Strong battle in front and the first retirements
Sun and summer temperatures this afternoon at the GEKO Ypres Rally 2010. As usual, we're in for a hot debate from the first stages. This rally clearly will be a long one, as well for the tyres as for the cars…

And as from the leg, many drivers fell victim of these circumstances. Bernd Casier complained about overheated tyres on SS1 while Corrado Fontana lost about 2 minutes on the same stage due to a puncture. Juho Hänninen, Luca Betti and Andreas Mikkelsen all suffered a puncture near the finish of SS2. Melissa Debackere (electrical problems) and Kajetan Kajetanowicz (differential) saw their cars giving up on them and retired early.

Another big name to retire is Stéphane Sarrazin who managed to disappear into the scenery with his Peugeot 207. Others were more lucky on these first stages but Toshi Arai, Luca Betti, Tom Cave and even Jan Kopecký got hot under the collar on these very treacherous roads. Most drivers had similar comments when arriving at the finish of the stages: « very, very slippery tarmac and lots of gravel on the roads as the competitors cut very deep into the corners… »

Out in front; Kris Meeke and Freddy Loix are ruling the roost. The Irishmen set fastest time on the first stage, 2"20 ahead of Loix who would in turn go on to win the next two stages. The driver of the Škoda Fabia S2000 is clearly very happy with his new car and is leading the event by 2"80 after 3 stages. Kopecký and Hänninen are keeping up the honour of the Czech team tailing the top 2 drivers. Thierry Neuville also got off to an excellent start coming back to Ypres in 5th position, ahead of Pieter Tsjoen who fears he has damaged his gearbox on stage 3. Bernd Casier and Andreas Mikkelsen got past Patrick Snijers. Snijers does not seem entirely satisfied with the handling of his car.

Jasper van den Heuvel currently sits on the 11-th spot and is first in Group N with his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X. He currently leads the category, 20 seconds ahead of Alexandre Romain. The two of them managed to stay ahead of the Proton S2000 cars. Both Protons are staying out of trouble, but really seem off the pace. With Arai and Kajetanowicz out of contest, Vincent Verschueren was getting his hopes up. Unfortunately a bent wheel, after an accident with van den Heuvel at the start of the stage, hampered him for half the leg.

Kris Princen, brings his Renault Clio R3 in in 17th place while Kevin Abbring is just 17"7 behind. Hans Weijs and Caren Burton are leading the Citroën C2 R2 gang home, 5"00 behind eachother while , Cédric Cherain, Cédric De Cecco and Kevin Demaerschalk follow a bit further, within 4"00 of eachother.

Classification after SS3
1. Loix / Miclotte (Škoda Fabia S2000), 27:24.1
2. Meeke / Nagle (Peugeot 207 S2000), + 2.8
3. Kopecký / Starý (Škoda Fabia S2000), + 9.4
4. Hänninen / Markkula (Škoda Fabia S2000), + 18.3
5. Neuville / Klinger (Peugeot 207 S2000), + 25.6
6. Tsjoen / Chevaillier (Peugeot 207 S2000), + 34.7
7. Casier / Caesemaeker (Škoda Fabia S2000), + 54.6
8. Mikkelsen / Floene (Ford Fiesta S2000) + 57.4
9. Snijers / Cokelaere (Peugeot 207 S2000), +1:00.6
10. Magalhães / Magalhães (Peugeot 207 S2000), +1:07.6

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