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20 feb, 2024

Opening of Belgian Rally Championship 2024 at DronePort marks a thrilling start to the season

The 26th Rally of Haspengouw, pressing the gas pedal first in the lineup, has once again marked the exciting start of the Belgian Rally Championship (BRC) 2024. This year's opener, held in Sint-Truiden, sees DronePort serving as the headquarters for the rally, also playing host to the event's press presentation.

Benny Giebens, the event organizer, and Ferdi Boyen, long responsible for the rally’s safety, kicked off the proceedings with insights into the stages of the Tally of Haspengauw, taking place from 22-24 February 2024. “The opening stage is in Boekhout, with a revised finish. This is followed by the KP Gelmen stage, identical to last year. Post-service, competitors will tackle the cobblestones of Halle-Booienhoven, a returning classic, and then Gingelom. These four stages will be run thrice, hopefully concluding with champagne at 7 pm,” Benny shared.

The organizers expressed satisfaction with the 20 R5 cars headlining the event. “It’s great for us, and with three Porsches and other participants, we’ve got a fantastic starting field. We couldn’t ask for more,” Benny remarked.

© Stijn Vanderspikken

A crucial element of the event’s success is the 380 to 400 volunteers, contributing enthusiastically. “Being the year’s first rally is a safety advantage,” said Ferdi Boyen. “Everyone’s eager, allowing us to staff all posts without issues, thanks also to collaborations with other organizations.”

Several participants, including Jimmy D’Hondt, Christiaan Speelmans, Tom Boonen, Kris Princen, and Cédric Cherain, fielded questions from Jean-Paul Klinkers, the event’s speaker. Local driver Jimmy D’Hondt, with co-driver David Vanrijkelen, aims for a third Masters title, participating in nine rallies. Christiaan Speelmans, in the Clio, also eyes the title, hoping for a strong performance in Sint-Truiden while avoiding problems.

© Stijn Vanderspikken

Tom Boonen, navigated by Erwin Mombaerts, after consulting with Jos Verstappen, chose a new Skoda for this season’s rallies in Division 1, the GTC Rally in the Netherlands, calling it ’the car’ for rally driving.

Kris Princen, joined by Peter Kaspers, enjoyed his Porsche experience in the 2023 Rally of South Limburg so much that he’ll compete in several rallies in a ‘Dekens Porsche 991 GT3′. “After front and four-wheel drives, it’s time for rear-wheel, and then I can happily retire,” he joked.

Vice-champion Cédric Cherain also hopes for a strong start. “It’s about being up there from the start and minimizing risks. A good result means not playing catch-up all season.” Cherain’s season includes all Division 1 rallies, plus the TAC Rally and Hellendoornrally, with his car receiving the latest updates by the Rallye de Wallonie.

© Stijn Vanderspikken

Lastly, young Thomas Martens and Eddy Smeets shared their aspirations. Thomas, still awaiting his driver’s license, dreams of becoming a world champion in rallying. Known as ‘The Ginger One’, he recently finished fifth in the Arctic Rally and plans to compete in Ieper post-license. His ambition signals a promising future in rallying.

In conclusion, the BRC 2024 opener at DronePort not only showcased the thrilling competition but also highlighted the passion and dedication of everyone involved, from organizers to volunteers and participants, setting a high bar for the rest of the season.

Source: RallyAndRaces.com

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