The Miles & Myles Ypres Rally Guide
The Ypres Rally is one of the greatest specials in rallying and might be one of the greatest rallies we have ever been to. So many rallying icons have been on the top step of the podium at Ypres, Tony Pond, Henri Toivonen, Jean Ragnotti, ‘Fast’ Freddy Loix the list goes on. Being a British based firm in the North East of England, members of the Miles & Myles team have been out to the cabbage field of Ypres for the past 2 years and are making it a 3rd in 2019 due to the event being so accessible for us in the UK and at minimum, only requiring one day off work!
With iconic stages such as Zillebeke, Dikkebus,Kemmelberg, Zonnebeke and Watou, once you’re in the vicinity of Ypres you can feel the rally fever. With Ypres town centre almost closing down to play host to the rally’s service park. This gives off a rally festival type vibe and we are so happy to see more events adopt this stature such as the Cambrian Rally and Wales Rally GB for 2019. The special stages are all within close proximity of the town centre and you never really find yourself driving more than 30-45 minutes from the centre of Ypres to get to the furthest stage, making the event one of the most accessible multi venue stage rallies we have ever been to.
With the 55th edition of the Ypres Rally this year, here at Miles & Myles we decided to put together a guide for the event. Whether you are heading out this weekend, or maybe plan to do so in the future, then continue reading as we cover of the must see and do things while you are at the Ypres Rally.
All dates/days/times in the guide will be referring to the 2019 event.
Practice & Qualifying
The week leading up to the event several teams run their own private tests on roads around the town to squeeze in that additional seat time and get accustom to the unique nature of Belgium’s B roads, however the first official practice takes place on the Thursday during the evening with a start of 18:03 which takes place on the Seulestraat stage. Qualifying follows only an hour or so later at 19:29 and continues into the evening for another couple of hours. If you are heading out to the event, getting there for midday on Thursday might be a good idea, as you can grab around another 4 hours of rallying during the evening before the event kicks off, a good way to wet the appetite.
Visiting Ypres Town Centre
Ypres Town centre hosts the service park. The central part of the square turns from a cobblestone cark park into the service area for mechanics. Gazebos and marquees litter the town square with the finish ramp and podium directly in front of the Rechtbank, with the iconic Cloth Hall as the backdrop, the service park snakes behind the hall and down several more streets and around the cathedral. The larger crews with the R5 cars and RGT Porsche’s are located in the central square while the smaller crews are position around the rear of the Cloth Hall. Just when you think you have reached the end of the service park you veer down the next street to find another row of teams set up base camp down one street and the adjacent street you stumble across another Evo - the service park seems to go on forever.
It is actually quite easy to park on the outer parts of town (plenty of parking available on Leopold III-laan, Ypres, put italics in Google Maps) and then it’s a short 4-5 minute walk into the centre of town. The official car parks to the west of the square are all out of town however there is a free shuttle service operating to take people into the square and back to the car parks. Please see the map provided by Ypres Rally.
Image source: Ypres Rally
The atmosphere in the town centre is spectacular and has a real buzz about the place and everyone really does welcome the rally. There are plenty of bars and restaurants scattered around the perimeter of the square so you will never be short of a bite to eat or a drink. Most years there is an autograph session and in 2019 there is a session on the Friday at 12:00, and the area in front of the stage can get quite busy, but is often a good time to look around the rest of the service park. If you are head to the Ypres Rally you really must visit the town centre; don’t miss this opportunity.
The Special Stages
To access all stages you will need a pass. The are currently valued at €55 which gets you into all spectator areas across the whole weekend including the shakedown/qualifying stage.
Image source: Ypres Rally
In 2019 the Friday stages are starting at 16:10, and usually have done for the last few years. Once the drives have completed their autograph session at midday and attended a few press conferees the rally starts. There are 9 special stages on Friday with SS9 staring at 21:26, with sunset at 22:06 you will have plenty of light to see the majority of the top cars and then the tail end of the field will be competing in the darkness. The firs car is due back in at parc ferme at 23.15.
The majority of the stages are quite close to one another, so it is quite hard to see a lot of the cars from say SS1 and then catch the first car on the road in SS2. It makes good practice to plan your day in advance. The togetherness of the stages it makes sense to perhaps go to SS1, watch 20-40 cars then make a move for SS3 (dependant on distance) and alternate between the stages, missing one in between to ensure you get to your next stage with time to spare and enough space to park. Considering the amount of people that get in the spectator areas, it is relatively easy to get parked and when you want to leave you also get out just as quick. Always remember to park your car in the direction you indent to leave, it just saves time and hassle trying to shunt your car around when you are trying to get out – so do you manoeuvres before your park.
The Saturday stages also start quite leisurely for a rally, with the first stage at 10:09, you have enough time to grab a bite to eat before you head to SS10. The stages continue into the late afternoon with SS23, the final stage due to start at 20.27. The finish ceremony is also quite spectacular for the first 20 or so cars. Once everyone has seen their Belgian hero, Thierry Neuville over the ramp, the crowds tend to head for a drink then leave for home.
In total for 2019 there are 277.88 stages miles with a liaison distance of 266.64, giving the total mileage for the event 544.52 miles with a special stage percentage of 51.03.
The Menin Gate which is a war memorial for soldiers lost during The Great War is a stunning spectacle. The huge archway is on Menenstraat street which is literally only a 2 minute walk from the podium in the town square. At 20:00 every night a moving ceremony takes place under the Menin Gate which is called the Last Post Ceremony and has become part of the daily routine living in the Town. With Rally Ypres taking place the ceremony continues and is a great opportunity to visit such a touching tribute and many of the crews taking part in the event make the trip to the Menin Gate for the ceremony. If you cannot visit during the Last Post, it is still worth vising whenever you are in the town centre.