelberg stage. The configuration is almost same as in 2016. Near the end of this stage Adrien Fourmaux crashed heavily last year.
Wijtchate is mostly narrow but still quite fast. The start is sinuous but then we go into a very straight section. There’s some uphill and downhill at 3 km. At 4.4 km there is a short link on a wide concrete road, and while turning off from it we rejoin the 2021 Kemmelberg route in the opposite direction. The road width and surface remains similarly narrow and semi-worn but the character alternates from straight to sinuous and having “flat minus” corners. There’s again some uphill at 10 km and downhill at 12 km. Fourmaux’s corner is after the last junction turn.
SS12+16 Hollebeke is the longest stage of the rally at 22 km. It’s also the only stage to be over 20 km long. On a large scale the stage is similar to last year, connecting itself to the Zillebeke stage, but this year the direction is reversed and the configuration changed also slightly from two places. The corner where Pierre-Louis Loubet went into a deep ditch last year is not on the route this year.
Most of the stage is semi-worn bumpy tarmac, but the very start is on fresh slippery tarmac. The stage is more sinuous and one of the slowest stages of the rally. There’s a forest section at 14.6 km and after that three concrete sections, the middle one very wide and fast.
SS17+19 Watou has a slightly different ending and extended beginning to last year. The beginning is not the narrowest, relatively smooth with a worn bit at 1.1 km. The beginning of the stage involves many long medium corners and also “flat minus” corners with big cuts. From 5.5 km onwards the road surface is especially bumpy and worn, and the first road is also very narrow. The last sinuous 1 km of the stage hasn’t been driven since 2011.
SS18+20 Kemmelberg acts as the power stage. There’s two sections shared with last year’s route, both in the opposite direction. This stage contains the highest elevated point of the route, 159 m above sea level, and thus also most elevation changes.
The start of the stage may be on a wide stretch of fresh tarmac but already the first junction takes the stage onto very narrow country lanes with more worn tarmac. It’s very angular with a bit of uphill and downhill. At 5.2 km there’s a wide and sinuous uphill section, the Monteberg ascent. The stage returns to angular narrow lanes at 6 km, crossing a main road at 7 km and returning onto it for a short link at 8.2 km. The next country lane is again more sinuous as we start to climb up to the Kemmelberg hill, using also a wider road at 9.4 km and turning into the forest at 10 km, first 400 m on cobblestones. A narrower road is chosen at 10.7 km, going now downhill. The cobblestones return briefly at 11.1 km and then we’re back at the countryside on narrow lanes. There’s again fresh tarmac at 11.7 km but only on a straight road.