Dutch win in Wervik thriller

Barely two weeks after the insane ORC rally, many chunks proved unglued, and we saw a somewhat smaller turnout than expected in Wervik. Still, it was to become the most exciting race of the season so far. Once again, competitors were presented particularly greasy stages after heavy rainfall the night before, with the added bonus of ever-changing weather conditions ahead.

Newcomers Paynter/Hollingham immediately set the tone in their cool Subaru WRC, helped of course by their four-wheel drive in the slippery corners. A little further down the track, we saw the trio of Walraven/Ruiter, Van de Lindeloof/Smets and Barnes/Hall firmly in contention with quasi identical times. However, the party would not last long for the Dutch Civic, proving very fast with a new engine. The gearbox apparently could not handle the power and forced Van De Lindeloof/Smets to abandon again. The string of bad luck continues for the likeable team, we sincerely hope for improvement in August.

At the front, we then saw Haynter/Hollingham flirting with the top ten as lone leaders among a pack of much faster cars, while Walraven/Ruiter, in now relatively dry conditions, conceded some time every stage to the raging 106 of Barnes/Hall, while the Subarus of father and daughter Clark and regulars Smith/Vincent also began to approach in stocking feet. Halfway through the rally, the dominant WRC then suddenly disappeared from the standings with emerging turbo problems, to be finally nipped in the bud by a broken brake disc. A great pity, as the speed was clearly there, a top ten overall too. Father and son Smith were then also sidelined with a broken cardan on the C2, while newcomers Hedges/Russ then again had the time of their lives on their debut in Belgium, moreover with a pretty spectacular driving style.

Those who thought the standings were now fixed, however, were in for a treat. A heavy downpour in the final of the rally was going to shake up the top. Walraven/Ruiter were just able to finish their stage in the dry, then the heavens opened fully and forced Barnes/Hall to lift their very heavy right foot. Their half-minute lead thus became an identical deficit. The team still fought back but eventually stranded 15' from Walraven/Ruiter, who still won by a stroke of luck, both teams also finishing 20th and 21st overall respectively.

The Clarks could also have thrown a spanner in the works, but went firmly straight earlier in the race, mowed down a hedge afterwards and also suffered a puncture. Without those incidents, there was certainly a third hijacker on the coast, but the win in Historic, just ahead of Smith/Vincent, still makes up for a few things. Then again, who we didn't see at the finish were Hedges/Russ, who eventually decided to honour a local tradition by ending up in the ditch. Nothing wrong with that, it happens to everyone anyway.

Halfway through the season we now see Walraven/Ruiter and Barnes/Hall taking the lead, though without a comfortable lead. If their luck finally turns, Van de Lindeloof/Smets can still play a role, team Clark follows close behind, while Paynter/Hollingham could also score a bunch of points. So everything is still open for the upcoming races, there is now some time until the Chevrotines where we will hopefully see the sun for once. Meanwhile, we look forward to Walraven/Ruiter's result in the Ypres rally next weekend, will also be interesting.


Walraven/Ruiter survive havoc in ORC

As expected, a lot of great people turned up at the start of the ORC Canal Rally, round two of the Challenge. Twenty foreign teams, sixteen of which are regular customers, were ready for a happy time in and around Oostrozebeke. The sun was indeed nice on Saturday during recce. On Sunday, however, she was nowhere to be seen. The soaking wet stages turned out to be extremely slippery, which resulted in an endless series of spins and offs. Our troops would not be spared either.

Debutants Midghall/Pidden were determined to stay out of the ditches, but unfortunately clipped a pole on SS1. A minor off with big consequences: suspension broken and exit Evo 9. Experience was no guarantee for Smith/Vincent either, who explored the scenery on SS2, while Wilmot/Wilding came through with a heavily smoking Nova, only to discover a large hole in the engine block a little later. Macedo/Macedo had already reshaped the body of their Adam, and both Freeman/Williams and Moynes/Kerr slid from one grass side to another mud splash. Van de Lindeloof/Smets lost a lot of time with a flat tire with the added bonus of a faltering accelerator, which immediately gave us a lonely leading duo at the front, not entirely unexpected Walraven/Ruiter and Barnes/Hall, who didn't give each other an inch and even flirted with the top ten overall!

Halfway through the race, the sun came out, only to make the course even more treacherous with dry parts, interspersed with muddy cuts. Most of the surviving teams had braved the conditions and seemed to be making a nice comeback, until the mechanics put a spanner in the works. Freeman/Williams saw their clutch break, Moynes/Kerr had ignition problems, Davies/Crisp and also father and son Van De Hel saw all kinds of things break, while the battle at the front came to an end when Barnes/Hall heard ominous noises from their gearbox.

The misery was not over yet. A short but strong thunderstorm flooded everything again. Derek Webb, the oldest participant at 85 years old, was forced out due to a road section accident. Not much of a problem, but a folded rear axle made it impossible to continue. The second crash of Macedo/Macedo proved to be one too much, while a fiercely attacking Van de Lindeloof/Smets went to plough a field, losing over four minutes.

For the final part of the rally, the sun was out again, and we saw especially beaming faces with debutants Bray/McIllroy and Sharp/Carfrae, who successfully passed their first exam in Belgium. Both teams, with almost identical MG ZRs, avoided all traps, made solid progress every round and finally made it to the top fifty overall, scoring a third and fourth place in the Challenge. Nice entry in FIRC! Richards/Butler, back after a few years in the British rally scene, rounded out the top five with a faultless rally as well, while Allfrey/Fellowes snatched the Historic trophy ahead of Smith/Vincent. Thanks to Superally, the duo was able to restart and still score nice points for the Historic Challenge.

At the front, no one could come close to Walraven/Ruiter, who took the win again after their issues in the Salamandre, while Van de Lindeloof/Smets finally came to the finish after a seemingly endless series of bad luck. A second place after a pretty adventurous event was the highest achievable, and more than deserved. As far as points are concerned, everyone is still close to each other after two rallies, curious to see if there will be a first selection in Wervik. We'll see each other in two weeks time, let the countdown start.


Rookies dominate Salamandre

A new season, the thirteenth already, and a host of new names. All the ingredients were there to make it an interesting match, and it would be. Rallye Salamandre is not exactly an easy race, and although we had a sunny weekend, many places were still treacherously slippery.

Completely in the style of last season, the champion duo Walraven/Ruiter, together with Van De Lindeloof/Smets, immediately took the lead, with the newcomers Quigley and the surprisingly fast British Barnes/Paynter as playmates. With three 2WDs against an R5, this does not seem entirely fair, but the Irish brothers did their very first race in Belgium and decided not to take any risks, which could not be said of the crew in the lightning fast 106, immediately full throttle everywhere! Unfortunately the battle was short-lived, when Walraven/Ruiter had to park their BMW on SS4 with a broken clutch. No repair possible, so no restart unfortunately. Van De Lindeloof/Smets would also not survive the first round. A rare driving error resulted in a broken steering rack, exit Honda and another retirement, trouble doesn't end for the team. There will be a new engine for ORC, so hopefully this fast duo can finally shine there.

All this left the way wide open for the Irish R5 to explore the rally without pressure, and ultimately easily take away the victory, while Barnes/Paynter no longer had any direct competition either, and parked themselves nicely in the wake of the Quigleys with a beautiful second place as a result. Hands/Dawson scored a great podium finish too in their humble 1600cc Escort, after a trouble free run, beating Thorne/Burridge, who only made their Belgian debut in ORC last year and immediately felt that this tasted like much more. Nice to see them end so high in an event they discovered.

Smith/Wilding, who had to get used to their Peugeot 106 which they had not driven for seventeen (!) years, had to deal with a fuel leak, broken engine mounts and a damaged propshaft along the way. But everything else went very well, so that fifth place in FIRC was definitely not stolen.

Newcomers Moynes/Kerr in their M3 also had their share of bad luck with a broken differential, but were able to recover and restart, limit the damage, and perhaps more importantly get used to the Belgian roads again after years of absence. Freeman/Williams, who had the honor of being the very first to be sent onto the stages, again set strong times until halfway through the rally a broken drive shaft forced their fast Millington Escort to the side. Gerssen/Tielen, also new to the Challenge, had to park their Kalos with the finish in sight, due to the same problem. Yes, the sport can be brutal. But their compatriots Van As/Van Den Dijssel did finish on their debut, thus upholding Dutch honor among the overseas delegation.

In the Historic class, Wood/Marshall, again new names, did the same as their modern colleagues: win! And overall they would even take third place! Father and daughter Clark squeezed everything out of their borrowed 205, but could not compete with the Escort violence and ended up on the second podium spot, a small off did not really help but still a very good result.

A very successful season opener, with an unexpected outcome, we love it. We will soon have the Flemish two week event series, with ORC and Wervik in quick succession, curious to see what the picture will look like there with even more new participants on the way. See you soon!



15 years of FIRC

Time flies, the happier you are, the quicker the clock ticks. Proven fact with FIRC for sure. Starting back at the summer of 2009, when a handful of rally organizers and volunteers put their heads together to form a championship for the many foreign teams that traditionally compete in Belgium, so many memories turned out to be so fresh they seemed recent.

Actually, the idea went on for some years already, but never really got to grips. Until the correct people found each other, and off we went. So exciting to put up regs, design a logo, get flyers printed and distributed, put up a website (no FB yet back then, can you imagine?), start to mail half Europe, Fairfield Motorsport promoting the concept in the UK, … only to get very nervous when bookings opened for ORC Canal Rally. But entries were coming in! English, French and even German. Not too many yet, but we felt the concept was working and were confident many would join in later. We checked the archives, here are the 2010 pioneers:

- Anderson Guy - Bull Andy (Mitsubishi Galant VR4)
- Cook Bill – Hoflack Nico (Talbot Lotus Sunbeam)
- De Vere-Packford Martin - Calvert Michael (Peugeot 306 Rallye)
- Elswood Garry - Greenland Andy (Citroen Saxo VTS)
- Morgan John - Jones-Edwards Llinos (ex-Snijers Ford Escort Cosworth)
- Pettitt Keith - Hannah Ellis (Ford Lotus Cortina)
- Rowe Andy - Lund Cat (Mitsubishi Evo III)
- Schewe Heinz-Walter - Blondeel Frank  (Porsche 996 GT3)
- Thomson Andrew - Vincent Richard (Ford Focus)
- Wattinne Patrice - Wattinne Adrien (Austin Healey Sprite)
- Wheeler David - Smith Allen (Peugeot 106 Rallye)

Some are retired now, or take it a bit easier, some plan a return but most are still around, albeit as spectator. Rowe/Lund would take the first ever FIRC victory, what was be the start of great campaign in Flanders. International success that helped Cat Lund win the BWRDC Gold Star award the year after!

As expected, the number of competitors raised gradually during the maiden season with more French and Dutch joining in, which resulted in some excellent battles in every rally. And we already saw many smart cars too, like John Morgan in the ex Snijers Escort, Guy Anderson in the ex Airikkala VR4, later to be joined by Andy Dawe in the former works Sunny, Steve Brown in the cute Micra or Alex Taylor in the crazy Forester, just too many to mention.

The Challenge still went bigger, we consider the 2014 season as our final breakthrough with an average of 20 competitors in every rally, regs that made everybody happy just as our points system, a stable calendar and great (inter)national press. The teams registration fee then gave us a budget to further promote the Challenge, being regular guests at HRCR and Rally Day. Thanks to the support of IRDC we even made it to Goodwood FOS.

Steadily the Dutch and English teams replaced the French. Many of our southern neighbours tried their very best, but apart from a few exceptions few had the pace to set great results. FIRC really became a family too, with our guest teams being very warmly welcomed by the Belgians, all in very busy events. Rarely a rally was not overbooked then, 150 competitors were the rule then. We do (or not) remember countless parties with our lot and great fun promoting FIRC in the UK and beyond.

Sponsors were coming in too. We welcomed Corbeau/Luke in 2015, after regular Derek Webb did a good word for us. Dave Wheeler’s PEC and Martin Jones Transmissions were already on. Motorsport Auctions then joined in, Stuart Ranby supported us, quickly followed by Questmead and partners, thanks to Steve Brown. It allowed us to organize great award ceremonies and create some merchandise at affordable prices, not to mention the ongoing promotions.

And along came Rally FM, with Chris and Ian further promoting the Challenge overseas with extended press articles and livestreams. Chris Carlile made brilliant videos on many events, making us very present at social medias. Val and Neil started and still run The Belgian Connection website, with all the latest reg updates and practical info, a massive help to many. Sean Moriarty gave us much appreciated Irish press. Even the Protyre UK Tarmac Championship held two rounds in Wervik rally, attracted by the massive positive comments about our rallies. Massive entry lists to near 200 cars caused some headaches to the management, but it all worked fine.

Despite all the fun, there were some lesser moments too. Regulars Pat Anderson and Gary Lomas left us way too soon. King of the happy Dutchmen André van Middendorp suffered a big crash while testing at Hannuit Rally that would end his career after being hospitalized for a long time. We had the scare of our life at Kortrijk 2017 when Anthony O’Brien had a horror smash. It all turned out quite well, and on a positive note, all FIRC top drivers stopped their rally to give their support on the spot, showing brilliant Sportsmanship, still a very emotional memory.

In the mean time, a new army came ashore: the Irish one. They were very strong contenders, replacing the Dutch teams that had faded away a bit. The FIRC record holder so far is undoubtedly John Reddington with three consecutive Challenge and 2WD titles, beating Andy Rowe and Alex Taylor who share two. Another special remark goes both to the Coulson brothers and this year’s champs Walraven/Ruiter, who managed to clinch both the Challenge and the 2WD title too, beating all 4x4’s. Or what to say about McDevitt/Fitzpatrick who took 2WD too in their historic Escort? Andy Thomson with the Challenge title and the historic one a couple of years later? Many managed to clinch several class or division titles, but a special reward goes out to Richard Vincent, regular from the very first year, holding the absolute entry record.

And then, there was Brexit. And then, there was Covid. How to survive two disasters? We really feared for the future of FIRC then, but look. As soon as rallying could have a go again, or regulars got back into action for what would be some Challenge 2.0. Ironically we are back to basics now, with reduced competitors and classes, with entry fields that are not even comparable to our debut Challenge, but this year we already saw a nice revival. There is renewed interest from the Netherlands, and no doubt our Irish and British guests will come strong again next year. We are ready for another 15 years, no doubt all of you are too! Thank you for all those great years, many more to come!


Calendar FIRC 2024
Online on our FB page for some time, these are our events for the following year. Also the free starts are granted, as usual first come first served, so do not forget to claim your event.
April 13/14: Rallye Salamandre
May 25/26: ORC-Canalrally
June 14/15: 12 uren van Wervik Scuderia Vervica
August 3/4: Les Boucles Chevrotines
Oktober 19/20: Hemicuda
November 16/17: 6 uren van Kortrijk
Six events in 2024, best five results count.


Walraven/Ruiter unapproachable in Kortrijk

On the eve of the fifteenth anniversary of FIRC, we were able to prepare for an exciting final. The six hours of Kortrijk took place in apocalyptic conditions. After weeks of almost incessant rain, the 158 teams found a selection of stages that seemed to be reserved for a 4x4 trial in some places. Walraven/Ruiter had the best cards, but Sonia and Paulo Macedo still had a small chance at the title, and we know how things can sometimes turn in rally, especially with the weather gods showing their worst side.

After the traditionally well-attended show stage on Saturday evening, the Dutch BMW immediately took the lead in FIRC, followed closely by Van de Lindeloof/Smets who finally wanted to drive a race without bad luck. Father and daughter Clark lost some time after a minor off but clung nicely, a little further we found the Macedos and Thomson/Murray who suffered cooling problems. The mud battle would really kick off on Sunday.

Many teams seemed inspired by the weather, let’s say it was raining crashes, luckily all with minor damage. The slightest mistake was mercilessly punished on the slippery course, but the FIRC teams clearly kept a cool head. Except in a Dutch Civic then, where steam came from the helmet of Ramon Van de Lindeloof. After a good start, the electronics decided to start living their own lives again, resulting in inexplicable loss of power. Still, the team would make the most of it, and eventually even finish in an honorable 33rd place. Yes, there was much more to it, but in the last game of the season Ramon and Eva finally saw the finish.

Throughout the rally, Thomson/Murray still grabbed the Macedos, who in turn decided not to take any chances, and quietly hoped for some front problem that unfortunately didn't come, and therefore no stunt in the Challenge. Our Portuguese debutants still are nicely second in the FIRC final score, an achievement in itself with the modest Adam, after a very regular season. Thomson/Murray also make a big leap forward and eventually finish third after two previous titles.

Gawaine and Lois Clark clearly felt very comfortable in the mud and made nice progress every round, resulting in a more than deserved second place in FIRC, in addition sixth Historic overall and a finish in the top thirty. It could hardly be better. The Historic title went to regulars Gavin Smith and Richard Vincent earlier, they didn't make the crossing to Kortrijk this time.

However, no one even came close to Walraven/Ruiter. Traditionally as fast as faultless, the cheerful Dutch ended their season with yet another victory, and yet another place in the top twenty overall. In addition, every event was a new discovery for the Dutch duo. A rarely seen dominance in the Challenge results in a more than deserved championship title, it is also the first general title ever for a Dutch team, where in recent years the cups always went to England or Ireland. Hats off, and big congratulations to René, Joyce and the great team behind them!

The reward for that achievement follows in a number of free starts for the coming season, which remains broadly the same. The calendar will come online in the coming weeks. We wish everyone a nice winter break, time to give people and machines some rest. Catch up next year for FIRC #12!


Walraven again in Hemicuda

If the car doesn’t fail, the Dutchies win. It becomes a tradition this season. It all looked pretty exciting before the start, with the very fast Scott Singleton, last year’s FIRC winner returning, a very motivated Van De Lindeloof and a confident Tim Freeman, used to our stages now. With 20 foreign teams at the start, and a lot of British spectators around, we finally felt that good old FIRC spirit again, looks we’re on the right way for next year!

Rainfall the days before made the stages around Koekelare traditionally very slippery, and it would be quite an eventful event, to say the least. Especially for Singleton/Wilson whose car would refuse all duty right before the start of the first stage on Saturday. Their ECU failed, impossible to solve the issue. This meant a very bitter pill to swallow after a day and a half travel to Belgium, hopefully payback time comes on next year with a new 350bhp Warrior engine at the front. Van De Lindeloof/Smets would lead the pack after SS1, with a phenomenal opening stage time, and 13th overall! Freeman/Williams lost some time in the dark, which made the top three favorites come very close.

Sunday’s action saw total domination from the Dutch, helped by guest drivers like Pex, Ippen and van den Heuvel, with Van De Lindeloof/Smets storming away. However the fun would soon be over for the crew, when their gearbox failed after the first loop, a fourth retirement in four rallies for the very disappointed team. Hopefully they can finally show their proven pace in Kortrijk. Barden/Hedges withdrew too, after seeing all sides of the roads and ditches in their Belgian debut, unfortunately in the worst possible conditions, whilst Davies/Jones got excluded after a bizarre regroup incident.

With autumn sun drying the stages, no further incidents were to be reported, after a countless number of mostly minor crashes in the damp morning stages. One third of the entry field wouldn’t make it to the finish, says enough. Walraven/Ruiter kept their pace, but Freeman/Williams came dangerously close stage by stage, to end the rally as second FIRC. What if they didn’t have lost time on the opening stage? A great result anyway, after some misfortune in previous events.

The battle between the Subarus of Smith/Vincent and Clark/Clark ended even closer in Historic, but the latter would take the win and the former the ’23 Historic title, their second one after they clinched the M4B trophy in… 2017, and in the same car, not so Historic back then. Congrats to Gavin and especially to Richard who holds the record for the most entries in FIRC, including three titles now.

Somewhat further in the field, Thomson/Murray finished a trouble free run in front of newcomers Wood/Baddeley, who managed to avoid all traps. The Macedo’s pleased the crowds with very agressive driving and beat the very brave Allfrey/Fellowes, rallying old school style without mechanics nor spare parts, fits their age and especially their experience. They would end in front of father and son Smith, always happy and a second finish in the season.

With the 6 Hours of Kortrijk to come, Walraven/Ruiter are virtually sure of this year’s Challenge win after a very strong and consistent season, however the Macedo’s still have a minor chance. They should claim the overall win in Kortrijk, whilst the the Dutch cannot score any points there. Hard, but not impossible given the weird results we already saw in the past. So we keep the champagne chilled, and get the woolly socks out for Kortrijk!


Chevrotines: zero points!

We could summarise our report like this: no one finished. But Les Boucles Chevrotines would be quite an eventful rally. Ever changing weather conditions turned the notoriously slippy stages incredibly hard for men and machine. The FIRC crews all made a good start with nice stage times amongst the local specialists, but luck would not be on their side this time. First victims were Freeman/Williams with a broken alternator, quickly followed by Dutchies Walraven/Ruiter whose gearbox fell apart. The same issue would stop Gavin Smith/Vincent while leading FIRC, a very rare breakdown for the ever reliable Impreza.

The biggest incident would hit Ben Smith/Wilding by the end of the rally. Being 2nd FIRC after two punctures, their Evo clipped a pole at high speed and made two rollovers to land upside down on a boulder. They got stuck under a bent roll cage, but quick action by the spectators helped both get out of the car. After a fast intervention by the medical staff the crew were declared ok, apart from some minor injuries. We know crashes are inevitable in rallying, but this was one of the more serious accidents in the Challenge, and we hope for a speedy recovery for Lucy and Ben.

Looking back on the final classification, the Howlett brothers ended as first international  team, followed by Weatherly/Layland who did not pick the easiest event to make their debut on Belgian soil. However the crew avoided all traps, and plans are in the making for a full Challenge campaign next year. Next one is Hemicuda rally, where we expect the biggest international turnout of the season, so the Challenge can be decided there.


Macedo takes first win at TBR

A quieter day on the Western Front… Being a Short Rally, TBR did not get a big overseas entry to say the least. And GTC Rally in Holland on the same weekend didn’t help either. On the other hand, FIRC was as international as it could be with a Portugese, Dutch and English team. Unfortunately we lost one third of our entry list with the DNF of Allfey/Sayer, which put the road wide open for an easy win in Historic for the Dutch newcomers Pennock/van den Tillaar. They will return for the second half of the season, so it could be an interesting in story to come in Historic.

Overall win went to the Macedo’s, who had a trouble free run, and more important, score a bucket load of points in FIRC again. We’re really happy to see them so high in point standings, being new to the Challenge. Everyone is coming very close together now, so the final events of this year should be very interesting. We will see who turns up at Chevrotines, one of our most admired events, before the big clash at Hemicuda, where the Challenge may get a decisive twist.

And of course we hope all of you enjoy your holidays, on a beach, in the woods or in the shed. Catch up soon!


Team Walraven head Wervik survivors

Wervik rally is one of FIRC’s most popular events, offering high mileage on unforgiving stages. The boiling sun made conditions even worse for men and machine, 67 finishing teams on 136 starters says enough. The event traditionally has a huge number of international entries too, but an unusual amount of last minute cancellations reduced ‘our’ field a bit, whilst we didn’t spot any UK team preparing for the Ypres BRC round either.

The opening stage times promised some good rivalry between Walraven/Ruiter and Freeman/Williams, until a big cut ruined the Escort’s steering arm. So the Dutch BMW M3 only needed to finish to claim a max score, but this wouldn’t slow the crew down. They kept on pushing and ended on a stunning 12th position overall. A fantastic result on top of two overall FIRC wins in two rallies!

Smith/Vincent had no rivals in Historic class but three punctures, including one on stage, did not make their life easy. So it’s fair to say that a 42nd place overall is very honorable, despite a massive time loss of some 8 minutes. A bit further down the field, it all looked like one big family business.

Father and son Wood took 2nd FIRC in their brand new Mk.2, slowed down by a series of punctures as well, but they still got the skills after an absence of nearly 3 years. Father and daughter Clark kept a good pace too but would not reach to the finish, whilst father and son Smith struggled to the end with… some punctures and an overheating engine, but water provided by the locals kept the C2 going.

In between this lot, we also welcome the lovely Portugese couple Sonia and Paulo Macedo, who decided to join in the Challenge after ORC Rally. Nice to have an exotic nationality between the Anglosaxon lot and the Dutch, and cool to see them on the podium in 2WD class. In about a month we have TBR Rally, one of the more relaxed events with eight stages, we look forward to what this gives in the points standings. An English Skoda and an Irish Evo X should be back soon, so the last word hasn’t been said yet at all.


Return in style for Campling/Ducker at ORC

As expected, ORC Canal Rally welcomed a new bunch of teams to join in this year’s Challenge. Campling/Ducker were top favorites in their smart R5, although they lacked seat time after a long period of inactivity after their big smash at Manx Rally, whilst O’Brien/O’Donovan were determined to regain some points after their disappointing end at Rallye Salamandre. The opening stage times promised a very good battle, but all tension was over at the following stage, where the Irish men had to park their Evo X after the turbo went. It got opened the day before for a routine restrictor check, so the team left the event with very mixed feelings, to say the least. We still have a long way to go though, and no one doubts they will fight back. The pace is there, the experience too.

More unhappy faces were spotted on our Dutch mates Van De Lindeloof/Smets, who took a careful start, quickly found the good pace and were approaching to Freeman/Williams, until a broken suspension meant game over, also for the second time in a row. They return in Wervik with a sequential gearbox in their already fast Civic, a very promising evolution. In the mean time, both Campling/Ducker and Freeman/Wiliams could freewheel to class victory, scoring very good in general classification too. The Skoda men found back their confidence, the Millington boys took a step higher on their continental learning curve.

Smith/Dinçer could have ended a lot higher, but small and bigger troubles trough out the rally ruined a better score, although third FIRC is still not to bad and puts them in the game too. About the same story can be told on Thomson/Murray, but they also finished and claimed important class points. Lesser news for Wilmot/Wilding whose Nova did not survive mechanically. Guest drivers Thorne/Burridge reappeared on the rallying scene after some twenty years of inactivity and enjoyed the Belgian stages, we hope to see them again on a later occasion.

Finally, ORC was also the unofficial start of the Historic part, where Smith/Vincent took the win and even mingled in with the modern cars, whilst Davies/Ryland also had a trouble free run, finishing second in class. Wervik is approaching quickly now, where even more teams will start their Belgian season, amongst them a certain Richard Weaver in his new R5 and the reappearing René Walraven who was very successful in the opening round. Yes, it all looks very interesting, FIRC is back on track again!



Dutch rookies take Rallye Salamandre

Our winter break is over too, FIRC 12 kicked off at Salamandre. We are very happy to welcome some new Dutch teams, after some quieter years from our northern friends, as well as the usual overseas suspects who seem to have tackled most of the Brexit related issues now. Shakedown stage times looked very promising too, although a couple of teams would have imagined a better start of the rally.

First victims on SS1 were Freeman/Williams with a broken clutch, a real shame for the men who will enter the full Challenge for the first time, after many successful results at Salamandre and Chevrotines in the past. More trouble followed at SS2, where Van de Lindeloof/Smets got betrayed by a failing ECU. It only motivates them to try even harder at the next events. It looked like an easy run to go for the survivors. O’Brien/Moore took a comfortable lead in FIRC, and were flirting with fifth place overall. Walraven/Ruiter were just behind overall and dominating FIRC 2WD, whilst Thomson/Murray decided to take a careful run in order to discover their new DS3. Perhaps the best decision when you do your first miles on a rally stage.

Unfortunately, bad luck would hit the Irishmen again when they moved out of the way to make an R5 car pass. A hidden rock or so broke the rim, making the crew stuck on the stage. This gave a wide open road to Walraven/Ruiter to take a max points score in their very first FIRC event and debut at Salamandre, what an achievement! Sixth overall and fastest BMW came as an extra bonus. Thomson/Murray were very happy too with their second place in class and overall FIRC, and aim to add another class title for this season, after earlier success in Historic and the Challenge win in 2012.

ORC Canal Rally is next, with all Salamandre competitors returning and many more to join in. After a modest post Covid restart, it looks like FIRC is getting back on track again, and this feels really good!


FIRC 2023 calendar

April 15/16: Rallye Salamandre
May 27/28: ORC Canal Rally
June 9/10: Wervik Rally
July 8/9: TBR Shortrally
August 5/6: Les Boucles Chevrotines
Oktober 14/15: Hemicuda Rally
November 18/19: Kortrijk Rally
the traditional calendar, five best results count for point standings 


Wood/Jackson claim title in Kortrijk Rally

Two teams were equal in points before the start of the last event of the Challenge 2022. Smith/Vincent could not make it, so regular David Wood was sure of the title even before the start of SS, with one entry more than Gavin Smith. Given the circumstances and the numerous accidents, the ride was not exactly relaxed,but Wood/Jackson avoided all the pitfalls until a broken driveshaft maden an end to their adventure. On a positive note, it gave the team more time to party.

Irishmen McDevitt/Fitzpatrick are succesfull too, with both the 2WD and the Historic title in their pocket. Now we await the 2023 calendar, with the same events like this year, as well as the points system where the best five results count. More news pretty soon,keep an eye on our FB page. In the mean time we wish everyone a very nice and not too cold winter and end of the year, plus some happy hours in the shed!


Rookies rule Hemicuda

We all looked forward to this Hemicuda Rally, traditionally one of the best attended FIRC events, and this year would be no exception with ten overseas teams at the start. About a third of the usual entries over the past few years, but it looks like most teams have now settled with the Brexit regulations. Apart from the usual delays at the border, no issues were reported, which is very good news for next year’s Challenge.

Hemicuda presented its traditional tricky country lanes, a rainy recce day with a brand new opening night stage did not make things easier. So who would have expected a rookie team to lead the debates from start to finish? No one, but Irishmen Singleton/Diffin managed to realise the impossible. Not bothered by a total lack of experience and very basic pace notes after only one recce run over the stages, resulting in a couple of overshoots, the red Escort stormed through the rankings ending 20th overall. Impossible to do better in the given circumstances, this achievement is one of the very rare times a rookie team leads the debates. Massive congrats to the team and we hope to see them again next year!
Another positive note ware quite some new names on the FIRC list. Team Clark made a return to Belgium after a long time, we could also welcome John Procter navigated by local Robbie Vermeersch. Both teams made it to the end apart from Wakefield/Procter. Wood/Hedges finished 30th overall and second FIRC, and took the 4x4 trophy. Less luck for Matt Wood and Alan Jackson who had a great run as well, until a deep cut decided otherwise and left the car with two punctures on stage. Gutted, but Belgium tends to bite as we all know.

Davies/Jones lost a lot of time in the dark on Saturday’s stages but made it all up on Sunday, beating Allfrey/Fellowes in Historic after the crew got lost, must be an ageing thing. Finally, we remember the smiling faces of regulars Robert and Philip Smith, as well as Paul Hands and Ben Dawson who both had a trouble free run and already plan their 2023 season.

Yes, despite Brexit, Covid and the difficult winter to face, FIRC goes on next year with the same events and only one goal: to rise a again as the biggest private championship in the following years!


Gavin Smith new Challenge leader

After TBR Short Rally and Les Boucles Chevrotines as our summer events, we see an interesting development in the point standings. Only two teams made it to TBR, but both Allfrey/Fellowes and Wood/Jackson had a succesfull event and scored good points. Not enough to make a big change in the overall standings, but their results can be important with only two events to go now. Especially if we consider the total havoc in Les Boucles Chevrotines. First victims were Reddington/Lennon, whose Fiesta suffered gearbox issues before the start of SS1, which made them join guest star Paul Lieter who did not make it to the start either with a broken propshaft.
Once we had everyone rallying, we saw great pace by McDevitt/Fitzpatrick, leading FIRC overall and on a second spot in Historic overall. Smith /Vincent settled in 2nd place FIRC, followed by the O'Sullivan family in their raging C2's. Nothing really much changed troughout the event, but to finish first... THe Belga Escort suffered a broken engine on SS9, John O'Sullivan broke a wheel so Niall decided to stop the rally too. This means Hemicuda in autumn could already decide on this year's Challenge. Both Reddington and McDevitt have to score max points there to stay in the running! Who predicted a boring championship with a limited selection of teams?
Belga win in Wervik
Retro looks ruled! The least we can say is that this year’s Challenge shows very interesting results so far, with three rallies and three different winners. Reddington/Lennon showed a very good pace in Wervik, leading FIRC, but no one could expect a silly puncture would end the efforts of the Irish team. A disfunctional wrench stopped the Fiesta in the last loop, giving an open way to victory for McDevitt/Fitzpatrick. The Belga Escort was also on top of Belgian Historic, after the unbeatable M3’s. Needless to say the team made another big impression to the Belgian fans. Ending last overall, father and son Smith were very happy to have made it to the end with their car nearly falling apart, still they got the 3rd spot overall in FIRC. The Thomas M3 overheated after the first loop, unfortunately the second issue in two rallies for the team. Technical issues would also stop Hands/Dawson despite showing a very good pace.
TBR is coming rapidly now, it looks like multiple champion Reddington will have to fight back his way up to the ranking, no doubt McDevitt is in a very comfortable position already.
Reddington back in business at ORC
Round two of FIRC 11 welcomed six teams, brave enough to make the crossing. The admin department of the Brexit monster claimed already a victim before the event, when poor Ian Davies got sent back to the UK by the French customs, due to a missing carnet. After an emergency procedure, loads of stress and a massive loss of time, the team was not rewarded at the stages, when the rear axle went on SS2, exit Davies/Williams. That very same stage was the end for Thomson/Murray too, after a deep cut damaged the exhaust manifold, causing a small engine fire.
In the mean time, the Irish boys did it a lot better, with Reddington/Domnhall securing the FIRC lead and claiming a nice ninth place overall. More strong pace was demonstrated by McDevitt/Fitzpatrick, who even took second place overall in Historic, behind the unbeatable Paul Lietaer,... until their gearbox went halfway the rally. The same issue hit Smith/Butler at the last leg, making the team loose a brilliant second spot in FIRC.
This means only two FIRC teams made it to the finish with Smith/Vincent claiming Historic win, a second place in class overall, and second FIRC behing the unbeatable R5. Many mixed feeling after the event, but Wervik Rally runs in two weeks already, where some new names will be added to the FIRC list again. Catch up soon!
Choquet claims victory at Salamandre
With some 20 international teams booked in, we had a very international turnout in this season's opener. British, Irish, French, Dutch and a lonely German team were present for this fast and tricky rally around Beaumont, using part of the former Bianchi Rally stages. Top favourite and multiple champion John Reddington, this time assisted by Domhnall Lennon, wasn't so lucky with his smart Fiesta and had to withdraw at the 7th stage. Still Salamandre Rally would be a Ford Festival, with Arnaud Choquet claiming FIRC victory, a class win and a fantastic 7th place overall. Arnaud did FIRC some years ago with his smart BMW M3, and has clearly still a heavy right foot. Regulars McDevitt/Fitzpatrick and Mike Smith/Sean Walsh also scored important points in this opening event, which leads us to the big question who will run FIRC this year. Ian Harden and Chris Morford had a chat with the international competitors and will update us soon on what and who to expect in this year's Challenge. Some patience required, more teams will join in at ORC.
Rallye Salamandre opens the 2022 season
We are very happy to have a go again next weekend! Rallye Salamandre kicks off FIRC #11 after a long two years break. We welcome our regulars and a couple of newcomers who made the efforts to come over to Belgium. This year will be a special one, maybe call it some sort of restart, in very moving times to say the least. We made a couple of changes to FIRC regarding the circumstances, please read the extensive post on our FBpage. Our new team member Liesbeth Dousy will be happy to give you a warm welcome with event organiser Christophe Jacob and his team, also the RallyFM team Ian Harden and Chris Morford are back to promote the Challenge in the overseas media. The seeded entry list will be posted soon on the FB page of rallye Salamandre, we expect many more teams to join us at ORC Canal Rally and Wervik Rally later in spring, and have a great Challenge again!
FIRC 2022 calendar
We're happy to present the 2022 dates for FIRC. This the third time we post a calender since the last two years... third time, good time!
Rallye Salamandre, Beaumont: April 23/24
ORC Canal Rally, Oostrozebeke: May 28/29
Wervik 12hrs, Wervik: June 10/11
TBR Rallysprint: July 9/10
Les Boucles Chevrotines, Sivry-Rance: July 30/31
Hemicuda Rally, Koekelare: October 15/16
Kortrijk 6hrs, Kortrijk: November 19/20
To freshen up everyone's minds: TBR is planning to switch from a single venue event to a short rally with two stages, all the other events are full closed road rallies, all tarmac, mostly 10 to 12 stages. Recce and scrutineering on Saturday, rallying on Sunday (Friday/Saturday for Wervik Rally). Best five results count, classes are made according to the number and sort of cars that turn up for the Challenge, usually 4x4, 2wd and historic. Check the FAQ page at www.firc.be, for all technical details we recommend www.thebelgianconnection.co.uk, do not hesitate to contact us for further questions.
2022  FIRC back in business
Previous posts summarise the chaos we went through, but we are happy to confirm FIRC will have a go again next year. As soon as we have the dates confirmed, this site will be entirely updated. In the mean time, keep an eye on or FB to get the latest info.
2021 calendar update
This is the confirmed FIRC 2021 calendar:
Rallye Salamandre: 17/18 April
ORC Rally - 29/30 May 
Rally van Wervik - 11/12 June
Monteberg Rally - 26/27 June 
TBR Shortrally - 10/11 July
Boucles Chevrotines: 31 July/1 August
Hemicuda Rally - 23/24 Oktober
6 Uren van Kortrijk - 20/21 November
Now we are sure about the dates, but... Rumours go that events only will be allowed from July onwards, perhaps later depending on the COVID statistics. We did not even mention the confusion at the borders regarding carnets, and possible travel bans. We can only advise you to keep an eye on our FB page, where all updates are regularly posted.
FIRC in 2021
This is the provisional FIRC calendar for next year, as we posted earlier on our FB page:
Monteberg Rally - 1/2 May 
ORC Rally - 29/30 May 
Rally van Wervik - 11/12 June
TBR Shortrally - 10/11 July 2
Hemicuda Rally - end October?
6 Uren van Kortrijk - 20/21 November 
Rallye Salamandre: 17/18 April
Boucles Chevrotines: 31 July/1 August
Theoretically, all events are scheduled at their usual date, but absolutely nothing is certain in these strange times. First of all there is a rescheduled planning of BRC in the making, which may affect both the VAS and ASAF calendar. Rumour has it that two new events would be added on the calendar, meaning two would have to go. Currently, there is no update regarding this topic.
More worrying is the COVID19 situation in Belgium. The only good news to be mentioned, is that the peak of the second wave is behind us. Unfortunately the downward trend has already stopped. The number of infections are even on a small rise again, whilst a third wave is predicted around February. Realistically, taking into account the current restrictions, events should only be allowed again from May at the earliest. So it looks like not a lot will happen before summer, which may open a rush on autumn and winter dates for those still capable of organising. And the question is: which events will be held, and which will not. Some rallies cannot run without the budget provided by selling spectator passes. And sponsor budgets are not expected to rise in 2021, to say the least. Timewise, we should not hope too much on the vaccine effects either. They need to be produced, distributed and administered. All government schedules aim for a safe situation "around" next summer, running on an ideal scenario.
Finally, and perhaps the biggest monster of all, is Brexit. Unless a miracle happens, there will be no deal within a fortnight. The economical consequences for both the UK and Belgium will be more than serious, not to mention the predicted chaos at the borders. We tried several times to put some sort of scenario together of what to expect regarding documents and legislation, and many of you were very helpful, but unfortunately we are forced to recognize that a clear plan still does not seem to exist. The only thing we can do is wait and see, again. Hope for the best, try to put something together next year, and if not, steam ahead to 2022. Weird to mention, since 2021 has not even begun yet. But FIRC will be a survivor!
Hemicuda and what is left of FIRC
2020 is the craziest year ever, fact. Most of our communication went via FB, and there was not much positive to tell. To end on a positive note, we are very happy to have a handful of FIRC teams present at Hemicuda. The vast majority of the near 50(!) overseas crews that booked, had to cancel their entry due to the mandatory UK self isolation, but some brave men (who can work from home) still can do the event, lovely... And the presence of the Toyota Gazoo WRC team is the cherry on the cake for the Hemicuda organisers. After all a cold comfort after what FIRC was the last 10 years, but we will have to live with it. Check our FB page for the latest updates, and do not forget to read our first and last rally report of this year next week...
FIRC and the summer holiday
Our last update end of May was quite positive, we were sure to have tackled that virus successfully, statistics were very good, so many measures got relaxed, all of us were taking back life again. Apart from some exceptions, everyone was using their common sense and it all went well for some two months. Until recent statistics revealed a totally unexpected uprise in infections, a wave that does not stop anymore. The good part is that all rally events planned from Monteberg onwards still can run for the moment. But a final decision will only be taken in three weeks, on August 15th, after an extensive evaluation of the COVID19 statistics. The number of new infections keeps on rising quickly again.
Most experts want more and strict measures, but the government wants a good balance between restrictions and daily life, to keep the economy going. Some experts are sure we are at the start of the second wave, others believe it's too early, and the second wave should only arrive in the autumn, with possibly more casualties than the first wave. So there is no general point of view anymore between the experts. Which means we have to have faith in political decisions...
The latest restrictions are the following: outdoor events of max 400 people, 200 indoor. All with compulsory face covering. Extended contact tracing in pubs and restaurants, extended police control on face coverings, "to be worn on all busy public places" plus more power for local councils. This means measures can be different in any community, this makes it all very confusing. Experts are shouting for more restrictions, like a travel ban and smaller bubbles of max 10 people, possibly more local lockdowns based on the figures of contact tracing (which does not seem to work very well at present, but after all it's organised by the government). No one doubts this will be the case if figures remain as bad as they are now.
Pessimists are mostly optimists with experience in life, so let's stay realist, the only option left if we put all the pieces of the puzzle together. The situation is not much better in our surrounding countries either, so fingers crossed...


What we hope for FIRC 2020

The evolution of COVID19 seems to be going in a positive way now. Business is starting up again, government measures in Europe are going in the same direction, plans for reopening the borders are made and events would be possible again. It looks like we woud return to a more or less normal situation after summer, which means FIRC should have three remaining events running: a new date for Monteberg Rally with two stages and a new rally HQ in Poperinge, planned for August 29/30, plus our two autumn classics Hemicuda Rally and Kortrijk Rally. If all goes as planned, we will have these three rallies counting for FIRC 11 and finally have some action. It will also be the last ever season to be ran under the EU legislation as we know, since Brexit will be a fact in 2021. No doubt this will create more headaches.


FIRC and COVID 19, update 16th April

We're sorry to say that this wil be our last update for some time, and the reason is quite obvious. Our government made some long term decisions, the main one is the cancellation of all events until the end of August. We're on the good way on controlling the Covid situation now, with new cases on a slow but constant decline, but the death toll remains high. The peak seems to be behind us, but it will take several months before some sort of life as we know it returns, this to prevent a rise in infections again. Lockdown is extended to early May, after that we will go in 'lockdown light' step by step, only from August onwards, we may see a more relaxed way of life coming back, and hope for some rallies to run in autumn and winter. Two events remain on the original FIRC calendar now, Hemicuda and Kortrijk. If motorsport gets a go after summer, far from sure yet, we might organise a short run with perhaps three events, preferably with the familiar rallies if they get a new date, possibly with a new one if there is a shortage, to get some sort of competition. All we can do now is wait, be patient, be creative to fill our days during summer and stay healthy.


FIRC and COVID 19, update 6th April

As predicted by our virologists, Belgium seems to be at its peak now. The number of new cases remains stable since the end of last week, so this gives some hope. Unfortunately this is the only good news for the moment. Still many people are in hospital and the death toll remains high. The next step is to await a clear decline in infections, this is estimated to happen in one or two weeks if the mathematical models are correct. Lockdown is set until April 19th, but few doubt that two more weeks will be added. Once the worst is over, our government plans to reopen schools and ease down restrictions on businesses and trade, but realistically this should only start to happen from half May onwards. At a second phase, a reopening of pubs and restaurants is scheduled, as well as limited national traveling. Only later, public events will be allowed and there will be restrictions too, all this to limit the risks of a second wave of infections. So realistically, it all looks not too good until June. Everyone is ready to organise, but we have to wait until the government takes the necessary decisions. Organisers of the FIRC events have the last word, so we look forward on their communications.


FIRC and COVID 19, update 25th March

Not entirely surprising, Rallye Salamandre is officially cancelled. Now we await further communications about the following events. Monteberg is the next rally entering the twilight zone, whilst ORC and Wervik are in full preparation. The circumstances are far from ideal for both events, with most of the governmental departments being closed or running online only, from council to national level. Any live meeting is simply forbidden, as well as all unnecessary displacements. In brief, we are only allowed to go to the shop or for a walk in a local park. Only in the company of one person... And we do not doubt that medical and police forces have other things on their mind now, not to mention the ongoing restrictions on international travel. In brief, the next few months will not bring us any good news, given the current COVID 19 status in Belgium.

As we write this, our country is officially in a crisis situation now. We are in the middle of the outbreak and the eye of the storm is coming. The number of infected people is rising spectacularly. The government and medical experts expect a two weeks rush in infections, so roughly until early April all restrictions on public life will remain in force. The general picture on a longer term is getting clear too now. It is accepted that a period of 8 to 10 weeks will be needed to take total control of the situation, to limit the risk on a further prolongation and to prevent a second outbreak. Only then, life as we know it should slowly start again, so realistically from June onwards. And there is no doubt that all events will be kept to a strict minimum.

Belgium has one of the best public health services in the world, our government quickly took severe decisions and all Belgians respect the current restrictions, so we are quite confident to get trough this difficult times in the best possible circumstances. We all know that the UK waited quite a bit longer to imply the necessary restrictions, so you know what is coming to you too. Believe us, it will be serious. So stay home as much as you can, use your common sense and keep it safe. Clean up your shed, garden, attic and cave like most Belgians are doing now!


FIRC and COVID 19, update 20th March

Unlike most sports events on the continent, FIRC looks to become one of the victims as well. We still have some time to go for Rallye Salamandre and hope the event can run as it should, but dark clouds are definitely coming. Also the the severe controls at the French border will not help easy travel. No one knows for how long this emergency situation will last and what the implications will be. We can only wait and act according to what is allowed. So FIRC#11 might run on a shorter calendar this year, we only hope the main troubles are over by June, this should be our deadline month to decide if and how FIRC will run this year. Keep an eye on our FB for more updates, in the mean time we wish all of you a good health and some quality time with friends and family, as far is this is still allowed.


The 2020 calendar

Rallye Salamandre: 18/19 April + award ceremony
Monteberg Rally: 2/3 May
ORC Canal Rally: 30/31 May
Wervik Rally: 12/13 June (Friday & Saturday!)
TBR Rallysprint: 11/12 July (single venue event, half points)
Les Boucles Chevrotines: 8/9 August
Hemicuda Rally: 24/25 October
Rally Kortrijk: 21/22 November
Out of the eight rallies on the 2020 calendar, only the best five results count.
Here are our 2019 champions:
First of all, we stress the achievement of Reddington/Mullen, who clinch a third consecutive FIRC title and M2A class win, never seen before. They beat Andy Rowe and Alex Taylor, who both won FIRC twice. 
Campling/Ducker on the only WRC, claim M4A for the second year in a row, we hope the men can do more events in 2020 to chase a certain John R. a bit harder (anyone else in for this challenge?). It looks like Subaru is the make to have for winning titles, Mawdsley/Santy score a second consecutive win in M4B, after their very succesfull debut last year.
The M2B title goes for the first time to the Gibson brothers, a very well deserved win for one of our most faithful contenders, so this one finally pays off for all their efforts made.
In Historic, we see two new names on top of the ranks. Bristow/Sayer take their first title in their first full FIRC season, plus class win in HB, whilst the trophy in HA is for another pair of regulars, father and son Wood whose switch to the Cosworth proved to be quite successful.
All six teams mentioned above won, apart from big cups and eternal glory, a free start for the next season. We will celebrate our champs at the traditional supper at Rallye Salamandre next year. Congratulations to the champions and a big thanks for the efforts, we look forward to meeting all of you again next year!

Reddington masters mist and mud for fourth win of the season

Newly-crowned FIRC champion John Reddington closed out the 2019 season in the best possible manner by taking his fourth win of the year at the 6 Uren van Kortrijk. Surviving a final stage scare when their Ford Fiesta R5 lost several gears, Reddington and co-driver Darragh Mullen blazed a trail through 14 mud-coated, misty stages in and around Kortrijk to finish 14th overall out of 155 starters.  The Irish pairing finished nearly five minutes ahead of Richard Weaver /James Pink’s Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6, with Simon Thomas / Liz Jordan’s Peugeot 306 F2000 third, 29 seconds further adrift.

Traditionally, the 6 Uren van Kortrijk proves to be challenging season finale; the roads are narrow, making it crucial to pick the correct line between corners. And, they are covered with a layer of congealed mud from adjacent farmland, putting grip at a premium. The 2019 event consisted of a Saturday evening stage, Lavano, followed by three loops of four stages on Sunday– Aalbeke, Marke, Bellegem and Bevergem, with a second run through Lavano.

Right from the opening test Reddington drove strongly in 13th place, only three seconds behind Belgian rallying legend Paul Lietaer (Ford Escort Cosworth). Consistency paid dividends on Sunday; bouncing back after losing time and several places with a sixth stage puncture, the Irish pairing set several top ten times, climbing to 14th. Their toughest problem, however, came on the final stage. The Fiesta’s normally reliable gearbox refused to select more than two gears. Forced to nurse the car back to Kortrijk, several spectators, including former European Rally Champion Patrick Snijers, helped push them over the finish ramp.

Second FIRC finishers Richard Weaver / James Pink quickly realised the challenge presented by Kortrijk’s slippery conditions and evolved a ‘drive to finish at all costs’ strategy, which they stuck to rigidly. Building speed after a very steady start they set regular second fastest FIRC times on the mid-rally stages. At second service, Weaver described the conditions as “extremely treacherous. It’s a game of survival out there and we don’t want to bin it.” Fortunately their Mitsubishi Lancer E6’s predictable handling provided a stable platform on the slimy surface and they climbed to 32nd overall.

Simon Thomas / Liz Jordan performed admirably in their Peugeot 306 F2000 and were rewarded with third in FIRC. They spun on Lavano 1 and repeated the performance on Sunday’s opener, Aalbeke 1. But from then on they improved steadily. At service, Thomas reported: “We are on tiptoes the whole time. Normally I can use the brake pedal really hard but today I not stamped on it once.” He also praised his mechanics for ensuring the Peugeot stayed trouble-free. By the podium he had risen to 35th overall and won Class M2A.

Kortrijk debutant Paul McDevitt had a new co-driver in Jonathan Baird. Although joking that Baird had got the drive after winning a motor club raffle; “Johnnie put in two quid, which was more than anyone else, so he won,” the pairing gelled quickly. Exercising necessary caution in the early miles they climbed rapidly from 65th up to 44th and scrapped with Thomas / Jordan for M2A class honours. McDevitt described the mid-rally conditions as “slippery to the point of dangerous - it’s very hard to commit to any of the corners and we’re having numerous moments.” But they continued doggedly and brought their Toyota Corolla home 36th overall and second in M2A.

Malcolm Mawdsley and co-driver Steven Santy finished fifth FIRC and were extremely pleased with their weekend. The Activ8 Motorsport Subaru Impreza ran faultlessly and Mawdsley beamed as he announced they had driven Lavano 1 90 seconds faster than in 2018. At one point the crew held 35th overall but a puncture slowed them later on. Even so, they returned to Kortrijk in 45th place and winners of Class M4A.

A first-stage time loss of more than 15 minutes - thanks to gearbox woes - cost Andrew Thompson / Romain Ansel very dearly. But the Subaru Legacy crew battled their way back on Sunday, getting progressively quicker and outpacing some very fast local drivers including regular frontrunner Bjorn Syx (BMW E30). The Legacy’s distinctive flat-four exhaust note echoed through the foggy mid-rally stages as they pushed on to set times on the fringes of the top 20 overall, completing the 14 stages in sixth FIRC and winning class HA.

Finally, Barri Wilmot linked up with experienced Turkish co-driver Aras Dincer for their first rally together in their 1400cc Vauxhall Nova. The new pairing drove steadily, working their way up from initial 127th place to 112th. But their day ended prematurely, sliding into a ditch on SS9, Bellegem 2.

And so another FIRC season comes to an end. Congratulations to all the winners and commiserations to everyone whose season has not gone as they hoped. The 11th year of this very friendly and competitive championship begins at the Rally Salamandre next April.


Writer: Ian Harden


Campling takes two in a row but Reddington retains title

David Campling and co-driver James Ducker powered their way to a second consecutive maximum points score in the Flanders International Rally Challenge at last weekend’s Hemicuda Rally. In the process, they came close to upstaging some very quick Belgian crews by taking third overall. However, their stellar performance was ultimately upstaged by John Reddington and Darragh Mullen, whose consistent run to sixth overall gave them enough points to take the 2019 FIRC title.

The FIRC returned to the flat lands of mid-Belgium for its penultimate round and the Koekelare-based event attracted a bumper entry of 160 that included 35 UK crews.  With 80 stage miles spread over three loops of three stages, this was top value for money.

Bouts of heavy rain during Saturday’s recce gave way to dry but overcast conditions on Sunday, with a slippery sheen on the road surface and mud patches to catch out the unwary. Campling, unfazed, took a calculated risk by running intermediate tyres and settled into fourth overall. A ‘moment’ at a Square Right corner on SS3, Koekelare 1, dropped him to fifth but he stormed through SS7, Kortemark 3, leapfrogging local drivers Philip Barbier (Mitsubishi Lancer E10) and Bjorn Syx (BMW E30) to take third. He consolidated the placing by going fastest overall on the final test, Koekelare 3. “(The conditions) were really tricky first thing, there was a lot of mud on the corners, but it’s really pleasing to get a good result; we’ve had a lot of bad luck in past Hemicudas,” said Campling at the finish.

Champion-elect Reddington came to Hemicuda fresh from the Clare Stages in Ireland, and was immediately on the pace in his new Ford Fiesta R5. Aware that the championship was within reach, the Irishman drove with necessary caution but even so, he pushed hard enough to narrowly avoid hitting a bridge on SS2, Houthulst 1: “We kept the power on and luckily it pulled the car straight,” he reported. At the finish, the celebration was remarkably understated. A smiling Reddington said: “That was good fun today. The Fiesta is very different to the Escort; the braking is much better and everything is controllable.” 

Tony Clements and Stanley Graham took third in FIRC, having fixed the ECU mapping problem that blighted them at Boucles Chevrotines. The Mitsubishi Lancer E10 pairing suffered two punctures near the end of SS3 but got the car back to Service and, with new tyres on, finished 19th overall.

Simon Thomas / Liz Jordan’s Peugeot 306 Maxi finished fourth in FIRC and won class M2A. After their battery overheated at the Rally van Wervik, their Formula 2 machine ran much better, although co-driver Jordan reported a few problems in the slippery going. Toyota Corolla pairing Paul McDevitt and Ray Fitzpatrick’s superb 19th overall at the Clare Stages gave them huge confidence and at Hemicuda they came out on top of a close scrap with Niall O’Sullivan / Sean McTiernan (Citroen C2) to take second in M2A. O’ Sullivan / McTiernan’s pace has never been in doubt this year and their Citroen stayed trouble- free at Koekelare. They survived a high speed spin after hitting mud on the approach to a corner to come home sixth and win Class M2B.

Behind seventh-placed Vince Bristow / Tim Sayer’s Ford Escort Mk1, Gavin Smith / Richard Vincent had put a lot of hard work into improving their Lancia Delta Integrale. The improvements showed immediately and the Italian machine sounded crisp as it charged through the stages. A late-day problem with a faulty fuel gauge failed to defeat the crew on their way to eighth and winning Class HA. During the day they carried the ashes of a former team member strapped securely in the boot; “We wanted to give him a final ride to say thanks,” said Smith later.

It was another trouble-free rally for ninth-placed Iain and Andrew Gibson. Their Honda Civic Type R ran reliably and they drove round several competitors stuck in ditches on their way to second in M2B. The final three crews – John / James Wood (Ford Sapphire Cosworth), David Dockree / Nick Davies (Talbot Sunbeam) and Philip / Robert Smith (Citroen C2) all accumulated time penalties for late arrival at controls; testament to how tight the schedule is. 

For every finisher, Hemicuda claimed victims among the FIRC contingent. Allan Smith / Teresa Butler’s frustrating season continued with another retirement after another underbonnet fire.  The pairing first noticed smoke on SS2 but managed to get back to Service where their mechanics worked incredibly hard to fix the problem. They returned to action with strict instructions to take it easy and with a spare can of oil for top-ups, but their Subaru Impreza flamed-out part way through Kortemark 2.

David Wood and stand in co-driver Kristof Vanoverberghe started confidently in their Mitsubishi Lancer E5, but their gear linkage broke on SS3, Koekelare 1, leaving them stranded on the spot. Sportingly, Wood later drove out to recover Ben Smith and Steve McIlroy whose Lancer E7 succumbed to a broken gearbox on SS8, Houthulst 3. Until then it had been a confidence-building drive for Smith, who held seventh in FIRC and set fourth fastest time on SS4 before retiring.

Malcolm Mawdsley / Steven Santy held a solid second in M4B until their Impreza’s front driveshaft snapped as they left the startline of SS5. Richard / Pat Egger’s Vauxhall Nova lasted three stages more before disappearing from the time charts, but ‘Unluckiest crew of the day’ went to Andrew Thompson / Jeffrey Vandenbussche. Their Subaru Legacy made it through all nine stages but an engine air leak in final Service meant they could not get to the final control.

Even though the main FIRC championship has been decided, several class awards will go down to the wire at the season finale, the Six Hours of Kortrijk on 23rd / 24th November.  

Writer: Ian Harden


Webb/Athow are the 2019 Sprint Champions

Time to crown our first winners of this season! Derek Webb brought over his newly bought Cortina this year, with instant success! Two class wins and good overall scores in the Sprint Challenge were enough to clinch the overall title and first position in Historic as well. The ever present John Reddington 'only' has the class win in 2WD this time, whilst the highest finishers in 4x4 are Smith/Butler in the Subaru, also the first time this team catches a title in many years of FIRC. Congrats to all the winners, a free sprint start for 2020 is the reward!


John Wood takes first win at AArova
AArova Rallysprint switched to the short Rally format, with two stages to go this time. Many drivers booked the event as a sprint, as announced at the beginning of the season, so logically the turnout was not so big with six cars at the start.
This was a golden opportunity for some of our regulars to clinch a great result, especially in the abscence of the Irish pair Reddington and McDevitt, both rallying in their home country. John Wood, navigated by local Kristof Vanoverberge for the occasion took the best start and led halfway the event. Direct rivals Andy Thomson, who presented his newly built Subaru Legacy, and Allan Smith in his old faithful Impreza, could have challenged the cossie crew, but one of nature’s strongest elements (fire) delayed both crews. Smith/Butler were alarmed by smoke on the very first stage, but the fire was quickly extinct and both could go on to the finish, despite turbo issues in the last loop. They would finish as third FIRC team. Less luck for Thomson/Vandenbussche however, who also suffered a fire on SS4, when the exhaust came loose after the famous jump, causing big flames on the kevlar protection underneath.
Second spot overall, and a first class win, came for regulars Philip and Robert Smith. A great pace made them even beat a couple of local R2’s, the only real issue the team had, were a couple of cancelled stages, due to many crashes and 997 being burnt to the ground, but even a puncture in the last stage would not stop them. They made it to the highest position possible, leaving Wood/Vanoverberghe very happy with their first and much deserved win, even after a hot moment on the last loop, waving over a ditch.
Guest team Weaver/Pink took the highest british position, finishing on a great 20th place overall, whilst regular Derek Webb took an easy win in FIRC historic. With a good month to go, Hemicuda rally will be our next event, with already a record breaking number of 32 FIRC teams booked in. 


Campling and Ducker win at sultry Chevrotines

After taking third overall at July’s TBR Rallysprint, David Campling and co-driver James Ducker seamlessly transferred their speed and mechanical reliability to the Rallye Boucles les Chevrotines. Here, the Subaru Impreza paring hunted down the early leaders and took top spot on SS6. They then set two fastest times in a row to build a winning margin of 40 seconds. In the process they became the second-ever British winners of the Boucles les Chevrotines and took maximum points in the Flanders International Rally Challenge. In ten years of FIRC, only two crews managed to claim an overall win, the first team to achieve this was Ellis/Fowler at Salamandre Rally in 2017, also in a Walloon event. Clearly the local roads suit the overseas teams very well.

Increased mileage, a new stage and a series of alterations to the existing stages in the Sivry-Rance area of Wallonia attracted 130 entries including 24 UK and Irish crews. With the FIRC now reaching its business end, series leaders John Reddington / Darragh Mullen (Ford Escort Mk2) blazed through the opening four tests, including going second overall fastest on SS3, Grandrieu. Overcoming an overheating problem when the fan seized, Reddington set ninth and fifth fastest times respectively on the final two stages, Rance and Montbliart. This secured fifth overall, second FIRC and won Class M2A.

Third-placed FIRC finishers Paul McDevitt / Ray Fitzpatrick drove their Toyota Corolla within an inch of its life, chasing Reddington as hard as ever. The Irish crew constantly pushed the limits of adhesion, particularly during three storming runs through Montbliart. They were rewarded with second in class M2A and 12th overall.

Ben Smith and Steve McIlroy produced a battling performance to finish 17th overall and win Class M4B. After a frustrating non-finish at June’s ORC Canal Rally, Smith smilingly reported no early problems here. With confidence building they pushed harder on the second loop before taking a more cautious approach when a rear end ‘clunk’ noise began on SS8. Fellow FIRC driver David Wood’s son, Matt, and mechanics from David Campling’s team all helped to check the car at Service but with nothing visibly wrong they set off again. On SS9 a possible driveshaft vibration started, so they ran carefully through the final test with the anti-lag switched off and the centre diff tightened.

Tony Clements and Stanley Graham enjoyed the stages on their way to fifth FIRC and first in M4A in their Corbeau Seats-liveried Lancer E10. However, an ECU mapping problem kept putting the engine into ‘limp’ mode. “We had to stop twice on two stages to fix the ECU: I reckon it’s cost us about four minutes,” reported Clements.

Lotus Sunbeam driver Bill Cook used skills honed in old-style UK road rallies to claim victory in Historic class HB. With Keith Fellowes co-driving, Cook stormed through stages that, he smilingly admitted, reminded him of Selectives used on 1970s night rallies. His pace was such that he caught Allan Smith / Teresa Butler’s Impreza on SS2.

An over-ambitious pacenote caused a ‘brown trousers moment’ for Malcolm Mawdsley and Steven Santy on their way to 31st overall and second in M4B. Fortunately the Acitv8 Motorsport pairing survived this to build a growing collection of worn-out tyres by the finish. Richard and Pat Egger’s pre-rally disappointment with the apparent lack of organiser-supplied information was tempered with a steady run to victory in M2B and 51st overall.

The testing conditions claimed several victims in the FIRC ranks. Vince Bristow and Tim Sayer went well early on but their Escort Mk1 disappeared from the timecharts on SS4. Niall O’ Sullivan and Stephen McTiernan were straight onto a strong pace, their Citroen C2 sounding sharp and leading M2B, even after a second-stage high speed overshoot. But their day end on SS5, Rance 2. The biggest victims of the event were surely Dockree/Davies, whose engine went at the Shakedown on friday, but the performance of team mates Harisson/Taylor with some promising times on their Belgian debut, made that the men had a good event anyway.

Allan Smith / Teresa Butler started steadily and soon picked up pace: Smith announced, disbelieving, that they hit 120 mph down SS5’s main straight. Their day ended with a comedy of errors one stage later, as Smith explained. “We stopped to change a puncture but the car rolled off the jack. We jacked it up again but the heat from the turbo then damaged the throttle cable.” The crew made an emergency hand throttle using cable ties and a clamp-type grip and they exited the stage to retire. David Wood and Peter Kettle started well, settling into 15th overall and chasing Ben Smith for the lead of M4B. But their Lancer E5’s water pump pulley broke on SS6.

The third Rance test, SS7, accounted for Gavin Smith / Richard Vincent’s Lancia Delta Integrale. Until then their pace had been significantly higher than previous rallies due to, as Vincent described, Smith “driving like he stole it.” At Arrival they discovered fuel gushing from the overflow, which was situated right next to the exhaust. With no time to properly diagnose the problem they decided discretion was the better part of valour, pulling the iconic Italian machine over to let the exhaust cool down before returning to Service. 

The FIRC series returns in one month’s time with the AArova Rally Sprint.


Writer: Ian Harden

TBR: Camplings competitive comeback
Our first Sprint event of this year’s series ran in a nice Sunday’s summer. Apart from our regulars, two very interesting names came up on the entry list. Campling/Ducker made their first outing of the year in the Sub WRC, whilst father and son Dawson, the 2017 Historic champions, gave their newly built Escort its first run after a long sabbatical with lot of of hard work. The efforts clearly paid off, since the new car gave their crew a very good run, making the pair finishing as fourth FIRC  and 17th overall, pretty promising on a 100 car field. Their aim is the Sprint Challenge this year, to have a full run in 2020 again.
Further down the field also Dodd/Thompson decided to have a go again in the old faithful MG, as well as Webb/Athow in the smart Cortina, a class win would be their reward. On top of the ranks, Campling/Ducker took a steady run to win FIRC, and finish on the overall podium as third. So yes, this time it was not a certain Reddington/Mullen taking the win, as ever followed by McDevitt/Fitzpatrick, respectively 7th and 11th overall on the notoriously slippy stages around Oekene. But pointswise, the Irish delegation claimed a very good score again, since the WRC squad does not run the Sprint Challenge. See if this story continues for the rally chapter in three weeks, where we have Chevrotines going on, regarded as the best and perhaps scariest stages FIRC has to offer. The sun should be around again, so we welcome everyone for this great rally!


Reddington ‘rains’ supreme to take third win of 2019 at Rally Wervik

John Reddington took a big step towards winning his third consecutive Flanders International Rally Challenge title at the Rally of Wervik. Unfazed by early rain and mud-spattered stages that caused numerous spins and unscheduled ditch visits, the Irishman produced a near-faultless drive. After an early time loss, Reddington and co-driver Darragh Mullen fought back to finish 21st overall and win class M2A, taking their third maximum points haul and extending their lead in the nine-round series.

This year’s Rally of Wervik lived up to its reputation as being exciting but extremely challenging; fast, flowing roads combined with blind crests and sudden tight corners meant pacenotes had to be accurate. After recceing in sunny, dry conditions the 14 FIRC-registered crews started Sunday’s 12 stages in steady rain. With grip levels reduced Reddington had an early scare; he caught a Belgian Opel Ascona which promptly spun, forcing the Irishman to slow and swerve in avoidance. The incident cost 15 seconds, handing the lead to arch-rivals Paul McDevitt / Ray Cunningham (Toyota Corolla AE86) at the end of the opening loop.

In the early afternoon the leaden skies lifted and the rain stopped. As the roads dried Reddington exploited the full power of his 2.5 litre Millington engine. He set fastest FIRC time on five stages in a row, pulling away to win by 1m 12s from McDevitt, with Simon Thomas / Robbie Vermeersch (Peugeot 306 Maxi) third.

McDevitt arrived in Wervik having repaired bodywork and rear axle damage sustained at the ORC Canal Rally. Consequently his Toyota looked immaculate, handled superbly and went as fast as it looked. Running Soft and Super Soft compound wet tyres, he held Thomas’s late-rally charge at bay by 17.3 seconds. Thomas gelled well with late replacement co-driver Vermeersch, although admitted to being ring-rusty on his first outing of 2019. He survived a final-stage panic when the engine would not fire and the battery overheated. “We had to cut the alternator belt and hope the battery had enough charge left to get to the here,” he explained at the finish.

Vince Bristow / Tim Sayer (Ford Escort Mk1) were fastest of the Historic contenders. On-stage they looked necessarily cautious on their way to fourth place in FIRC and first in Class HB. Bill Cook / Bob Thompson’s immaculate Talbot Lotus Sunbeam finished fifth FIRC and second in HB. Their eventful day included catching and passing a Renault Clio on the narrowest part of SS6. “He (the Clio) had problems but I’m sure I caught him due to my speed,” said Cook with a cheeky grin. Iain / Andrew Gibson’s ‘drive to finish’ policy in their Honda Civic Type R netted more good championship points. The brothers picked up a one minute early arrival penalty at SS3 but they had no mechanical problems on their way to sixth FIRC and class M2B victors.

Richard and Pat Egger’s Vauxhall Nova exhibited wayward handling, particularly after a Square Right corner on SS6; exiting a deep cut it spectacularly tail-waved its’ way up the following straight. Overall their pace was impressive as they scrapped with John and Richard Wood’s Ford Sapphire Cosworth for seventh spot in FIRC, taking it by five seconds. Woods, too, showed impressive pace especially in the later, dry stages. Brake problems on the ORC Canal Rally had been largely cured, and the father and son crew were very happy to win Class HA. Philip and Robert Smith wore big smiles as they slipped and slithered their way through the early stages and then drove tidily to bring their Citroen C2 home ninth, and second in M2B. They would have finished higher but picked up 2m20s of time penalties. In tenth, Derek Webb and Dick Athow created a real fee. l-good nostalgia factor as they drove their venerable Ford Cortina GT Mk1 to third in HB. After three years out of rallying and in his first rally with this car, Webb grinned widely as he announced: “It’s hard work and it ain’t quick, but it is fun!”

Of the FIRC non-finishers, Niall O’Sullivan / Sean McTiernan’s Citroen C2 R2 went into a ditch at the SS1 finish line, destroying the stage timing gear. From then on they set a ferocious pace to hold fourth in FIRC until a driveshaft finally broke on SS7. Malcolm Mawdsley / Steven Santy went well, leading Class M4B, until their Subaru Impreza succumbed to electrical problems on SS6. Andrew Dawe / Ernie Waldron’s lime green Nissan Sunny GTi became a Nissan Muddy on SS6 when they slid into a ditch and remained stuck. After a long day in Wervik, the next round is the much shorter TBR Rally Sprint on 12th / 13th July. Can Reddington maintain his momentum?

Writer: Ian Harden


Reddington stays cool in the Flanders heat to win the ‘Oven-Ready Challenge’

Often in rallying the ability to drive to the conditions is equally important as outright speed. John Reddington and co-driver Darragh Mullen used this skill to full effect at last weekend’s ORC Canal Rally to take their second FIRC maximum points haul of the season. In brutally hot conditions the Ford Escort Mk2 pairing combined steadiness with speed to finish 13th overall and win class M2A. Niall O’Sullivan and Michael Fitzgibbon (Citroen C2) took second after a mechanically trouble-free run to 23rd overall, taking class M2B. But for most FIRC crews it became a race of attrition as only five of the 17 starters reached the finish.

Saturday’s recce took place with temperatures in the mid-80s Fahrenheit, a portent of what was to come. Sunday dawned initially cooler but temperatures rose quickly and stayed high. With four loops of three stages on offer anyone who could keep going beyond the second loop was looking for a good result. Reddington chose soft compound tyres on the front, medium on the rear which immediately worked: he took the lead ahead of Tony Clements / Val Thompson’s Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, with Ross Hunter / Callum Atkinson’s Peugeot 205 right behind. At first service, Reddington reported no problems but other crews were struggling. Paul McDeviit / Ray Fitzpatrick on Toyota Corolla AE86 needed front-end repairs after driving through a ditch while Stuart Ranby / Ian Bass’s Escort Mk2 had propshaft vibration at over 100 mph. At least they were still in the event: Les Allfrey / Keith Fellowes (Peugeot 205) retired on SS1, and Andrew Thompson / Les Parrott retired their Ford Sapphire Cosworth on SS2. “It was going fine when the engine temperature suddenly shot up to 130 degrees. We think it might be a warped cylinder head rather than just the hot weather,” said Thompson. Allan Smith and Teresa Butler knew exactly what caused their Subaru Impreza’s second-stage demise. “The power steering pump leaked fluid onto the engine; we had a small fire,” reported Smith. The crew tie-wrapped the component together but the damage was too bad to continue.

Having established the early lead, Reddington drove with necessary caution but still set fastest FIRC category time on every remaining stage, beating O’Sullivan by 1m 52s and scoring sufficient points to regain the lead in the nine-round series.

Behind the Irish crews, the carnage continued. Clements lost second place after his gearbox started overheating. At second service he reported having difficulty selecting first, third and fifth gears and that he may have to retire. His assessment proved correct on SS7, Hulste 3. Hunter started where he left off at Rally Salamandre in April. His car sounded sharp throughout the morning but a broken driveshaft on SS6, De Ginste 2, ended his day. This same test saw Ranby and Bass’s rally end dramatically. A high speed possible blow-out pitched them sideways and they slammed into a post box, causing heavy bodywork damage.

McDevitt’s attempt to lock out an all-Irish top three was going well, despite his earlier indiscretion and a further ditch-hopping incident on SS6. Using hard compound tyres he set a notably quick pace to hold Iain / Andrew Gibson’s Honda Civic Type R and Vince Bristow / Tim Sayer’s Ford Escort Mk1 at bay until SS8 when his back axle cried enough.   

Ben Smith / Steve McIlroy’s day was certainly eventful. A last-minute radiator leak nearly caused a non-start but they began in determined mood before suffering a litany of problems. These included a broken fuel pump, two punctures and getting lost on a road section. Their woes culminated when they stopped for a crashed competitor displaying an ‘SOS’ board. At this point, a following Belgian Subaru ran into the back of their Mitsubishi Lancer E7. “How can you miss seeing a large white rally car right in front of you?” said Smith ruefully.

Iain and Andrew Gibson finished strongly; they reported no mechanical problems and their choice of soft tyres had been ideal. They took 52nd overall, second in class M2B and third FIRC. Bristow brought his venerable Escort Mk1 home 55th and won Class HA after tracing an early handling problem to worn brake pads. Further back in 67th overall, John and David Wood (Ford Sierra RS Cosworth) overcame persistent brake fade to win Class HB. The championship reconvenes in two weeks’ time at the Rally van Wervik. It can’t be that incident-filled again; can it…?

Writer: Ian Harden



Citroen ace O’Sullivan stars at Monteberg but Ranby battles back to take the spoils

Stuart Ranby and Ian Bass came out on top of a hard three-way scrap for supremacy to take their first FIRC win of 2019. In changeable on-stage conditions that varied from dry and fast to damp and treacherously slippery, the Ford Escort Mk2 pairing went head-to-head with Niall O’Sullivan / Sean McTiernan and Ben Smith / Steve McIlroy for most of the day. Then, when both rivals suffered setbacks – Smith rolling and O’Sullivan puncturing – Stuart remained mistake-free to finish 37th overall and win Class M2B.
Surprisingly, only five FIRC crews started the 47th Rally Monteberg. The popular and iconic event filled its entry very quickly and several FIRC-registered competitors missed out including 2019 series leaders, John Reddington / Darragh Mullen. Their absence left a host of championship points on offer to those who could reach the finish. This year’s rally consisted of ten stages in three loops. And, there was a completely new test: a fast, flowing 4.7-mile long stage around Dikkebus. Formerly part of the Ypres Rally, it had the potential to be a game-breaker, as none of the FIRC crews had experience of driving these roads competitively.
Mitsubishi Lancer E7 pairing Ben Smith / Steve McIIroy were the FIRC top seeds, but O’Sullivan, determined to make amends for his second-stage accident in 2018 stormed straight into a 6.5-second lead. Taking advantage of his Citroen C2’s nimble handling on slippery surfaces he built the gap over the next three tests. By second service he was 15 seconds up, although Stuart and Ben both challenging hard, having each set one fastest time.
A clean sweep of fastest FIRC times on the third loop, albeit by less than four seconds on Busseboom 2, gave Niall an apparently clear run to victory. But it all went wrong for the Irishman on the final test, Monteberg 4. He punctured part-way through and had to slow, losing nearly a minute to Stuart and conceding victory by just ten seconds. Even so Niall and Sean finished 39th and took second in M2B.

Ben Smith, in his first Belgian outing of the year, immediately became a favourite with the spectators as he continued to adapt his driving style from his former Peugeot 106 to the new car. He adopted a ‘pitch it in sideways, handbrake it and power it out’ style which worked very effectively. Setting fastest FIRC time on SS4 he went well until retiring on Busseboom 3. “We clipped a raised drain cover on the inside of a tight right-hander and flipped onto our roof”, said Ben later. Although the car suffered only bodywork damage, Ben and Steve pulled out to save potential engine damage.

Further down the field, a friendly but equally close battle developed between Iain / Andrew Gibson’s Honda Civic Type R and Gavin Smith / Richard Vincent’s Lancia Delta Integrale. The Kent-based brothers once again did a good job of rallying on a tight budget: they brought no service crew, minimal spares and even camped to save hotel fees. Despite being caught in a downpour on the start of SS4 they stopped the clocks nine seconds faster than Gavin and Richard. From then on, they held their Lancia-mounted rivals at bay, even though the two protagonists were never more than three seconds apart on individual stage times. Ian and Andrew’s Honda finished 70th overall and third in M2B: “We’ve got a mystery clonk coming from a front suspension unit,” reported Iain after the event. Just 2.4 seconds behind in 71st and winning the FIRC Historic category, Gavin and Richard’s beautifully prepared Integrale continued to draw admiring looks from the Belgian spectators. The works-liveried vehicle ran smoothly throughout the event, thankfully free of the series of late-season maladies, including gearbox woes that plagued the end of 2018. Stuart and Ian’s maximum points haul gives them the lead in the Flanders International Rally Challenge as the championship action moves to the ORC Canal Rally on 1st / 2nd June.

Writer: Ian Harden


Hunter the hunter comes close to reducing Reddington to the ranks

Reigning FIRC champion John Reddington knows that championship wins do not come easily, but even he probably did not expect to be challenged so hard, so early in the season. Peugeot 205 driver Ross Hunter set an on-stage pace as hot as the day’s temperatures to push the Ford Escort-driving Irishman and new co-driver, Darragh Mullen, to near-defeat. After fifteen stages around Beaumont on the Belgian- French border, just seven seconds separated the two crews and, in a late-day drama, Hunter’s co-driver Martin Woodcock queried a stage time that, if it had been upheld, would have snatched victory.

Fifteen crews started FIRC 2019’s opening round. Reddington, with a new 2.5-litre engine fitted over the winter, immediately put pedal to metal with purpose. He stormed through the opening loop of five stages to open a 23-second lead over Hunter, with Tony Clements / Stanley Graham chasing as hard as their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X would carry them, roughly 50 seconds behind.

Before Friday’s recce Mullen had been unwell but with full health restored, the Irish crew continued to pace-set. Hunter, however, was undeterred and chipped away at Reddington’s lead, including clawing back ten seconds on SS 12. The Scottish pairing arrived at the finish and Woodcock immediately got out of the car, asking officials to verify several stage times. To Reddington’s undoubted relief the result was resolved in his favour and he took a deserved overall FIRC win as well as Class M2A honours. Hunter’s determined pursuit reaped its own reward with second in FIRC and victory in Class M2B.

Clements and Graham finished third of the FIRC runners and both crew members bore beaming smiles as they had enjoyed the stages. Their car will be used at the Clacton and Tendring Rally on 28th April so they drove hard but with necessary caution. Even so, they lead FIRC’s four-wheel drive category.

Change must be in the Irish blood as Reddington’s friend and perennial rival, Paul McDevitt, had installed a new gearbox and a new co-driver; Ray Fitzpatrick. The pair’s immaculate Toyota Corolla AE86 looked and sounded fast on-stage and the time charts did not lie. Rooster-tails of dust kicked up from the rear-wheel drive machine as McDevitt hard-charged his way to fourth overall FIRC and second in Class M2A. Stuart Ranby and Ian Bass returned for another FIRC season and, having scooped the Two-wheel Drive A Sprint title in 2018 gave notice of another solid points-scoring season with a fast but safe run to fifth. Ranby’s trouble-free drive contrasted starkly with Bill Cook / Bob Thompson’s day. The Talbot Sunbeam Lotus pairing overcame a series of problems on their way to taking maximum Historic points. First, they broke the gearbox mount on the opening loop but managed to fix it at the roadside. Then a throttle cable broke and having fixed that they suffered a high-speed spin in the closing miles.

Seventh-placed Malcolm Mawdsley renewed his 2018 partnership with Belgian co-driver Steven Santy and they thoroughly enjoyed their drive to first place in M4B. David Dockree / Nicholas Davies’s red Talbot Sunbeam sounded crisp and looked good through the stages as they took eighth FIRC and third in M2B, while Richard and Pat Egger returned to Belgium without their usual potent two-litre Vauxhall Nova. “It’s in several pieces in the garage, so I’ve borrowed my son’s car,” said Richard. They were the final FIRC finishers.

Almost as expected, the fast, narrow, slippery roads claimed victims among the FIRC contingent. Last year’s M4B champion David Wood had Peter Kettle alongside but their rally ended on SS6 after they hit a wall and snapped a wheel and hub. “The car just broke away; it’s a real shame as we were 14th overall,” said Wood. Anthony O’Brien / Niall McDaid’s rally ended on SS12 when their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X crashed, but they managed to get further than FIRC first-timers Martin Hodgson / Tony Jones. Their high-spec. Escort Mk2 proved fallible when an oil pipe came adrift on SS1. Niall O’ Sullivan and Stephen McTiernan’s pretty Citroen C2 expired on the seventh test, while Philip and Robert Smith’s similar Citroen C2 VTR got stuck sideways between narrow banks on SS3. They got going again, but had gone OTL.

Writer: Ian Harden


the 2019 calendar

Rallye Salamandre 20/21 April 
Monteberg 4/5 May
ORC Canal Rally 1/2 June
Wervik Rally 14/15 June
TBR Rallysprint 13/14 July
Les Boucles Chevrotines 3/4 August
AArova Rallysprint 14/15 September
Hemicuda Rally 19/20 Oktober
Zes uren van Kortrijk 23/24 November

Kortrijk’s cherry on the cake for Reddington
FIRC rallies had a patent on sunshine this year, so there had to be an exception to the rule. Kortrijk is our only winter rally, ideal to fulfill the duties. Nothing but rain on Saturday, ment a show stage being transformed into a mud skating ring. Despite the dreadful weather, still 3000+ brave spectators came to enjoy the action! The extremely slippy conditions with massive watersplashes caused many casualties, but only one FIRC crew got stuck, the honour went to Niall O’Sullivan who put his car up a wood heap. After being towed, superrally allowed the team to go again on Sunday, but a big penalty made the team stuck at the very last position overall, despite all their efforts.
On Sunday the big event really kicked off on very greasy country lanes, this time with an ice cold wind to stress the season’s style. As expected a battle started between Reddington and his ever rival Simon Thomas, but a minor off, plus some mechancal issues forced the 306 to abandon. This ment a walk in the park for John and Frank, who clinched general FIRC and a class win (again). In 2WD B, a fight for the titel was still on between Stuart Ranby and Stephen Brown. But Stuart was part of an event in the UK and had to hope for luck, but this did not happen. Brown not only took the division win, but also third FIRC overall (!), and the division title after a very competitive season. Ross Hunter also scored some good final points, whilst division guest drivers Wilmot and Fitzgibbon made it to the end without too much hassle either, and in front of several locals.
In M4A, no car started, so the title went automatically to David Campling, whilst also M4B did not see the final battle between Gav Smith and Malcolm Mawdsley. Gavin got attacked by nasty smoke on the big fires in California, was sent to hospital and is recovering well. Weird to notice how Trumpland now mingles in FIRC... So Malcolm Mawdsley becomes a well deserved division champion in his first, very consistent Challenge year. Perhaps make the man rookie of the year, despite being 72 years of age? The support of local navi Steven Santy did his bit as well, remarkable how many top UK drivers get that extra bit with a Belgian navi. In the same division, Allan Smith did not have his luckiest year and not his luckiest rally, when sliding in a traditional ditch. More luck was there for David Wood, who drove a very careful but very clever rally, which made him 2nd FIRC overall.
In Historic division finally, perhaps the luckiest crew was the anglofrench crew Thomson/Ansel, who made it to the end after an eventful Challenge, and got rewarded with a long awaited class win. Less luck for Bill Cook however, our 2018 Historic champion made his only mistake of the season and faded away in a big, soft ditch. No damage to the car, but unfortunately no spectators around  to help either. Still the well deserved title will relief all pain, and no doubt regular Mike Smith will be very happy with his division win after a very good run in bad conditions.
Perhaps this season was not the most exciting in the nine years of FIRC, but the number of teams we had over was impressive again. Our 10 year jubilee next year promises many good things however, with the comeback of many teams who took a sabbatical, plus again a couple of new names in virtually any division, ready to tackle the Belgian tarmac. We all wish you a happy winter break and nice times in the shed, and thank you again for all the efforts made to make the FIRC what it is: competitive but friendly, and very good fun. Have good parties at the end of the year, and we will catch up in a couple of months for FIRC#10, to celebrate 2009-2019, and the regulars know what this means. It all started low profile, look how it is now! 


Some history repeating in Hemicuda
Traditionally, the Hemicuda Rally is one of the best attended events in FIRC, and this year was no exception. Nearly a full house with a massive foreign delegation, familiar surroundings in the Flemish polder with stages who saw only minor changes, and fantastic weather for the time of the year, so what could possibly go wrong? Well, quite a lot actually.
Havoc started already at SS1, where Andy Thomson hit a rock and lost a front wheel, also Stuart Ranby ended somewhere in Flanders fields. SS2 was game over for Ben Smith with dodgy noises from the gearbox area. From that point onwards, every single stage caused casualties amongst our UK, Irish and Dutch friends. Only 9 of the 23 FIRC teams made it to the finish, says enough. In general, figures were not really better with only 84 finishers on 152 starters. Tarmac seemed to be extremely slippy this year, with many sections having had a new layout, and perhaps a couple of cars were a bit tired too.
Trouble remained until the last miles, the last victim was David Campling who led FIRC throughout the whole rally. Pushing for 5th overall, a ditch made an abrupt end to all the efforts. Unlucky for Dave and Jim, but a big relief for John Reddington, who was counting every meter on every stage with a clutch living its last minutes, ...and with an ever raging Simon Thomas right behind him! Mathematically sure of the title now, the team eventually made it to the finish with a very happy crew onboard. John repeats his tremendous achievement of last season, and clinches again both the 2WD and the general title. Navi Frank was even happier, having won two previous titles with Alex Taylor, he now adds a third one and becomes quite ironically the most succesfull (co)driver in FIRC, as a Belgian in a championship reserved for non-Belgians...
More titles were there to celebrate. Bill Cook is the new Historic champion, after his division win last year. Add to that his win in the Classic Rally Challenge earlier, so extra space will be needed to store all the cups. Logically, the handful of drivers who finished the event scored massively. Perhaps the best score went to Malcolm Mawdsley, who claims his second 4x4 win of the season, even after after a mild off, whilst Steven Brown got rewarded with a divison win as well. Despite all the trouble around, some very relaxed people like guest driver Vince Bristow and the Gibson brothers were very happy at the bar after the event, considering the rally as a walk in the park, same story for Gavin Smith whose newly built Integrale ran like a Swiss clock. Another lucky man was David Dockree, who struggled trough the last loop without rear brakes.
Only one month to go, and it will be the last event of FIRC 9, time goes fast. Kortrijk Rally will be a full house again, so you know you have to book early. More news comes about this great season’s finale in the following weeks, so keep an eye on our FB page.



Reddington & Wood clinch titles at AArova
Our second single venue event of the year got organised under a traditional sunny sky. Being just a sprint, the event still attracted an interesting lot of R5 and WRC cars, with some 997’s as a cherry on the cake. Was it a surprise to see an army of spectators? John Reddington only had to finish the event to grab his first title of the season, and yes... John and Frank are our first Sprint champions. If the pace goes on as it should, more will follow later in the year, but the overall Sprint trophy is already reserved for the Irish/Belgian duo.
Another very lucky guy must be David Wood, one of our most dedicated competitors of the past years. Despite some offs and technical nightmares in the past years, David is just one of those men who take it all relaxed, always with a smile on the face. Never giving up results now in a first and much rewarded title, M4 Champion in the Sprint Challenge, so big congrats to Dave and Kristof who can expect a big cup, one for an English/Belgian duo this time. They finish just in front of Allan Smith and Teresa Butler, who took third FIRC position and runner up in the M4 Sprint battle.
Two full rallies remain, and both are extremey popular amongst our UK guests. Hemicuda will be a full house without any doubt, also Kortrijk Rally will attract a lot of teams, so good stuff to look forward to!


Campling bites back at Chevrotines
Our second Walloon event of the season attracts a bigger entry every year, despite being organised in the middle of the summer holidays. Nearly twenty teams made the crossing to the hilly hell around the sleepy villages of Sivry and Rance. If the leading teams would perform well, a big step forward was to be made towards class titles with only two rallies remaining. However, the stages were even trickier than usual due to the extremely dry weather the last two months.
Drama already struck at the very beginning of the rally, when John Reddington crashed out on the first stage. More gravel than expected launched John and Frank into the scenery, over and out for this time, and the very first mishap John had since his debut in FIRC last year. Less than half an hour later, Gavin Smith in his smart new Delta Integrale was forced to retire as well, due to a broken gear lever. Finlay Brock would not finish the event either, retiring after leg one with a snapped driveshaft, two stages later Paul Sharp would park his BMW with electrical failure. Add to that several crashes on every stage in the first leg and one can imagine the stress at rally HQ. Being more or less used to this situation, the organisers managed surprisingly quick to put timing back together again and the rest of the event was ran as it was supposed to be.
Once all the havoc got cleaned up, we saw David Campling grabbing the FIRC lead, and fighting for the second overall right behind the unbeatable DS3WRC of Serderidis, who would win the event. Panic struck the Subaru team at the end of the rally however, when rear brakes went and a certain podium got lost, but the main goal was achieved: a max points score and a great deal for the Challenge standings. The same can be said about Paul McDevitt, who not only clinched his first and well deserved victory in class, but also beat ORC M2 winner Simon Thomas, who had his hands full with ‘regular guest’ driver Howlett in a similar car. More class wins would be there for Steve Brown in his much admired Micra, Malcolm Mawdsley whose steady pace really pays off, and Bill Cook, clinching another Historic win in his classic sideways style, sure the Sunbeam team has quite a bit of new fans in the area now.
Every event has a couple of victims, and amongst the FIRC squad Ben Smith and guest driver Martin De Vere Packford were the casualties this time. Martin had to throw the towel after a great rally, with the finish in sight due to engine troubles, whilst Ben even made parc fermé, just to hear about being excluded from the event for exceeding the max stage time. A couple of punctures and a broken wheel did not help their pace, but still the disappointment seriously kicked in. To finish on a positive note, we want to stress the great achievement of newcomer Matthew Hirst, a gravel man who never rallied on pacenotes before, but with some good advice from former champion Alex Taylor, made it to second FIRC on his Belgian debut, on one of our hardest events. Well done! And come back soon please.
We have one month to go now to crown our first champions: AArova Rallysprint is coming, we expect some 10 teams to be around trying to clinch our first ever Sprint Challenge, looking forward to the result. See you soon, and enjoy the rest of your summer!

Number three for Reddington in TBR

Eleven teams started in this first Sprint event, with two exciting newcomers to the FIRC scene: Niall Moroney in the ex McRae Impreza WRC and Tony Capon with a home made gr.A version. Moroney made an excellent debut on the notoriously slippy country lanes around Oekene finishing 3rd overall, this promises a lot for 2019, where a bigger FIRC campaign is planned. In stark contrast with this achievement, Tony Capon was very unlucky on his first time on Belgian soil. When things go wrong it’s usually a ditch that ends all hopes, but this time it was one of those concrete posts that got in the way of the Subaru. Despite a big impact on SS1, the crew left the car unhurt, but the newly built rally car was left in a very sorry state.
Looking at the registered drivers, no one could threaten John Reddington, who took his third win of the season and looks well underway on his goal to score a double title this year by winning the Rally and the Sprint Challenge. Paul McDevitt became a logical second, third FIRC spot and class win was there for David Wood, who claimed a nice 15th place overall too. Stuart Ranby also took class victory and finished way ahead of Allan Smith, who lost quite some time in the last loop after a massive spin. Guest driver Martin de Vere-Packford has the honour to finish as last FIRC team, but the engine did not sound that healthy so that might explain. The only mechanical victims were the Gibson brothers, with a broken gearbox halfway the event. 


First win for Campling in Wervik

The long awaited, record breaking Wervik Rally met all expectations. Over 170 teams at the start, with no less than 54 UK & Irish crews (!) thanks to the guests of the MSA Protyre Asphalt Championship joining in. Nothing but top cars too, add great stages and perfect weather to that, so what more can a petrol head want? Winning maybe, that was the plan of Campling/Ducker who brought their Subaru WRC to Belgian soil for the first time this year. And what a win they took! No one came close to our regulars who finally took that first and much deserved win. David and Jim missed the first couple of events, but will do all the remaining rallies, so a certain John Reddington looks to have a serious rival for the general title this year.
John took 2WD victory again, in front of Paul McDevitt and Simon Thomas, who had a frustrating rally with ongoing clutch problems. A bit further, we noticed a nail biting fight between Stuart Ranby, Nial O’Sullivan and Andy Thomson, while Gavin Smith and David Wood were following very closely. Ranby would be the quickest, beating the spectacular Irishmen in the C2, while Andy Thomson took the Historic win despite some mechanical issues, before Bill Cook who claims important points again. More good points scores went to Malcolm Mawdsley and Iain Gibson, unfortunately nothing went to John Wood, the only FIRC driver to retire with a broken gearbox. Guest drivers Richard Egger and Les Allfrey had a fun day out too, with an overall class win for Les and Keith in the 205.
Wervik Rally was the last rally in a very busy spring, our teams can have a break now, before TBR Rallysprint kicks off the new Sprint Challenge with AArova later this year. It will be interesting to gamble on who will win this miniature cup. A regular, or a newcomer? Wait and see...
In two weeks time, we expect many of our guests to be spectating at Ypres Rally, where already 30+ R5 cars are booked in, and no less than 9 loud 997’s. We hope to meet many of you again, like last year.
Thomas takes ORC victory
With 22 teams at the start, FIRC was well presented in a strong ORC Canal Rally entry list. The rally started with a very interesting scenario, when rain started to fall right after the Historics did their first leg. Modern cars were seriously slowed down, a couple of crashes included. However our teams avoided all traps and made it a fantastic rally. From the first stage miles, we saw a great battle being developed between Simon Thomas and John Reddington. Both men floored their right foot to a max, even resulting in a best time OVERALL for Thomas at the Show Stage, beating 6 R5's, so this time it would be Thomas to be the quickest around, beating Reddington with only six secs at the finish. Yes, Mr. Reddington is not unbeatable... just. Paul McDevitt couldn’t follow the pace this time, being a bit unwell, but still claimed third FIRC overall. More top results for 2WD cars followed for Ross Hunter and the Coulson bruvs, who put their machines in front of the first 4x4 at the finish, the Evo7 of Ben Smith. That trio had a big battle too, they all finished within 15 secs. Less luck for guest drivers Stephen Finch (gearbox), Mark Simpson (driveshaft) and Peter Rayner, who lost a wheel with the finish in sight. Drivers Award winners Sharp/Ablitt had to park their newly built BMW in service too with electronical issues, but these would be the only casualties in a very difficult rally where nearly half of the field was forced to retire.
Further down we saw an encouranging result from Irishman O’Sullivan who parked his C2 in front of regulars like John Wood, Allan Smith and the Gibson brothers. More big Irish smiles came from Mike Smith and Sean Moriarty, who claimed their very first Historic win, in front of Bill Cook. Both do a good points score for the Cllassic Rally Chalenge as well, where they take a serious lead on the Belgians now.
In two weeks time, we will have possibly the biggest FIRC event of the season at Wervik Rally, where already 190 (!) teams signed in, call the rally maybe a bit overbooked. FIRC and the Belgians will get the company of some 30 MSA Asphalt Championship contenders. See what this gives, but one thing is for sure, it will be a fantastic event, better than many national rallies. See you there!
Reddington King of the Hill at Monteberg
This year's newcomer in FIRC, Monteberg Rally, started as a hillclimb, later became famous as an international rallysprint, and now has evolved to a double stage shortrally. The event remains popular as ever and proved to be a true added value to FIRC, with an exploding entry list of 160+ cars, and a top line up with several R5’s, Evos, BMW's and 997’s. We also welcomed 25 foreign teams, traditionally quite a bit of Dutch crews and the usual UK men of course. Add the tropical sun to that and a perfect weekend was the result.
Less FIRC regulars than average started the event, not entirely unexpected with the busy schedule in spring and the shortrally concept with only 7 SS, but those who did the crossing all made outstanding points scores and as a bonus, everyone got to the finish without too much hassle. It was no real surprise to see the Irishmen dominating the rally again, with an outstanding John Reddington, directly followed by Paul McDevitt who had to floor his car the whole day, since M4A winner Ben Smith was never far behind. These three teams would also make it to the general top twenty! Stuart Ranby was a very happy man too, claiming is first class win since he entered FIRC, whilst M4B winner Gavin Smith finished his last rally with the yellow Impreza in style. From Wervik onwards, Gav will enter the Historic division with a smart Lancia Delta Integrale. Monteberg was the first rally of the year for John Wood and Allan Smith as well, both finished second in class, positive results and good points to start the season with. Bill Cook was the only competitor in Historic after Andy Thomson withdrew his entry, he did what he had to do and took his second consecutive class win of the season.
Despite the walkover of John Reddington so far, we can look forward to an excellent 2018 Challenge now, with interesting points scores in every class. More teams will register in ORC and Wervik, so it all will be very tense, regular finishers can surely end up very high in the general standings. Unfortunately we will miss Johnnie Ellis this year, who decided in the weeks before Monteberg to take a sabbatical, due to a very bad injury that will take a long time to heal. And with navi Mark Fowler becoming a dad soon, we will only see the team back next year. But ORC Canal Rally is approaching quickly, this rally will be a full house again, see you in three weeks! 

 Full score for Reddington at Salamandre

It looks like the Irish machine is unstoppable. Even in a very chaotic Salamandre Rallye, our Champion left nothing much for his rivals. It all looked very promising before the start however. Despite Tendring&Clacton Rally being organised the same weekend, still some twenty FIRC crews booked in, and with about the same number of teams in RAC Historic, almost one third of the events’ entries were English spoken. Ansolutely lovely, but no one could predict that trouble would already kick in before the rally started. Both Paul Sharp and David Wood had to cancel their entry with dodgy mechanics, Rob Richards and Johnnie Ellis had medical reasons not to make the crossing. Guest driver Huw Reed in the long awaited Darrian, was ready to take some revenge for last year, when he had to retire in SS1 with a broken gearbox. This time the box decided to stop function on the way to scrutineering. Yes, this can be a very cruel sport. We can only hope to see a quick Darian with a troublefree run once, but this day will come.
Unfortunately this would only be the beginning of more disappointments. Guest driver Geoff Roberts in the second Darrian did not survive SS1 with engine and intercom issues, same story for our other guest Craig Pennington in the smart VW Polo WRC look, whose fuel pump refused all duties on SS2. Most spectacular driver of 2017, Mark Jones was on 2nd overall then (on slicks in the rain...), but an electrical failure stopped the mean machine as well, quickly followed by newcomers Ross Hunter and Finley Brock, and regulars Martin De Vere-Packford, Philip Smith en Stephen Brown. Nothing but broken material, although some were caused by a visit to the local scenery.
Those who survived the first leg would go straight on to the finish though, yet something positive. First FIRC leader was Paul McDevitt in his stunning Vauxhall powered Toyota Corolla, not so historic as last year. John Reddington lost loads of time in the rainy morning without windsceen wipers, but fought back once it got dry. A logical one-two would be the result, so both Irishmen, navigated by Belgians by the way, claimed the top Challenge positions and top ten in the overall classification. Stuart Ranby did a brilliant job by finishing third FIRC, his best result ever, just like Bill Cook who surprisingly took the Historic win in front of Andy Thomson, but his Cossie lost a couple of parts during the event, still kept on going however. FIRC Rookie (aged 72...) Malcolm Mawdsley claimed the M4 win in his very first Salamandre, also regular David Dockree made it to the finish despite a shortened body shell.
Only seven FIRC teams made it to the finish then. We had worse, but still this is quite exceptional. However less than half of the field finished the event, so we more or less fit into the general figures. There is only two weeks to go for Monteberg Rally, where we expect a second load of FIRC entries, and perhaps more finishes too since this rally is supposed to be a lot less scary than the Salamandre. See what it gives and see you soon!
Review and preview
Last year we welcomed a record number of teams in FIRC. Another proof the concept works perfectly, maybe this is why we expect another delegation of newcomers for this new season. 2017 was maybe not the most thrilling edition of FIRC, with the major titles already decided in the second to last event, the Hemicuda Rally. However we still had a unique season with a unique winner. Where in 2016 the general title went rather surprisingly to a 2WD car with the Coulson brothers, no one expected we would see a similar scenario in 2017. Reddington/Moore were fast and consistent without technical issues or crashes, and scored nothing but class and general FIRC wins. To see such a walkover, we have to go back to the debut years of FIRC where Andy Rowe was unbeatable. Top favourites Ellis/Fowler and O’Brien/McDaid just had a bit too many moments where the scenery or mechanics ruined their pace, but no one doubts both teams are preparing for some serious payback time in 2018. Division B winners and FIRC regulars Smith/Vincent claimed their first title too, thanks to a very consistent run, something that can not be said about their opponents.
About the same story can be told in Historic class, where the fast Cosworth of Andy Thomson was not exactly reliable. This resulted in quite a comfortable but much deserved win for father and son Dawson, who also claimed several general class wins, and a first division win for regulars Cook/Head, despite a big off in ORC Canal Rally. In 2WD, no one came near the powerful Reddington Millington, however Thomas/Jordan had a fantastic run in their 306, beating local class specialists on several occasions, hence their trophy of ‘Rookie of the Year’. In 2WD B, perhaps the most popular division, the title went to our Dutch regulars Van Middendorp/Bril. Team RVM is one of the most popular FIRC teams, their quality field kitchen and great hospitality are always much appreciated.
The achievement of the year was undoubtedly the general win of Ellis/Fowler at the opening event, Rallye Salamandre. Never done before in 8 years of FIRC, and to make the success even more exceptional, the full top six was taken by British and Irish teams, in front of all the Belgian and French specialists around. Never seen before in our little country, not even on a national level. Pace and cars in FIRC are on a rising standard every year and knowledge of the local conditions have improved spectacularly, so no one doubts we will witness more smashing results in 2018. The Challenge will also stand on its absolute peak, with no less than nine events, including a brand new Sprint Challenge. In the early years, we had some seasons with only four events and a handful of competitors, look at us now. Yes, we are the biggest little championship in Europe, thanks to all your efforts!
Ben Smith takes first win in Kortrijk
This year’s final had all the traditional ingredients, typical for the event and the time of year. Superslippy tricky roads, a massive audience and top material at the start including 22 FIRC teams, a new record for Kortrijk too. This just confirms again how popular FIRC has become the last couple of years. With all the major titles decided, many drivers could go for a top result in a more or less ‘relaxed’ way, however there would be a couple of surprises waiting.
Johnnie Ellis took a flying start on the overcrowded Superspecial Stage on Saturday evening (over 5000 spectators, yes!!!) with a smashing 6th time overall. The rest of our guests took it a bit quiter with a long and very challenging Sunday to come, unfortunately we already saw two casualties. Historic favourite Andy Thomson suffered brake issues that could not be solved, exit Cossie. Victim two was crowdpleaser Alex Taylor, who damaged his rear suspension. Emergency repairs kept the car going for a while, but the rally would be over and out on SS3 on Sunday.
Sunday’s action started early in the morning with an ice cold wind, however loads of fans were already present. A rare and brave breed, the rally people. Ellis kept the pace he showed on Saturday, but O’Brien now got in the good rythm too and came gently closer on every stage. A great battle was to be set up, until it went wrong for Ellis on stage 7. The Evo got badly stuck in a ditch, eventually blocked the stage, but the rescue came from... O’Brien, who towed his biggest rival out, knowing this would ruin his classification and a virtual top 10 position, and possibly the 4x4 title. Now how cool is this? Can there be any more sportsmanship? This can be a lesson for many, Anthony and Aiden are top men, BIG respect!
This way the overall lead suddenly went to Simon Thomas, as quick as usual, even beating John Reddington who struggled to get his horses to the tarmac. However there was a problem on the way, a certain Ben Smith. Being relatively new in the Evo7 and handling the machine in very difficult circumstances proved no problem to Ben, who approached stage by stage to Thomas. With only 2 powered wheels, Simon decided not to fight the Evo and just take the 2WD win. And so Ben took his first 4x4 win, life can be easy sometimes. A great reward for the team, who already showed great speed in their 106 earlier this year, despite being new in Belgium.
More cool runnings were there for Bill Cook, who could never beat Ben & Mike Dawson, outstanding again in Historic, so Bill focussed on a nice little fight with Les Allfrey and Mike Smith. Les had some issues, Mike suddenly found himself on three wheels after what seemed to be a minor off, and the Dawsons had a rare DNF with a head gasquet going, so the second surprise win of the event goes to Bill, one of our first FIRC drivers to book in 8 years ago. Some twisted metal ruined his rallying the last years, this win is certainly much deserved and a great motivation.
Those who thought the rally was over, thought wrong. Drama came on a big bang when O’Brien took a massive hit on a post. The impact was so hard many feared for the worst. By coincidence FIRC regulars David and Matt Wood were spectating and were the first to be with the Irishmen, quickly helped by a local nurse. The stage got cancelled immediately and medical aid came very quickly, in the mean time Johnnie Ellis got informed too, so team TI made a U turn on their road section to give the necessary support as well, just as John Reddington who couldn’t be there quick enough. Sportsmanship, part two. Johnnie, Mark, John and Lorcan showed again where it’s all about. Friendship and respect, again, top men!! After a medical checkup Aidan proved to be ok, only Anthony suffered two broken ribs and a painful back, some weeks of rest will do the trick, it could have been a lot worse. FIRC never had any big moments so far, but this year we suddenly have two casualties, after Paul Sharps crash in ORC. We know it’s a dangerous sport and crashes are inevitable, we just hope this does not occur too often anymore.
After this stress, the rally ended well for Gavin Smith who beat Allan Smith, to make matters easy: both on an Impreza. Gavin takes the division title too, a great reward for one of our most regular guests. John Wood, Robert Richards and André Van Middendorp avoided all traps in 2WD class and score some good points in their final run, same story for guest driver Barry Wilmot who made a great Belgian debut. Less luck for Maybury, Hands and Mawdsley whose rally ended in the last leg, and especially Martin Hodgson who went off with the finish in sight. But he was no the only one, only 9 of the 22 FIRC teams made it to the end, and only 96 of the 160 cars at the start finished. Yes, Kortrijk is a tough event.
Maybe this year’s Kortrijk Rally was the unluckiest FIRC event so far, but we all know it had to happen sometimes. To end with a positive note: 2017 was the most successful year ever, and if all the plans for next year become reality, 2018 will even be better. Now it’s time for some relaxation after a hectic year, but there is a lot more news to come the next few days, so keep a keen eye to our FB page! We thank all drivers, navi’s, mechanics, caterers and fans for their great support to the series and hope to catch up next year for another great season!
Irish walkover at Hemicuda Rally
For several years FIRC has been dominated by the British, but this year we also saw a very strong Irish entry. So strong that FIRC rookies John Reddington and Lorcan Moore clinched the overall title at Hemicuda! No one could beat the Millington boys after an absolutely perfect season, with nothing but class wins and top general points scores. Last year was the first time ever a 2WD car won the overall with the Coulson brothers, no one expected another 2WD car to do it again the year after, regarding the strong opposition. And certainly not with the last event still to come, so BIG congratulations!
To make the party perfect, Anthony O’Brien and Aidan Gannon took a long awaited and much deserved FIRC win at Hemicuda, after a big battle with Johnnie Ellis, after a puncture on the last stage and certainly after a year with too many issues. Hopefully this is the start of many more troublefree runs and some great competition to come. The rivalry between O’Brien, the ever quick Johnnie Ellis, David Campling getting used to his fantastic WRC and our reappearing double champion Alex Taylor may not have lasted very long, but the stage times are very promising. Just a shame that a stupid spark plug put Campling out of the rally way too soon, the same can be said on the broken exhaust manifold forcing Taylor on the trailer. But the rebuilt engine in the Forester surely delivers enough power for some future top results. And if Gavin Smith continues his very clever driving, he will end up very high in the point standings as well.
Behind the 4x4 violence, there was another remarkable result for Simon Thomas, or simply another victory waiting to happen. Simon and Liz took their first 2WD class win, after being runner up several times this year. Yes, Reddington logically drove a bit careful to secure the title, but the pace of the 306 (spin included) was really stunning again, so this victory is the cherry on the cake so far. More happy faces with the Gibson brothers, who ran a steady rally, avoided all traps and took the final podium spot in 2WD, one of their best finishes so far. With a big time gap further, we find Dutchman André Van Middendorp, who struggled to the finish without an exhaust, a driveshaft went earlier. But the men enjoyed themselves a lot, after all only that matters. Former 2WD ace Ben Smith decided to swap his 106 for an Evo7. Their debut was quite interesting with a puncture and two offs, but no one doubts once the crews gets used to the car, stage times will be impressive.
Historics got dominated by (who else than) Ben Dawson, who even mingled in to the top debates in the very slippery opening section. Bill Cook and Les Allfrey came second and third, while Mike Smith finished his rally again. If this goes on, the Avenger team will have had a troublefree 2017 season, it was all quite different in the past. And this is another Irish sucess for navi Sean Moriarty of course. Guest drivers Ian Davies in the great M3 and Leslie Parrott in his beautiful Cosworth had a good event too, unfortunately Phil Foster was an early victim with a trip in the countryside. No luck for Paul McDevitt either, who had to withdraw with the finish in sight, injection issues stopped the Corolla.
Finally, guest drivers Skeoch, Parrott, Avis, May and Egger got to the final podium as well, after some small and bigger adventures, DNF’s were the honour for John and David Wood, Neil Dodd en certainly Stuart Ranby, who had the scare of his life when a wheel decided to go for a field trip on a road section.
With one event to go, some of the titles are decided, but others will require some hard pace. Hemicuda Rally was with any doubt one of the hardest events of this season, with very slippery conditions and a constantly changing surface. Drifting on mud in the morning, dry and fast towards the end of the rally. But still no FIRC rally has seen a drop of rain this year, we hope to keep it like that on our final in six weeks, Kortrijk Rally. We hope to meet many of you there again to finish the year in style. Drive or spectate.
Regulations Hemicuda rally
You can find the regs for this year's Hemicuda rally here.
Reddington rules Chevrotines
Our second 2017 rally in Wallonia  promised a lot of good stuff. Team Ti wanting to score high on the general classification again, and possibly win the event, David Campling debuting in his brand new WRC toy, and John Reddington with a perfect car for the superfast stages. What would it give?
Certainly a lot of carnage for the Gallaghers on SS1, where our guest drivers drivers managed to dive in one of the few ditches available. Welcome in Belgium... Once the stage reopened, trouble hit the ever quick Simon Thomas (engine) on SS2, then it all went pretty well until SS6, where both Paul Sharp (engine) and Johnnie Ellis (fuel pressure) had to withdraw from the event. Paul drove the BMW in his traditional generous style, much admired by the spectators, whilst Ellis/Fowler showed great pace again on the top of the bill, but also their efforts were not rewarded. Guest drivers Philip and Robert Smith would stop on a mechanical as well, but the teams who ended the rally were very happy, all for their own reasons.
First of all, John Reddington took overall and 2WD victory for the second time this year, and has now a very comfortable position in the Challenge standings. David Campling and James Ducker had a brilliant debut in their ex-works Subaru WRC, rewarded with a first and much deserved class win in FIRC after technology letting them down a but too much in the last few years. Also their pace went straight up troughout the event, despite a very careful run on the notoriously tricky stages around Beaumont. Gavin Smith finally decided to register for FIRC at well, and does a great deal in M4B, another last time registration came from David Dockree, back in business in M2B and a serious contender for the rest of the season.
Paul McDevitt, a bit unlucky in the first events, had a troublefree run as well, adored the stages and took a great Historic victory, more nice points went towards Mike Smith who seems to run without any issues this year, a bit different compared with the past seasons. The Pug 106 squad with Ben Smith and Robert Richards had a good run as well, just like guest driver and FIRC regular Garry Elswood, who will say goodbye to rallying later this year. But we all know Garry was the only survivor in FIRC last year at Chevrotines, perhaps one of the the most remarkable achievements ever in the Challenge history.
FIRC finally wants to thank the organisers for the great party on Friday eve, and for repeating this on Sunday. Our second to last event is Hemicuda Rally, where we expect a big overseas turnout. Bookings are already open, so you know what to do. See you in two months, enjoy the rest of the summer!
TBR: Ellis back in business
A burning sun, a challenging 15k stage and over 100 teams at the start, with five R5 cars as a cherry on the cake. What do we want more for a great Sunday out? Maybe some luck, what Allan Smith did not have at SS1. Allan decided to hit a chicane, rather than driving trough it, and had to stop rallying after a couple of turns with a broken direction. Victim of the day was Barney Lower however, who won a free start as most spectacular driver 2016. It all ended more or less in the same style with a double rollover... The crew is ok, but the Beemer can be recycled now. The Flanders stages can be very unforgiving.
For the men who made it, the result was very predictable after all. Of course Johnnie Ellis was the quickest, and took the overall podium again. Of course John Reddington came 2nd FIRC and 8th overall, and no one doubted Simon Thomas would be the quickest front wheel drive car and finished 3rd in FIRC. David Wood and guest driver John Legg had a troublefree run too, and were followed by the very fast Ben Smith who put his humble 106 just outside the top 30. Stuart Ranby ended in front of the Pug, but lost some time with a very annoying problem on a hot summer day: a crack in the fuel tank. Luckily his clever mechanics solved the issue and Stuart finished the event without causing dramatical fires. Also Neil Dodd and André van Middendorp were very happy to reach the finish, having had no mechanical issues for once. This can not be said about guest driver Martin Hodgson in the Smith & Jones powered Mk.2, who showed a stunning pace at his Belgian debut, until technology ruined their efforts. It would be very interesting to have this team back, and really good for competition at the top. Finally Stephen Stringer won Historic and claims important points in the Challenge standings.
We should get more sunshine in about a month, for our second trip to Wallonia and perhaps the most laidback event of the year, Les Boucles Chevrotines. This rally surely has the most challenging stages, but also the most dangerous ones, see what it gives over there. For sure the party atmosphere will not be far away during that weekend. You know where to go to, if you are not in Spain.
Tinn wins duel with Ellis in Wervik
Ten R5’s on the entry list, a load of quick Evo’s and BMW’s, plus bright sunshine... All ingredients were present to make it a perfect rally, and what a day it was! There were nothing but great battles, overall and in FIRC, all with a numerous audience and a top athmosphere.
As expected, we saw immediate rivalry between Johnnie Ellis en David Tinn again, some Salamandre history repeating. A bit further in the field more of the same between John Reddington, Mark Jones and Anthony O’Brien but this fight would not last very long unfortunately. Confusion on a pacenote launched Jones in the scenery, also O’Brien went for a walk in the countryside but could continue the rally. So Reddington had no more direct rivals after the first leg, took an easy 2WD victory and finished 2nd FIRC overall, although O’Brien floored it the rest of the event and came back to 3d. This means we are missing someone at the top of the debates, and this time it was Johnnie Ellis who made a little but costly mistake and ditched the Evo X halfway the event. David Tinn took a well deserved FIRC victory and surprised many by ending 8th overall too, a fantastic result for his debut in Wervik amongst the local specialists.
Simon Thomas and our ever crowdpleasing guest driver Andy Egger both showed great pace again, but the rally shouldn’t have lasted an extra mile for Thomas whose engine went at the last stage, the only remaining horse just gave enough to put the car on the final podium. Less luck for Les Allfrey who had to withdraw on the second to last stage, also Neil Dodd did not survive the last miles, the ditch club membership needed an update.
More excitement was to be seen with the Historics. Favourite Thomson, for the occasion navigated by the french codriver Ansel, forgot most of his horses at the workshop and finally had to withdraw with a broken clutch, 2017 is clearly not the best year for Andrew so far. Newcomer Vince Bristow, navigated by the very experienced Tim Sayer, suffered engine issues in the first leg but fought his way back up. Not enough to threaten the Dawsons (yes, them again) who score a hat trick in Historic now, but for sure Bristow will give them a good run for their money later in the season. Paul McDevitt had his first finish of the season on 3rd, within the Historic leading group we also see the open cars of Stuart Ranby and John Wood mixing in, followed by the Gibsons. Maybe John Wood could have ended higher if he had not suffered dehydration, certainly the rally was long enough for many in these very hot weather conditions. André Van Middendorp scored his first finish of the season too, driving very carefully with only a standard gearbox.
Everyone agrees we had an absolutely exciting rally, with very interesting results. The next event, TBR rallysprint, is a single venue event counting for half points, but they can be very important for many. Nearly halfway the Challenge, John Reddington takes a strong lead now, Ellis and Tinn share an off and a win but will certainly fight back in the remaining events, the same is to be expected from Andy Thomson in Historic, where the Dawsons are ruling the debates. We will meet again in a month, or earlier if you decide to pay a visit to Ypres Rally in two weeks.
First win in Reddington’s second event
ORC Canal Rally had a full house, a brilliant weather forecast and 30 FIRC teams at the start, again a new record for the event, despite some withdrawals. The stages were identical to the previous years and very familiar to most of our guests, however the heat could cause some problems. Still two thirds of the field managed to reach the podium, unfortunately only the half of the FIRC delegation achieved to do so.
First victim was the ever enthousiast Andy Thomson, gravelling into a ditch on SS2, quickly followed by the Clatworthy brothers on the same stage, who chose a potatoe field to get stuck in. Mechanical troubles then stopped Neil Dodd, Stephen Brown and Les Allfrey, while David Wood had a rallydrivers nightmare, discovering no brake power on a quick section, luckily the ditch provided a relatively soft landing. Same story, but more complicated, for Paul Sharp who had to be taken to hospital for a medical checkup, but it all ended ok, even for the car.
In the mean time John Reddington confirmed the good pace he showed at Salamandre Rallye by dominating the FIRC field, followed by the very quick 306 of Simon Thomas and the surprising 106 of Ben Smith. Our three newcomers went on all the way and would take the full FIRC podium, and again a 2WD walkover. The Coulson Bruvs, our 2016 Champions, seriously mingled in the debates, but then decided to park their car on to a concrete block, the same mishap occured to Bill Cook in the same turn.
The 4x4 honours went to Gavin Smith in the old faithful Subaru, but Gav did not register, so the full points score in class go to Allan Smith, back in business after a sabbatical year. Allan lost loads of time with small and minor problems on stage, ended third last overall, but still grabs loads of points, this is FIRC. In the mean time more teams had to withdraw from the event. Paul McDevitt got stopped by electrical probs and André Van middendorp saw his gearbox exploding. By then also our Irish guest driver O’Sullivan loaded his car on the trailer. However, we noticed happier faces with the Dawsons who won Historic class again, the Gibsons and the Woods who had their good pace rewarded by a good points score, Mike Smith finishing again this year, guest driver Davies taking 2nd Historic in his smart M3 and more guests like Jim Dixon, Mark Van de Hel and Chris Cunnington finishing on a good position with their car in one piece, same story for Rob Richards who was very active in, out, over and under the car during the weekend but also finished, and Tony Maybury who had an eventful Sunday as well.
Overall victory went to the quickest ladies team in Europe, Melisse Debackere an Cindy Cokelaere in their Skoda R5. Wervik is only two weeks away, where we will see the return of interesting people lik Ellis, Tinn and Jones, all very quick. Plus seven more R5 cars... Very interesting, see you there!


Results Salamandre online

It took some time, but now we have the final overall results. Some teams were put in the wrong class, some disappeared from the final classification. And some teams only registered in the days after the rally, motivated by a good result and/or the happy times in Belgium. This is the final overall result for Salamandre:

1. Ellis/Fowler 4x4 -

2. Jones/Jonathans 2wd -

3. Reddington/Fitzgibbon 2wd -

4. Thomas/Jordan 2wd -

5. O'Brien/McDaid 4x4

6. Dawson/Dawson histo -

7. Ranby/Bass histo -

8. Sharp/Ablitt 2WD

9. Cook/Bos histo -

10. Stringer/Soanes histo –

11. Brown/Stringer 2wd -

12. Smith/Moriarty histo -

13. Thomson/Devlin histo -



  • Tinn/Dykes 4x4 -
  • Wood/Kettle 4x4 -
  • Campling/Ducker 4x4 -
  • Van Middendorp/Bril 2wd -
  • Smith/McIlroy 2wd -
  • McDevitt/ histo -
  • Clatworthy/Clatworthy histo -
  • Hands/Bezuidenhout 2wd-


FIRC drivers dominate Salamandre Rally
An FIRC team that takes the general win, we all knew it would happen sooner or later, and it’s finally been done! And things got even better than this... From the first stage onwards, all hell broke loose between Johnnie Ellis, guest driver David Tinn and local specialist Jean-Noël Tournay, who had to push very hard to follow the UK boys. We wish we could have added Huw Reed to this selected company too, but the gearbox on the Darrian broke halfway SS1. The same trouble also forced David Campling to retire, a real shame since the Cos crew showed very good pace. The same could be said about Anthony O’Brien, Mark Jones and John Reddington. Unfortunately, the action did not last very long for David Tinn, who misjudged one of the many slippy bends around Beaumont and became a member of the famous Belgian Ditch Club. Enough spectators were present and there was no real damage to the car, but the ditch was just to deep to get the fast Proton back on the road again. We sincerely hope to see this great car back in action this year.
More trouble was to be seen in 2WD class. Martin De Vere-Packford took a solid second position but his gearbox went half way the event. Newcomers Paul McDevitt, Ben Smith and Dale Clatworthy were also forced to retire, just like Dutchman André Van Middendorp. However no one could threaten Simon Thomas in the quick 306. Paul Sharp drove a clever rally and scored an excellent second position to start his first full season, whilst Steve Brown came third and last in class with a very humble Micra, but his much quicker Civic will be ready soon, could be very interesting.
The Historic delegation saw a massive turnout thanks to the presence of the RAC Historic Asphalt teams. The battle for this championship is a different story, but the FIRC section was dominated by Ben and Mike Dawson. Stuart Ranby, also in for a full run this year, came second before Bill Cook and Stephen Stringer, both on a Talbot Sunbeam. Mike Smith finally managed to do the full rally distance since a long time, and did it in style by finishing before top favourite Thomson in the Sierra 4x4. The Cosworth got nearly destroyed in a tricky downhill where two other cars were smashed to bits, but the crew luckily got away with a 360 spin. However a puncture and a broken throttle cable on stage did really not help to clinch a good result, at least the men got to the finish in one piece.
In the mean time battle for first position was boiling between Johnnie Ellis and Jean-Noël Tournay. The British only made one mistake during the event by going straight forward after braking way too late for a hairpin, but then pushed so hard on the French Evo9, they made Tournay crack under pressure. The French crew hit a rock and had to withdraw with the finish in sight, making Team TI top of the bill with a very happy Johnnie Ellis and Marc Fowler on top of the podium. A hard fought win on unknown and very difficult terrain, in only the second rally with the brand new Evo X... who doubts more wins will follow later this season?
But this smashing performance was not the only one. Guest driver Mark Jones, who made a great and much discussed debut in Hemicuda last year, showed his great skill again and parked the M3 on a second overall position, beating several quick 4x4’s and all the local specialists. Battle for third went on to the very last stage and was an Irish tête à tête, with John Reddington being just a tiny bit quicker than Anthony O’Brien. If the FIRC boys do something, they do it good: not only a general win, but immediately the full top four! Add to this the great spring weather and the massive crowds along the stages and we have sheer rally perfection, what a way to start the season!




Entries for Salamandre rally are filling up very quickly now, and we have loads of British crews coming over. This rally is new for everyone, but drivers who entered Chevrotines last year will recognise the same stage style: very quick, hilly and bumpy on used tarmac, 4x3 stages. All goes back to usual with ORC Canal Rally, round two. The 4x3 stage layout, very technical and a mix of every possible surface, will remain exactly the same, only some road sections will be a bit different.
Two weeks later we meet again in Wervik rally, again for 4x3 stages. Road sections will be totally different, since both SS Geluwe and SS Kruiseke will be driven in the opposite direction compared to last year. Modern and Historic cars will be mixed too. The rally is known to be a miniature version of Ypres rally which is organised a fortnight later, so for BRC teams: this is your ultimate chance to prepare for Ypres!
TBR and Chevrotines will be roughly identical to 2016, whilst Hemicuda Rally keeps the same format of 3x3 stages, but with the Kortemark stage entirely redesigned to 15k! Kortrijk is only in November, so it is a bit early for updates.


Given the response we had over the winter, we are sure to welcome even more UK teams this year, and even expect some Irish drivers! Especially the Historic division promises to become really big.
As we mentioned during winter break, 2017 will also see a change in classes. 2WD will certainly be split in two, possibly 4x4 and Historic too, depending on who turns up. We think to maintain the current classes until ORC and then make the decision on reorganising the field to get a more even battle. Of course all of you will have the chance to give your opinion via our FBpage.
Finally we are also very happy to announce there will be a full tyre service in every FIRC event, thanks to the support of JB Tyres, run by Jan Beijnen who all of you know as the ultracool mechanic of Team Van Middendorp, aka the Dutchies. Tyres of your choice will be delivered at the rally and even put on your rims when desired. Further on we welcome Martin Jones Transmissions as one of our new partners, and we can count again on the financial support of Corbeau/Luke, the company also offers a 20% discount for FIRC drivers!




Efforts get rewarded in FIRC! The three class winners Ellis/Fowler, Coulson/Coulson and Williams/Cowley can choose two free starts for the 2017 Challenge. Further on, we can give away some wildcards again to the following teams, who each win one free start: 

Allfrey/Fellowes as most unlucky team. Plans for a full FIRC attack were ruined by a big off in Wervik, the car just got repaired for Hemicuda but all title hopes were gone. 

Lower/Greenfield as most spectacular team. Barney often forgot he was rallying instead of drifting. And that in a virtually standard car. Lunatic! 

Van Middendorp/Veldkamp as best Dutch team. And also for the best field kitchen and the most fun bar in serviceparks around! 

Richards/Gibson as best effort. Registering for FIRC without any realistic chance on winning anything, a load of mechanical worries and still keep smiling. Respect! 

Dawson/Dawson as best rookies. The pace went steadily up after every rally, resulting in podium finishes in class, as well as a general class win in Kortrijk. Very promising for 2017! 


Looking back at our free start politics, we think every FIRC team who registered in the past years has won (or was given) a free start now. Quite a good return on investment we think. 


Final words for 2016  

With the 2017 calendar published, we can look forward to FIRC#8... but it’s is nice to look back too. Undoubtedly the 7th edition of FIRC was the most succesful so far. After a continuous growth troughout the years, we suddenly saw the Challenge exploding, with some events having 30 foreign guests, mostly good for a quarter of the seeding list. We have to go back several decades to see such numbers in Belgium, and even then they only appeared in some national events. 

The FIRC recipe will not change much in 2017, it will only get better. With more events to chose from, teams can spread their efforts more evenly troughout the year. And talking about teams, we expect even more next season, again. This year’s newcomers are also addicted now, and the interest of new teams is still growing. This promises a lot for the title battle, especially with an updated class system. 

The 2016 Challenge was undoubtedly the most nerve racking edition so far, with three titles decided after the last stage of the last rally! No one really doubts we should see an identical scenario in FIRC#8. To make stuff even more interesting, we have seen the birth of two new Challenges for next year that are both related with FIRC. In the mean time, we wish you many happy hours in the workshop and in between a Marry Christmas and a happy New Year, see you soon! 



 Unique result for Coulson in Kortrijk  

FIRC traditionally gets decided in the last event. 

This year  proved to be no exception to the rule, apart from the 2WD title the Coulsons took in Hemicuda. But they also won the overall title on Rally Kortrijk completing a unique result for the brothers. However it was quite a surprise to see that the 4x4 title was also decided when Kortrijk entries closed. Only Johnnie Ellis and Gavin Smith started in the 4x4 category while direct title rivals like David Campling (mechanical) and Tony Clements (lack of time) were forced to stay in the UK. 

With Smith no longer a threat to Ellis, ment that the ever ambitious TI Team now could go on the full attack and aim for a top ten result, not the easiest target in a field with ten R5 and three WRC cars, plus a lot of experienced locals in other quick metal of all kinds. Johnnie and Marc floored it, avoided the traps on a very tricky layout, and finished an impressive  seventh overall! Many Belgians drivers who witnessed their performance were speechless. This year every rally had its surprise ad it happened again! 

More encouraging times were shown by Anthony O’Brien, who flirted with the top ten the whole rally, but was forced to retire with an oil leak. He shows great promise for 2017. Gavin Smith finished his season in style by taking second in the 4x4 category but next year there will be something new. Gavin will drive in the historic class in a smart Delta Integrale. We look forward to seeing this very rare car on our roads. 

With both 2wd and 4x4 titles already decided, all the attention went to the Historic field where some drama was expected between Andrew Thomson and Richard Williams. One little mistake would ruin their chances, not ideal for the nerves in these very tricky circumstances. Both teams had a troublefree event though, but only on the very last stage it came clear that Ricky Williams would take the title again. Only one point seperated the pair with Thompson the first to congratulate his opponent. This is the smallest margin ever recorded in FIRC too. 

Ben Dawson put in another strong performanc. He beat Williams and all the Belgians in his class! Same story for Les Allfrey who also claimed the general class win, his second this year doing this. Guest driver Tim Mewett showed equel speed too. The only historic victim was Mike Smith, whose car caught fire in the service park, nothing really bad but the heat caused too much damage to the wiring. 

The biggest smiles came from the 2WD drivers. Steve Brown efforts this year were rewarded with a first and very well deserved 2WD FIRC victory, even beating several local R2 cars. Also Dutchman Van Middendorp finally managed to finish a rally without trouble. The Dutch team created a beautiful  atmosphere within the service park, inviting many UK crews for food, drink and general kindness and becoming the unofficial FIRC headquarters on the rally. The happiest crew was, of course were Dave and John Coulson, who also took the overall FIRC title, the first time in seven years that a team achieved this. No one even came near before, but on their maiden year the bruvs did it, dominating FIRC from the beginning. Never seen this before! Massive congratulations!

 Still a couple of teams were less fortunate, but their adventures can be classified as typically Belgian. Guest driver Steven Finch parked his Escort on a pole and Philip Smith visited a ditch, this happens to everyone sooner or later. However the most cruel retirement went to Robert Richards, his steering rack collapsed while driving off the podium on Sunday morning. 

Looking back on 2016, we believe this has been the most succesfull year so far. Many competitors, loads of fans and very good competitionthat was tense to the end.  No less than 26 teams registered, and loads of guest drivers too. We assume FIRC has come to a turning point now. Where it once all started as a friendly initiative, only meant for a handful of teams, the Challenge has become so big and popular now we will have to double our efforts for 2017. And we will!! We already got many new teams confirmed for next year, while our regulars obviously are stuck with the virus and will continue to do the Challenge. But we also get more support from everyone else around, so the future looks very good. 

We are ready, you are too, and you can be sure we will do everything to maintain the atmosphere as it is now, no matter how many crews come over in 2017 (and we expect many more, again). We will only take a very short break (or possibly none) this winter, so keep a close eye to our Facebookpage, there is a lot more new stuff coming to keep you hooked. Wait and see...


Hemicuda for King Ellis 

With a great indian summer weekend and 28 international teams at the start, Hemicuda looked to be perfect before the start. However a perfect start was not really the case for several crews. Gavin Smith had to spectate after an accident during recce and guest star Hans Weijs did not even make it to the first stage with a broken driveshaft. André Van Middendorp arrived at SS1 in a steam cloud due a broken radiator hose, once refitted also a driveshaft snapped after only 2K. One kilometer further Martin De Vere-Packford was forced to retire as well... with a broken driveshaft. More steam was to come when David Dockree went on stage and saw his engine explode. Trouble came along too for Andrew Thomson who lost 4 minutes on stage with a puncture, Stephen Brown visited a ditch and Anthony O’Brien struggled with the gearbox on his new EvoX and would retire after the first leg. 

No further issues came after leg one, and we saw Johnnie Ellis storming to the lead in Modern 4x4 and even taking 3rd place overall, followed by David Campling and Tony Clements who stayed within secs during the whole event. Another nice duel was going on in 2WD, where David Coulson and guest driver Simon Thomas had a nice battle. The BMW crew took no risks with the title in mind so the unofficial victory went to Thomas, all the points were secured by the Coulsons (again). More smiling brothers, named Gibson, took a great 2nd place in 2WD, before Garry Elswood who still remains in the title run. John Wood was forced to park his broken Escort, but Stephen Brown had a faultless run after his early adventure and took some nice class points. 

In Historic we saw another perfect run from Richard Williams, winning with only a coupe of seconds on Ben and Mike Dawson who saw their great pace just not rewarded. Guest driver Henri Bève took 3rd while Andy Thomson fought back to 4th, followed by Bill Cook, Mike Smith in his brand new and very smart Avenger and Richard Legget in his reliable Alfa. Les Allfrey came very unusually last in class but a long stay in a ditch is a good excuse in Flanders. 

Every rally has a surprise this year, and Hemicuda even has two. We expected Johnnie Ellis to be very quick, but beating several local specialists with similar material in their own backyard, even with only 2WD on the last leg, is nothing but spectacular. It’s also the first time in years we see an FIRC crew on the overall podium again. Another surprise was the action displayed by guest drivers Mark Jones and Jonathan Hawkins in their M3. Being new in Belgium, we did not know the men were total lunatics. On full attack modus everywhere and all the time, taking all possible risks on unknown territory, everyone expected them to land hard in a ditch rather sooner than later. They came 10th overall... Can someone convince them to come over more often and give driving lessons to some members of the M3 army in Belgium? 

Pointswise it still looks very interesting with one event to go. All the pressure is now with the Coulson brothers. If they do what they did the whole season, they will easily catch both 2WD and the general title. But if the sport gets cruel, Garry Elswood or Richard Williams will. One thing is for sure, no modern 4x4 will clinch the title this year, unprecedented! Andy Thomson still stands a good chance in Historic, while Johnnie Ellis, Tony Clements and David Campling will fight for the crown in 4x4. Kortrijk will be a thriller! 


FIRC at Rally Day 

The FIRC crew will be there again, supported bij The International Rally Drivers Club and The London Irish Motor Club. We hope to meet many, and you know where to score Belgian beer too!  


Countdown for FIRC finals 

Two rounds remain in FIRC#7 and everything is still possible. We can all agree that this season is the most exciting one so far. Last year’s Challenges saw their final battles in Kortrijk Rally and this year will be no exception. However, we never had so many teams with realistic chances on a title in all classes. We honestly feared the worst when Andrew Thomson and Richard Vincent dominated Historic and even overall in ORC Canal Rally, our opening event. Being one of the most experienced teams in FIRC, driving a top car and without resistance from regulars on an equal pace like Tony Clements or Alex Taylor, it all did not look to good for the tension in the Challenge, but a couple of unfortunate events for the Cosworth team mixed it all up. 

In their maiden year, John and David Coulson took a strong lead overall and certainly in 2WD so far, with nothing but class wins in all the events they took the start. But missing out Les Boucles Chevrotines with its crazy result came unexpectedly costly. Garry Elswood claimed the maximum points score there and took a major leap forward in the standings. One DNF can now be enough for both to loose the title, so there will be some pressure on their shoulders in the two remaining events. Also Stephen Brown, John Wood, Barney Lower, Chris Peart and Iain Gibson still stand a chance in 2WD but luck will have to be on their side. But we all remember what happened in Chevrotines... 

Same story in Historic where Richard Williams and Andrew Thomson seem to have the best chance on a title, but Martin Jones, Ben Dawson, Paul Griffiths and even Richard Leggett can do a great deal if something does not go as planned for the two top teams. In Modern 4x4 finally, we can expect anything. With only four teams in this class the title should go to Tony Clements or newcomer John Ellis, but David Campling still has a realistic chance too, or Allan Smith, or Gavin Smith if some luck is on their side. 

For the general title it’s impossible to put a name forward. Logically the FIRC champion is driving one of the fastest cars, meaning Modern 4x4. However the teams in this class now have to score a lot of points trying to catch up on some 2WD and Historic cars, so it could well be we have a surprising name at the top standings in about two months. First we have to see what happens in Hemicuda where no mistakes will be permitted. With three weeks to go 85 teams are on the entry list,  29 international teams so far, again a great success for FIRC. See you soon in and around Koekelare! 

Only Elswood survives Chevrotines  

We are very glad to announce that the first Walloon rally in FIRC was a major success! A warm welcome by very enthusiastic organisers, smooth document control, easy scrutineering and above all superfantastic stages, resulted in nothing but happy people in Sivry-Rance and its great countryside for Les Boucles Chevrotines, bienvenue aux Anglais! But that was on Saturday.... 

Once the action started, it became clear very quickly that the stages were very demanding for man and machines. First victim was Barney Lower who could not solve a major brake problem despite all the help offered (we thank Juha Bos for his efforts) by the local teams. By the time the event started Barney and Ben were already back in the UK. Andy Thomson set off like a rocket as expected, but a puncture on SS1 cooled him down a bit. However, their pace was up and the Cosworth crew settled easily in the top ten, and could realistically aim for a top five until the throttle cable decided to refuse all duty and forced the team to give up. By then, we had already lost Iain and Andrew Gibson with a broken driveshaft on SS3, quickly followed by Martin De Vere-Packford with a broken alternator belt. Robert Richards struggled with fuel problems. Bill Cook made a great although careful comeback after nearly six years without rallying, but still  found himself fighting for a class victory halfway the rally. Ben Howlett and Garry Elswood had enjoyed a trouble free run thus far, but David Dockree saw his horses become donkeys one by one, and finally also had to retire with a blown head gasquet. The last leg saw more victims with Rob Richards retiring with a broken driveshaft covered in fuel perfume and Bill Cook ending up in a ditch, sadly on a turn without spectators. In the meantime, guest drivers like Ben and Simon Howlett were finishing strongly in the top ten, while Marty Mc Cormack and Darren Moon took one-two in historic, beating local specialist Christophe Jacob; also a familiar name in the UK. 

However, no-one could threaten Garry Elswood who avoided all traps and had a trouble free run troughout the day. His experience on similar stages in the past clearly paid off and his reward was a superb maximum points score, which saw him storm trough the classification. This year every rally had a surprise, and Chevrotines is no exception with only one registered driver finishing, this has never happened before. Even better, Garry enters the select club of 2WD drivers taking a general FIRC victory, while navi Evy Vangheluwe also clinches her first win, in only her fourth event in the Saxo. 

For sure Les Boucles Chevrotines are a great added value to FIRC, so no doubt this event will be back on the calendar next year. Often described as ‘the far one’, it’s all not so bad with just about an extra hour to drive. Road connections to the area are very good and everyone doing the rally was very positive without any exception, describing the rally as one of the most laid back events they had ever seen. Summer break for FIRC starts now, we see you all back in Hemicuda Rally where we expect a massive UK entry again. 

Ellis confirms in TBR

This report is also a bit delayed, just like the event. Reason for this is the overall classification that arrived a bit late, we apologise for that. Despite being the only single venue event on the calendar, we still saw a good turnout with nearly 20 teams in a fully booked Rallysprint. The start was chaotic due to issues with the Marshall’s fire extinguishers, and once running two big crashes caused even more delay. Once everything was put together, Johnnie Ellis stormed to victory in Modern 4x4 and took an impressive 6th overall too. Another easy victory but on a bit slower pace was Richard Leggett’s first historic FIRC win, despite ending last overall. Seems like every rally this year has a surprise...

While the quickest and the slowest cars had a rather relaxed run, battle in 2WD was huge. No less than 15 cars gave al they could, with only one victim. Dutchman Van Middendorp had to withdraw witha  broken driveshaft, spare parts presented by other Opel teams did unfortunately not fit. The quickest man around was undoubtedly Andy Egger who pushed his Nova to the limits, directly followed by John Legg and Martin De Vere-Packford who both made a great comeback, while John Coulson confirmed his pace again. Winner in 2WD was Andy Egger, but the points go to Coulson since Andy is not registered. Barney Lower could have ended a lot higher in the classification but he enjoyed the slippery tarmac too much and decided to go sideways everywhere. Further on we saw good performances from guest drivers Paul Sharp, Henri Bève, Richard Weaver and Stuart Ranby, while regulars like John Wood and the Gibson Bros took important points in the Challenge. More interesting stuff is to come in three weeks where we expect a rather quiet event, however no one doubts the points standings will be very interesting after Chevrotines.

FIRC summer 

After another brillant visit to Goodwood FOS, thanks to the efforts of The International Rally Drivers Club, we focus on some more action on Belgian soil now. FIRC’s third event, TBR Rallysprint is fully booked (again...) with 120 cars since weeks. Despite being a single venue event, we still see a nice line up with 17 UK drivers and a handful of Dutch teams too. Also Boucles Chevrotines has entries rushing in now, it promises to be a hot summer for the Challenge. The results could be very interesting too! 

TBR and Boucles Chevrotines update

As mentioned on Facebook, bookings for both events are open. TBR Sprint will be a big hit with bookings rushing in, also Les Boucles Chevrotines already gets good attention so a field of 120+ cars is to be expected, possibly fully booked too. We stress that the FIRC office is closed the last two weeks of June, no mails will be answered since we spend a week in Goodwood FOS and continue to travel the UK afterwards just to improve our knowledge of the rich British Culture.


Great Clements comeback in Wervik  

Woodstoxx Rally Wervik showed a second record braking entry for FIRC with 36 international teams booked on a total of no less than 156 teams! Despite this great figures we still missed a couple of favourites. Andy Dawe in the superfast 2WD Sunny was forced to stay at home due to ECU nightmares, while David Campling and James Ducker were there to spectate only, since their smart Escort suffered severe engine damage after ORC. In these circumstances Andrew Thomson could do a great deal in the Challenge if he kept the same pace he showed in the opening event, but new names like Johnnie Ellis, John Wood, Stephen Stringer, David Dockree and guest driver John Indri in his Fiesta R5 could perform very well too, also 2014 Champion Tony Clements reappeared after his monster crash last year, so no doubt an interesting rally was under construction. 

The first incident already occurred in SS2 when Andy Thomson decided to pay respect to the local traditions and ditched his Sapphire, remodelling a garden and trashing a wall included. This reduced the battle for FIRC victory between the two remaining 4x4 machines, the Evo 9 piloted by regular Tony Clements and newcomer Johnnie Ellis in his equally fast Subaru. Ellis adapted surprisingly quick to the stages and took a firm lead while Clements settled in second position, waiting for things to come regarding the weather forecast. Indri joined their company too, discovering the Belgian stages while avoiding too many risks, R5cars do not come cheap and John does not do the Challenge anyway. Wervik is known to be a very hard rally, so it did not take long before we had more casualties. Les Allfrey joined the ditch club, Gavin Smitch had electronical iussues, Pat Anderson saw his engine go, Stephen Stringer his gearbox and the fast Martin Jones got excluded due to a time penalty. 

The Belgian crews had similar adventures so still everything went relatively well, until a thunderstorm decided to join into the rally. Stages immediately changed in ice skating rinks, the main victim of those slippery circumstances was Johnnie Ellis who met a typical local booby trap called mud. The Subaru parked itself in a ditch, ending only some meters behing local star Victorien Heuninck. No matter what the spectators tried, both cars stayed stuck and got the stage cancelled later. A very impressive 7th(!) overall position was history, as well as a great points score. Then Tony Clements, very experienced in Belgum, saw his chance and easily claimed victory after a faultless run in very tricky conditions. Speed is one thing, strategy another. Same story for John Indri who saw an intelligent rally rewarded with the 11th overall position and an unofficial 2nd FIRC, pretty cool for a return in Belgium after some 20 years break. Our other guest drivers Jamie Brown and David Wood easily made the top 20 as well. 

In 2WD class no one could threaten Dave and John Coulson, who dominated their class and took a second victory in a row in their first Belgian season, very impressive. Stephen Brown  claimed a great 2nd in class after a clever run, directly followed by our first open car John Wood in his Vauxhall powered Mk.2 Escort. David Dockree, another one of many new names this year, had to retire his Vauxhall Lotus Sunbeam with gearbox troubles but sureley the crew had great fun on the stages and afterwards. This resulted in a nice points score for 2015 2WD Champ Elswood and Dutchman André Van Middendorp, who had to drive very carefully with a standard gearbox, after the real stuff broke in ORC. Philip and Robert Smith claimed the last FIRC spot but being new in Belgium a ditch waved them in as well, traditions are there to be respected but still we should see them back in Chevrotines in August. Brave men! 

In the Historic class only two cars made it to the finish. Richad Williams proved his pace once again and was never threatened for victory, while Ben and Mike Dawson claimed a great second place after their early retirement in ORC and took important points for the Challenge. 

Talking about points. In seven years of FIRC it never happened before we see  just one modern 4x4 in the top... 11! Historics and 2WD rule now. The lonely 4x4 is the one of Tony Clements, who actually only registered to support the Challenge (thanks Tony!) but only plans Hemicuda later in the season so there are no direct hopes on a new title, unless the man changes his plans off course. With TBR and Chevrotines to come, we expect a smaller but very mixed turnout on both events, so it all looks very interesting for the Challenge standings! Anyone can still register this summer and still have realistic hopes on a title, how cool is that? 

Finally the Wervik organisers want to thank all the UK crews who attended the impressive Piper’s Band in the WW1 commemoration on the podium after the rally. The Battle of Britain Coin was handed over to Mark Fowler, codriver of Johnnie Ellis, who had many relatives involved 75 years ago. 

Now we look forward to TBR and Chevrotines, the last one new to us all, but before this FIRC will be present at Goodwood FOS, thanks to the efforts of The International Rally Drivers Club. If you’re there too let us know, we can share a Belgian Lager! See you soon.... 

Preview Woodstoxx Wervik Rally

With 7 R5 cars on the entry list, this event nearly looks like a national rally. FIRC is very proud to present John Indri with his Fiesta R5, the biggest name we catched so far, sure the man will have good competition from the Belgians. Despite some withdrawals we can still book another record breaking entry of 30+ foreign teams, we look forward what they will do in this fully booked rally with 150 cars at the start. Sadly enough title favourites Dave Campling and James Ducker will be there to spectate only. The sorry DNF in ORC revealed another problem, being a crack in the engine block. The powerplant needs a total rebuild, the Escort will unfortunately only be back for Hemicuda. However in Wervik we see the reappearance from 2014 Champ Tony Clements, as well as the debut of Jonnie Ellis and David Wood. Also 2WD ace Andy Dawe is back after the ORC disaster, the results will surely be very interesting since a certain Alex Taylor also plans a comeback later this season. But if Andy Thomson repeats his ORC performance he can do a great deal in the standings. The weather forecast looks quite ok, but the extensive rain we had the last few days may well cause some muddy corners, so the more experienced teams can take advantage of that. Wait and see...


Great comeback for Thomson in ORC  

ORC Canal Rally was the undoubtedly the best season’s opener so far. Nearly fully booked with 145 cars, many top machines, good weather and no less than 27 FIRC drivers booked in, a new record. Only Derek Webb withdrew before the event for personal reasons, but via this way we thank Derek for his efforts with Corbeau Seats and the £1000 prize money the company offered and was given to the 2015 winners in a cosy and very well attended BBQ party at Friday eve, local beer tasting included. The serious work started on Saturday with scrutineering and already there we saw a first victim. Multiple 2WD Champion Andy Dawe couldn’t even drive his car due to an unexpected and unrepairable throttle problem. The new teams all passed, despite the fact that several cars were not entirely ok according to VAS regulations. However it was all about minor stuff, VAS will publish a bulletin soon to clear out some things, we will keep you informed. 

On Sunday the first stage showed some interesting times, with David Campling and newcomer Anthony O’Brien only separated by a couple of seconds. Unfortunately the Irish Evo was forced to retire after SS1 with a broken gearbox. This was good news for David Campling, who no longer had direct rivals left now since Andrew Thomson struggled with electricity and brake problems on the first leg. More drama on SS2 for Ben and Mike Dawson when a front wheel broke off, on SS4 Mike Smith and Sean Moriarty were forced to retire as well with a broken waterpump. 

From the second leg onwards, the cars got kinder for their drivers and we saw some good battles developing. Historic class saw a serious upgrade this year with newcomers Paul Griffiths and Martin Jones who immediately attacked Historic Champion 2015 Richard Williams. This bunch of three went very quick and sideways, much admired by the many spectators around, also the local drivers were very impressed by their stage times. Les Allfrey, back from a sabbatical, would even take the overall class win, still pretty exceptional. 

While David Campling drove in his own world in Modern 4x4, there was a serious fight going on in 2WD class. Newcomers John en Dave Coulson took the lead in their fast Compact M3, chased by Chris Peart in his new Fiesta R2. This would also be the top two at the finish, with quite an irritated Chris Peart who got a time penalty of 5’ for unclear reasons, a penalty that would be neutralised after the event. A bit further in the field there was good action between the 2015 2WD Champ Garry Elswood and the very quick newcomers Barney Lower in a virtually standard(!) BMW Compact, Ben Smith with a heavy right foot in the humble 106, while also Steve Brown in his great Micra Kit Car, previous ORC class winner Robert Dillon and James Dixon in his smart Nova quickly felt at home on the Belgian stages. This group was directly followed by Dutchman André van Middendorp, guest driver Paul Sharp, a very enthusiast Robert Richards, regular Neil Dodd and the Gibson brothers, who made their debut in FIRC last year and used their experience to improve their car during the winter break. In some stages they went nearly 20” quicker so the hard work clearly paid off. 

The biggest attack troughout the rally came undoubtedly from Andy Thomson. All the troubles got solved after the first leg and the selfmade Sierra stormed through the field. Much of the lost time was taken back resulting in an easy victory in Historic and a second place overall waiting, one minute behind David Campling, but on the second to last stage the gearbox of David’s Escort litterally exploded... so Andy and Richard took overall too! For the first time ever in FIRC, a Historic car takes the overall victory, never seen before and the sixth place in general Historic was a plus too with nearly fifty cars at the start. With a very disappointed Campling out of the rally, it looked like regular Allan Smith would take his first and much deserved win in Modern 4x4, however a broken cluth forced the Subaru to retire too, same story for van Middendorp who had gearbox issues. 

Looking back at this first event, we can all be very happy. As always there were mechanical nightmares for some teams, but everyone drove quick and carefully, so no crashes for our guests. Maybe the Historic Escort boys drove a bit less careful but they made a great impression, the Coulson brothers took an impressive win on their debut, the new teams all show good pace and coped well with the stages and the pacenotes, also some friendships with Belgian crews are already established. We already have 20 drivers registered yet, a  new record and more will join in Wervik and maybe even later in the season depending on the standings. Most of the teams do four events so this looks very interesting for the Challenge point standings this year. Wervik is approaching quickly now, with 150 entries the rally is already fully booked showing good quality: six R5 cars with FIRC guest driver John Indri and the return of 2014 Champion Tony Clements, 2 997’s GT3 plus a cargoload of M3’s and Evo’s. With 24 British and more French and Dutch drivers teams the international line up counts no less than 36 teams, again a quarter of the field! See you soon at this great event. 

Full house for ORC Canal Rally and Rally Wervik 

FIRC#7 kicks off in style this year. Our first two events both have a record breaking entry of foreign teams: 28 for ORC and no less than 36 for Wervik!! We never had such a massive entry so far, ORC mainly attracts UK drivers who represent nearly a quarter of the entry list, while Wervik traditionally attracts a good entry from French and Dutch teams too. Many UK teams still have to book for Wervik so it could well be we go to 40 foreign entries. This would be unseen in Belgium, even in the golden days of rallying in the ‘80s and ‘90s there weren’t such figures, not even in our well known national events. 

To make things even better, we have a vast number of new names who confirmed to do a couple of occasional events to check out how it all works over here, mainly to plan the 2017 season. This means we are very confident about the future of FIRC. Every year we attract more teams and rallying in Belgium seems to be very addictive for our overseas friends, so it’s getting really big now. Cool for a litlle championship that once started with 10 cars... 

ORC Canal Rally is nearly fully booked , also Wervik will get a massive entry so we can start the new season in the very best circumstances, both for drivers and spectators. A very big THANK YOU to all the drivers, navi’s and mechanics for their efforts to make the Challenge so fantastic, let the countdown start! 

2016 preview  

We still have to wait a couple of months before FIRC #7 kicks off, but we already have an idea what the 2016 Challenge will offer. ORC Canal Rally does not plan any changes to the stage layout so the rally will look very familiar to our regulars. However Wervik Rally will see some major changes to several stages so good recce will be very important. More of the same for TBR Rallysprint wich will be entirely new to everyone, we hear the Oekene SS will be very challenging including some very tricky corners. 

More tricky stuff will be offered at Boucles Chevrotines, our new event for this year. No doubt a talented navi will be of great importance in this very fast rally, full of blind turns and tops on stages that have a very different caracter than those in Flanders. Later in the season, Hemicuda will keep its usual stage layout but this can not be said from Kortrijk. After the havoc caused by last year’s rainfall, the organisers have decided to skip many of the gravel sections to avoid a new crash record, so we can expect stages that are very different from those we know. Keep a regular eye to our Facebook page for the latest news on events and regulations. 

A new year, a very new season! 

Last year ended maybe in a way the whole season went, unfortunately with another unexpected surprise. TBR Rally decided to become a sprint, more or less forced to by the local politics who thought that two rallies (TBR and Omloop van Vlaanderen) in the same area were a bit too much. Luckily a quick survey learnt that most of the regulars liked the stages, so we decided to keep the event in FIRC, just with less points to score since a sprint is not a full rally. Still all of us wanted five full rallies, but without good opportunities left in Flanders, the noses were pointed towards the southern direction: Wallonia! Many drivers asked us the past couple of years wether there could be an option towards the French speaking bit of Belgium, now there we are: Boucles Chevrotines! Although the roads are similar, the geography is pretty different compared with Flanders, see how the teams cope with it. With the rally organised on 6/7August, we think this fits perfect in the calendar which goes like this now: 

  • ORC: 28/29 May
  • Wervik: 10/11 June
  • TBR: 9/10 July
  • Boucles Chevrotines: 6/7 August
  • Hemicuda: 8/9 October
  • Kortrijk: 26/27 November  

The following days the site will be fully updated with the new contacts and the geographical indications. Further on, as we already posted on our Facebookpage, we warmly welcome the efforts of Val Thomson and Neil Dodd, who volunteered to become our FIRC ambassadors towards UK crews, who might have questions about the practical bit of rallying in Belgium. Just mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and you will be a lot wiser, not to mention the much appreciated efforts Bryan Hull already made before on http://www.rallymatcher.co.uk/wordpress/?page_id=703 

Further on we have a new member in FIRC, Geert Santens. Geert came with the idea to group as many FIRC teams as possible in the servicepark to share efforts and make life easier and nicer during (and after) the rally, to join in mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to arrange your bookings.  

Last but not least we would like to welcome drivers with a bit more ‘special’ cars, according to the new open class all of you have been informed about previously. Without any doubt FIRC#7 will be fantastic! 

2015, the most dramatic season so far? 

The past years in FIRC were pretty nice to drivers and spectators. Yes, there was the occasional rain now and then  and many teams became a member of the famous Ditch Club, however last year  was quite unusual. It all started with ORC Canal Rally who saw its first rain in nine yeras of organising and that was new for everyone. Accidents everywhere and the FIRC squad did their bit too. Tony Clements made a massive rollover and little time later Chris Peart finished his Nova on a post, all in the first leg. Then Anthony Darou dived into a house on the last leg... Three quick cars written off in a rally that ended in total chaos with incidents everywhere all the time. All was sorted pretty quickly but it showed again how hard rallying can be in Belgium. 

Wervik Rally was quite good to everyone but newcomer TBR Rally kept quite a lot of surprises. Main victim was Alex Taylor who went off no less than four times but still managed to finish the event, while Andy Dawe took general and 2WD, and not for the first time. Again back to good old rallying in Hemicuda then, where Taylor took his second FIRC title and now equals Andy Rowe. However the season would end the way it started. Torrential rain, ice cold winds and even snow tortured men and machines in a soaked Kortrijk Rally. The countless number of crashes forced the organisers to end the rally with two stages to go, with Andy Dawe clinching the double again (!) and FIRC regular Garry Elswood taking his first ever title in 2WD. Rookie Richard Williams became the much deserved Historic Champion in his debut year, winning all the events he took part in. Further on we enjoyed the smart Alfa GTV debut of Richard Leggett, the pace David Campling, Gavin Smith and the Gibson brothers developed troughout the season and all our regular competitors enjoying themselves once again on the tricky Belgian roads. Hopefully 2016 will cause less havoc! 

Dawe takes second double in Kortrijk  

The biggest Flemish Rally of the season was supposed to end FIRC#6 in style, but the weather decided otherwise. This was without any doubt the coldest and wettest rally in six years of FIRC. Many could not believe their eyes when they saw snow on Saturday morning, followed by rain the during whole weekend, unfortunately the freezing wind was just not strong enough to blow the clouds. Despite the arctic conditions a surprisingly huge amount of spectators faced the elements, rally fans really are a brave special breed! 

Off course the heavy rain turned the stages into mud skating rinks causing uncountable spins and offs, but the most unfortunate guys were Chris Peart and Steve Lancaster who traveled the whole end from Hull overnight, arrived late, tired and stressed... and saw their car brake down when driving from service to scrutineering, this sport can be very cruel. Garry Elswood then was the first victim in action when his Saxo lost all power on the second showstage on Saturday. However, the 2 points startbonus ensured him of the 2015 2WD title, very much deserved after five years of competing in FIRC. The surviving  English boys and girls all took a careful start on Sunday with 2015 Champion Alex Taylor taking the lead on Dawe, Smith and Campling who all showed the same pace. Disaster would strike to the Forester however, a blown engine ruined all the efforts and possibly the next season as well since this bill will not come cheap. A busy schedule for 2016 will not help Alex either. Campling then took the lead but was also forced to retire with a broken driveshaft even causing a minor fire, but the home made Flemish stew offered by some local residents while awaiting recovery made David and Jim feel a lot better, the damage is not too bad either. This drama put the road for victory wide open for Andy Dawe, who stood no chance against the 4x4’s in his Sunny but drove faultless in the hard conditions.  This way he takes the 2WD and overall win for the second  time this season in his rebuilt Sunny that is clearly very quick and reliable. 

Gavin Smith ended on the second place after having lost time in the dark with serious visiblity problems, while historic champion Richard Williams took third overall and off course the FIRC Historic win, in front of Richard Leggett who avoided all the traps and had a clean run in his smart GTV. Martin De Vere-Packford came second 2WD after an interesting battle with guest driver Les Allfrey, this time behind the weel of his newly built 205 GTI. The rally ended in quite a chaos with stages delayed and eventually cancelled due to the dramatic weather, but once everyone got in parc fermé the party afterwards was really great, with the big FIRC delegation literally closing the tent at midnight. Once again one big happy family, what FIRC should and will be. We thank everyone for another great Challenge year, in the next weeks more important news about FIRC#7 will go online. It all looks very good for 2016, but we want things official so stay tuned! 

Preview Kortrijk Rally 

The final event of the season developed in a predictable style since the rally reappeared on the Flemish calendar three years ago now. Over 200 bookings in a couple of days, but the entry list got expanded to 175 cars instead of the usual 150. Plenty of great material starts in Kortrijk with 5 WRC and 6 R5 cars, also the FIRC delegation will be impressive. 

Some FIRC crews decided to skip the event to prepare for the 2016 season, other have their car not ready but most of the top drivers will be there. The long awaited seeding list will be published on Wednesday 18th November. We look forward to this great event and hope for some good FIRC overall results. 

Hemicuda Rally

The first rally after the summer break saw all of the FIRC regulars back in action on the Hemicuda rally.

After some pre event issues, Alex Taylor set off at his usual pace to find that the stages were very slippery. Andy Dawe also matching and occasionally beating Taylor for pace through the early stages in the 2wd Nissan.  Nick West’s challenge faltered with turbo issues which were going to haunt him all day. In the Historic class Richard Williams led Keith Pettit who was suffering a gearbox problem with Mike Smith close up behind in the sunbeam. Mike suffering from another competitor running into his car on the stage.

In 2wd Andy Dawe led from Garry Elswood (Saxo) and Anthony Darou (bmw), followed by Martin DeVere Packford (306) and Iain and Andrew Gibson in their Honda. The brothers suffering with handling issues during the first loop after a suspension bolt came loose.

A very fast rally would take its toll on the competitors with Pettit retiring with engine problems, as did Packford. Andy Dawe retired with reported engine problems and Allan Smith crashed out after a tyre came off the rim. Gavin Smith fared slightly better, a ditch encouraging him in, but escaping to get to the finish 17th overall, albeit with no clutch and a broken exhaust.

Arriving at the finish of an uncharacteristic “safe, clean run” and 17th overall was Alex Taylor and Frank Werner who, subject to confirmation, win the 2015 FIRC championship.

Garry Elswood took after a well-judged run a 42nd overall and a first place in 2WD which gives him a very healthy lead going into Kortrijk.

Richard Williams and Andrew Cowley finished first FIRC Historic and 32nd overall after a last minute issue with the battery shorting out just before the final control.

So we head next to Kortrijk with two out of the three classes still to be decided.  Please remember to get your entries in early to book your place and that the FIRC office is closed until mid-October.

The 2015 final, a preview

It’s still over month to go for Hemicuda Rally. We hope everyone had a relaxing summer holiday, although Anthony Darou, Chris Peart and Tony Clements spent a lot of energy on rebuilding their cars after that dramatic ORC Rally. All crews hope to be back in Hemicuda. Regarding the overall standings,  Alex Taylor still has the best chance to win, in Historic the same can be said about Richard Williams. However both drivers cannot afford any mistake, if so Kortrijk rally will be really interesting. In 2WD class nothing has been decided yet, on top of that Robert Dillon and Anthony Darou return too, so the battle in this class will only be decided in Kortrijk fors ure.

In Hemicuda Rally, the FIRC honours during the event will be done by Neil Dodd and Val Thomson assisted by Ward. In the mean time we also await a solution for booking in to Kortrijk Rally, as well as more details about the new class for 2016 which should be finalised in November.


Double for Dawe in TBR  

The last event before the summer break promised to be very interesting: a new rally for everyone, the long awaited comeback from Andy Dawe with the new Sunny, Andy Egger who won the Driver’s Award for a free start, and the debut of Richard Leggett in the exclusive Alfa GTV in Historic.  

The first stages were very interesting indeed with Taylor, Dawe and Campling scoring similar times, but it all went wrong pretty soon for Taylor, who never got to grips on the slippery stages and finally dropped down the classification after four (!) offs, losing over two minutes and leaving the car in even a more creative shape than it was before. David Campling clearly feels better and better on the Flemish stages but his great efforts were ruined by a broken power steering. This put the road wide open for Andy Dawe who stormed to a much deserved victory after a stressy spring with nothing but trouble on the car. Alex Taylor fought back to 2nd FIRC before Gavin Smith and Nick West who both took important points. No room for error is left for Taylor now, since everyone is doing the two remaining events.  

In 2WD class things look even better than they were. No one came close to Andy Dawe, but all 2WD teams finished and scored points. Andy Egger proved his speed again and came 2nd in class (and 28th overall!) but is not registered, so Garry Elswood is still leading. He will have to face some Nissan fury in the upcoming events. Also Iain Gibson is coming closer, Robert Dillon and Martin De Vere-Packford remain important outsiders running the final events despite having missed two results.  

In Historic finally, no one could threaten Richard Williams but main rival Keith Pettitt came 2nd again and is waiting for a little mistake with the blue machine. Richard Leggett made a great debut navigated by the very experienced Cat Lund, so he could be an important player if he registers for a full season. Lesser news for Henri Hardiment who blew up his engine, but there is the whole summer to fix that. Now we can all relax a bit, we hope to see you back in Hemicuda, in the mean time enjoy your holiday!




Golden Poppy Trophy awarded to Val Thomson

Also this year there was a ceremony at Wervik Rally to remember what the British did for us a century ago. The Golden Poppy Trophy announced earlier on this site went to Val Thomson. Her family got hit very hard with two cousins missing in action during WW1. Matthew Gesson ’s name is on Tyne Cot Cemetary and George Gesson’s name can be found at Menin Gate, both men still rest somewhere in Flanders Fields amongst many others, way over 80000. A third family member, Joseph Waring is to be found in North France. 


Two for Taylor in Wervik  

As bright as the sunshine was, how good it all looked for two drivers in FIRC: Keith Pettitt and Alex Taylor. Mike Smith could not make it and former champ Pat Anderson just had a one off in his smart Galant, so the only thing Keith Pettitt had to do was finishing the event and take important points for the Challenge. Job done despite some gearbox issues and Keith went home with some cups again, a tradition the last couple of years. In TBR his main rival Richard Williams will be back, let us see what this gives. 

Another smiling man was Alex Taylor, whose ultimate goal is to do a ‘Clements’ and win all the events this year. Uptil now the Frosty squad has the right pace and despite a minor off easily won in the abscence of Tony rebuilding his Evo and Andrew Dawe, the quickest man ever in 2WD but still with a headache regarding his engine. Gavin Smith took an honourful second place in front of Nick West who had a happy run and takes important points again. No doubt Nick will be a dangerous outsider if Taylor ever has a DNF. 

Does the above mean it was a boring day? Not really for the 2WD squad, where Martin De Vere-Packford decided his lead was a bit too comfortable and went on chasing Gavin Smith. With some 20 secs difference at the finish, it just did not work but the effort was great. Behind Martin we saw a close fight between Iain Gibson and Garry Elswood until the Honda visited a ditch, unfortunately far away from any spectator. Before the car was pushed on the road again 6 minutes were gone, but a full attack on the last leg made the Gibson brothers end just before Derek Webb, who started his season in Wervik. Further on we also saw interesting times from guest driver Andrew Smith in the all new Ford Pinto Cup, making his debut in our country and keeping a 5th position out of 10 almost identical but a bit more liberal cars. We hope to see the crew back for some more events later on. 

Talking about the near future, we have TBR Rally in about a month before summer break. It will the first time all the regulars will be present, very interesting for some time comparisons. See you then! 



Taylor Dominates Crazy Canal Rally 

The 2015 opening event was driven in wet conditions for the first time in nine years. Althougth that‘s not unusual  in a country used to rain, with stages that have not changed much the last couple of years. A piece of cake one would think... There was certainly one crew that had a trouble free run full of fun: the Race To Recovery boy and girl, safely packed in the Bowler tank, and able to escape independently from ditches when needed. Being one of the Course Cars, the Castrol Cat enjoyed massive attention at the service park during the whole weekend, TV crews included. We thank Royal Marine Grant White, Stephanie Boddez and the whole crew again for being present at the Canal Rally, which looked pretty much like a battlefield in its own way... 

SS1 saw massive drama with the horror crash of reigning champion Tony Clements. Putting a wheel in the grass on high speed was enough to launch his Evo skyhigh. This crash was one of the heaviest seen in Belgium for years, but luckily enough both men were ok; although unfortunately the car was a total write off. Tony and Mark put on brave faces at the FIRC Award Ceremony on Friday, but their recently awarded Chamipionship Cups did not bring any luck at all. Both men felt little of the impact, until they saw the footage afterwards. It could have been a lot more serious, but it didn’t stop them from having a couple of beers later. That’s what we call style! More havoc came a couple of miles further after the restart, when Chris Peart hit a pole and saw his brand new, supersmart looking Nova shortened somewhat. In the meantime, we lost Mike Smith too, whose Sunbeam only made it for a few turns before refusing all duty; and it was the same story for his namesake Allan. His Subaru stopped a couple of times for no apparent reason, and finally stayed dead. With four crews out after the opening stage, the omens were not good. The next victim was newcomer Iain Gibson who had a very good run before his Civic stalled, with another electrical problem. The next car stuck in the servicepark was Martin De Vere-Packford with a broken gear lever, clutch cable and more; far too much to be repaired in time. Despite a full FIRC livery (thx!), there was no chance of  a comeback for Martin. As if this was not enough, Anthony Darou, our only Frenchman in FIRC , crashed into a house at 90mph, leaving the back of his brand new BMW M3 Compact in quite a unique shape. 

Out of the 17 crews at the start, only 7 made it to the finish. Richard Williams, also new to the Challenge, had an exceptional run compared to his peers, enjoying a trouble free and easy win in the Historic. Keith Pettitt drives an identical car, but his engine could not match the power of the BDA in Richard’s vehicle. However, Keith competes in all the events, and Richard doesn’t. Could be interesting at the end of the year.

The remaining 2WD cars both secured Cups. Newcomer Robert Dillon was the unofficial winner but will decide on registering in Wervik, so the official victory in ORC went to... Garry Elswood, very much to his surprise. Garry did not finish a single event last year, which saw him rewarded with a wildcard for 2015, but now he has taken his first ever FIRC victory in 5 years. He finally had  some luck on his side. Robert Dillon was then awarded the general class win - not bad for his Belgian debut. 

The quickest machines all had their own rally. David Campling struggled a bit with pacenotes, tyres, grip and spins, but his pace will certainly improve after he becomes acclimatised to Flemish country roads. The fantastic Escort Cosworth is already a big hit with the Belgian fans, and securing 2nd place in FIRC is a great result in these conditions. No one doubts David will be a dangerous outsider later this year. Nick West was another new name for his year’s Challenge and drove an intelligent rally, taking no risks to gain 3rd place in FIRC. Better settings should allow higher speeds, meaning a gravel modus is unlikely to be the best option on tarmac. Finally, Alex Taylor had a brillant run in his ever spectacular Forester, easily winning the FIRC and finishing 10th overall; a great result which will gain him even more respect in Belgium. No doubt this Canal Rally will be one of the most talked about FIRC events  for a long time. Some crews have serious homework to do, while we expect more new names in Wervik in a fortnight’s time. The competition is certainly hotting up in the Challenge!

Our new sponsors!

You might have noticed some new logos on our site. Both Motorsport Auctions and Corbeau/Luke have decided to join forces with FIRC, this to extend their branding trough mainland Europe.

Motorsport Auctions is now the largest classified advert and auction site dedicated to Motorsport in the UK. Launched only in in 2013, continuous marketing supports its succes and the aim is to become one of the biggest specialised sites worldwide, reaching nearly 350000 visitors each month worldwide. A big part of the FIRC support is to offer our crews a free code to advertise their cars or spares for sale. For more info, just mail Kristof or Graham Lorimer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Corbeau/Luke does not need anymore introduction, since the company provides quality seats and safety harnesses well known to any UK competitor, certainly as a regular sponsor of the ASEMC Tarmac Stage Rally Championship. Great news is the £1000 prize money the company reserves for this year’s FIRC champions! This cash awards will be divided to the winning crews in each category, also a discount of 20% on seats and safety harnesses prices will be given to each competitor. For more infos, contact Kristof or Derek Webb: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Derek is the Corbeau Seats UK Agent and will do the full FIRC in 2015. As a fantastic extra, Derek also has a give away trip to the Prodrive factory to offer! Four persons can go visit the new factory courtesy of Jackie Irwin at the end of this year, details about this visit will be revealed later...

Vic Lee, Managing Director of Corbeau Seats UK wishes all the UK crews a good championship in Belgium!

Needless to say we are very proud to get this great support and confidence from two major players in the UK motorsport business. Each car will get a sticker upgrade at ORC Canal Rally to make some colourful driving.


Rally Update ORC & Wervik 

ORC Canal Rally is about to open the 2015 FIRC season in a couple of weeks now. Bookings have already passed 80 crews, a lot more more will traditionally follow the week before bookings close.  We know not everyone is on the netry list yet but this will be solved in the following days. Interesting news is the course car his time. Race2Recovery team will launch their ex-Dakar Bowler as the 000 car! A demo run off course but still a nice one, so we thank the crew fort heir efforts to come over and do this. Royal Marine Grant White will drive the machine, navigated by their only  Belgian crew member Stephanie Boddez.

Also Wervik Rally has about 80 entries yet, both events will easily pass the 100 crew margin with a limit of 150. Overbookings are not really expected, but one never knows... so do your efforts to be sure. TBR will open their bookings in the following weeks too, for more infos please contact Hans or Rik our check this site & FB.


FIRC Twin Cup 

Not everyone has the time or budget to do a full Challenge, this why we decided to create two small Challenges called Twin Cup, or two cups with two rallies. Twin Cup’ ORBR’ is ORC& TBR, Twin Cup ‘Wervicuda’  is Wervik& Hemicuda. All registered drivers are automatically booked for both, crews wanting to do one or two cups can register separately. All results count, ‘cup’ cups will be handed out at the end of the season.


Golden Poppy Trophy at Wervik Rally 

Last year, the organisers established the John Jack Eden Trophy to commemorate the start of WW1 (for more infos just scroll a bit down). This trophy went to Damien Perkins, victim of a big crash earlier at the day, and was handed over to Pat Anderson on the podium, with Damien recovering from the incident. The organisers found out only later that their commemoration was the very first of many in Belgium but the word was spread anyway.


In 2015, Wervik Rally wil hand out a golden commerorative WW1 coin, a limited edition released by The Belgian Currency House. All UK competitors will receive a mail regarding this subject,we ask  those who had relatives in our area  to let us know. After all fate might decide who will get this medal, like often fate decided on life or death in the trenches,  but it would be appropriate to hand the Trophy over to someone with a special connection to Flanders.


Wildcards & free starts update 

Our list of free starts has had an update. First of all the wildcards, who go to Allan Smith, Garry Elswood and Martin De Vere-Packford. With two to go, we decided to give one away to a former champion, every title counted for the innocent hand... and Andrew Thomson is the lucky winner! For the final free start, we let the teams choose, so this one can be considered as ‘the driver’s award’. No rules, it can be the one who you think is the quickest, the poorest, the most spectacular, the team that paid the most beers, who helped you out, whatever....

Current standings for the free starts: Tony Clements (2): ORC & Hemicuda, Keith Pettitt (2): ORC, Garry Elswood (1): TBR. We kindly ask Keith, Allan, Andrew& Andrew to mail us their choice.


The Awards Presentation

After a short survey amongst the teams about where and when, the results were again very clear. Nearly everyone wanted the the Ceremony with an FIRC event to avoid an extra crossing.This means we will hand over the cups on the Friday evening before ORC Canal rally. Some preferred the party away from a rally to avoid any sort of stress, but there is a whole day and night between the party and the rally, time enough to recover we guess. 


This year’s events

Those who did ORC Canal Rally last year will have a relaxed weekend. The 2015 edition will be an exact copy of 2014, unless road works cause trouble but this looks not be the case (yet). Wervik plans some minor changes, whilst TBR Rally is new for everyone. The format will be 4x4 stages. Where as Wervik is considered as a mini Ypres rally, TBR is the younger nephew of Omloop van Vlaanderen, a well known rally across the Channel. The stages have the same character, the servicepark is even at the same location. Updates on Hemicuda and Kortrijk will follow a bit later on off course. 


A Preview to the coming season

It still takes a couple of months to kick off, but we can already look forward to an exciting Challenge right now. The top trio Clements/Taylor/Thomson is ready for a new battle, while we hope David Campling joins in with his great Escort Cosworth. After a sabbatical, we can also look forward to the return of double champion Andy Rowe and maybe have a fifth title candidate with another Evo, to be confirmed... Also the 2WD looks good, with Andy Dawe and Chris Peart, Derek Webb with a Fiesta S1600, Ed Scott on a 206 and John Coulson on the BMW. Another comeback is the one of regular Martin De Vere Packford in the 306. We hope all crews can do a full season. Historic should see the good old batlle between Keith Pettitt, Peter Horsburgh and Mike Smith, also in this class some new drivers are expected however. If we also get some French regulars to do the full Challenge, it all looks very promising! Wait untill bookings for ORC are open, but we can be sure of an exciting season again. 


Wildcards and free starts

Thanks to five years of FIRC, we could give double free starts this year. ORC Canal Rally is already full, since both Keith Pettitt and Tony Clements chose this rally. Tony also booked Hemicuda, while both Keith and Andy Dawe still have to pick out their event, this for the champion’s choice.


The wildcard question was something else however. We decided to hand a free start over to regulars who had never won anything yet, despite big or reasonable efforts. A shortlist was quickly made, but some crews lack time or budget for 2015. Still we can already confirm two names: Garry Elswood, who did five years of FIRC and got ’awarded’ last year with five DNF’s on five events. Growing pains on the new Saxo, but maybe a Sub 555 could have been a better option? Allan Smith drives one very regularly but some offs, mechanical troubles and a little fire have not really helped the Penguin team in their title hunt the last couple of years. We still have three crews to make happy, maybe we give one away to one of the champions, we will see later. 


Five years of FIRC, a look back


The picture above with the FIRC boy & girl, the 2014 Champs Tony Clements & Mark Andrews and their service crew probably summarises the best of five years rallying in Belgium: a big happy family! Good competition? Sure. Quality stages? Absolutely. Nice hospitality? Yep. Loads of fun? Yes, yes, for sure!! The Flanders Rally Challenge is maybe the smallest of championships on the continent, possibly the biggest non FIA championship around, but certainly the most happy one! Since our kick off in 2010, the vast majority of our guests have become regulars on the Flemish rally scene and have made many new friends. Rally fans constantly ask us which Brits to expect for upcoming events, and top drivers like Alex Taylor, Andy Rowe, Andrew Thomson or Andy Dawe (should we create an Andy Cup in 2015?) generate much respect. Certainly this year’s climax for Clements will not be forgotten...


Several reasons can be found for this success, and it's difficult to pinpoint the main one. The closed public road stages maybe? Could be; although many met the road’s neighbours ditch and stack. It could be the amount of spectators around, who are not only disciplined but also very helpful when mishaps arise. It could also be the drinks that spectators usually consume and inspire our guests. Yes we have loads of breweries, but for some this can be hard to remember after a good night out. Or would it be the human approach to rallying, with scrutineers being kind and helpful, and organisers doing everything possible to keep advancing our beloved sport? Everyone has their own reason, and just a few are mentioned above.


Looking back at five years of action, means for us a constant evolution to make the Challenge run to everyone's satisfaction. In our maiden year, we had no clue what to expect after an intense online campaign, but the quality of the first competitors booking in was a big relief. Quick 4x4x’s driven by Andy Rowe, Andrew Thomson, Guy Anderson or John Morgan; Historic crews with Keith Pettitt, Henri Hardiment, Patrice Wattinne, Les Allfrey and Bill Cook, a load of 2WD cars like those of Martin De Vere- Packford, Eep Borgers, Garry Elswood, Neil Dodd and a division of local French drivers. We even had a German 997 with HW Schewe, and secured almost double the expected entry, which was a great achievement for all of us. The first year also saw some drama with Bill Cook totalling his car and Schewe crashing twice out of two rallies before throwing the towel, but nevertheless the pace was set. Points were given per class only, meaning Andy Rowe, who dominated with 3 wins on 5 finishes, ended equal with Dutchman Eep Borgers as fastest 2WD car with 4 wins but only 4 finishes. How close can it get? Keith Pettitt made it to 3rd overall, winning the unofficial Historic Cup. The most dominant nationality was French however, but apart from Fabrice Wattinne, no team was consistent enough to score a top end result. The best drive of the year was by John Morgan, whose Escort stormed to top position in the overall classification of Oudenburg Rally, just missing victory by 10 secs at the end.


The year after we welcomed a larger Dutch delegation to rival that of the English, with the French drivers being virtually all present again. We said goodbye to the Oudenburg Rally, which was no longer organised, leaving 4 events for the Challenge, and a record breaking entry of 28 foreign crews for ORC Rally. A major change to the regulations meant the Historic Challenge was now run separately from the modern cars. Keith Pettitt won it again despite stiff competition from Les Allfrey, while Andy Rowe continued his pace of the previous year with 3 wins in modern 4x4. Andrew Dawe was a quick newcomer in the newly created 2WD Challenge, but Neil Dodd was the most consistent driver and became 2WD Champion. Victim of the year was undoubtedly Dominic Frattaroli, who totalled his quick Datsun 240Z in ORC; while drive of the year was by Frenchman Henri Bève in the Wervik Rally, winning the overall and the 2WD Challenge, which had not been achieved before.


The third year of FIRC in 2012 saw it restored to a 5 event competition with the addition of newcomer Suikerstreek Rally; rather an atypical event in the North East of Belgium with a unique stage layout. This was not the best year for Andy Rowe having mechanical issues and being unable to complete all the events. Andrew Thomson, who has improved with every rally since he started FIRC, was unbeatable and took his well deserved title; while Les Allfrey also proved his pace and beat Keith Pettitt in Historic. Andrew Dawe took his first 2WD Cup Title and finished a very close second in the general classification despite the presence of the lightning quick 205 of Paul Boxall. This year also saw a very special team award for the Borgers family, with Eep finishing 4th overall, son Marcel 5th and girlfriend Marrie 6th. Quite a family, the Borgerses...


The now well-oiled FIRC machine continued with major changes to the 2013 Challenge layout. Taking into account the numerous suggestions made by the competitors in a large survey, we abolished the start bonus and reduced the points system to 3 categories only: modern 4x4, 2WD and Historic. Another step forward for many was the new registration system, where only exclusive FIRC crews could score points; meaning no guest drivers or one shots could take points away from the regulars. The number of ‘official’ FIRC crews dropped a little as a result, but this system was and is considered to be much fairer by the regulars. Also interestingly, the newly created London Rally for Heroes created a link to the Belgian rallyscene and further exposed the FIRC to the UK. Thought was given to create a second mini Challenge for Belgian crews, a well supported idea across the Channel too. Back in Flanders Fields, both Rowe and Thomson took a sabbatical, but they were replaced by quite a spectacular newcomer: Alex Taylor in the original Subaru Forester. After a very exciting season, Alex took the title, directly followed by Andy Egger and Andy Dawe who saw their efforts for the 2WD title ending on an equal points score, followed by Boxall who did not complete all the events. Egger had one finish more and took the title, quite a surprise to many with a humble Vauxhall Nova, but driving raging mad helps. The Historic title this time went to Pat Anderson in his first full season despite his youthful age of 75 (well, it is the Historic!!), while Frenchman Arnaud Choquet managed to win overall and 2WD in ORC Rally, driving a great M3, Andy Dawe saved the English honours by doing exactly the same in an extremely competitive Kortrijk Rally later on.


Jubilee year 2014 got off to as poor start, as the Suikerstreek Rally which only joined FIRC for two years withdrew from the Flemish calendar; reducing the Challenge to 4 events once again. No more London Rally too, goodbye future plans....With the first 4 Challenges all being decided in the very last event, this year would be very different. With 4x4 title rivals Clements, Taylor and Thomson all showing the same pace in every rally, it was eventually Tony Clements who took it all after a perfect season, never seen before in FIRC. If you don’t crash, don’t spin, don’t puncture and don’t have mechanical problems you can go a whole end. However, if you do, then it’s another story like in 2WD class, where rivals Peart an Dawe both had their moments in almost every rally; with Dawe winning his 2nd 2WD title with a minimal points difference after a dramatic season. Keith Pettitt put all affairs in order and took his 3rd Historic title, making the man King of History in Flanders despite competition from Smith and Horsburgh. After 5 years of doing almost all the events neither regulars like Garry Elswood nor Allan Smith took a cup, but both drivers didn’t seem too bothered after the great fun they have had on the Flemish roads. We also missed Paul Boxall and Guy Anderson, and are sure they could have played a big role in the Challenge.


The future looks very good for FIRC. After being present several times at HRCR Gaydon, Rally Day and Goodwood FOS, and with the support of the IRDC, the Challenge is an established name in the rally scene. Our website takes an average of 13,000 hits per year, quite interesting figures... All the regulars are expected back at the start of the 6th season, and we have the TBR rally to restore the much loved 5 event format. We feel a renewed interest from the French rally scene and an ever growing public interest in the fortunes of the FIRC crews, so let’s go for another 5 years. If the economy does it's bit, then we can only grow bigger. A heartfelt thank you to all the drivers, codrivers, servicemen, friends, families,  sponsors and organisers  who made this great adventure possible! Bring on 2015!!



Some bits for 2015

For the following season, we can already confirm an identical layout, with ORC Canal Rally planned on 30/31 May and Kortrijk Rally on 28/29 November. The full calendar will be published in January, but both Wervik and Hemicuda Rally should be scheduled around the same dates as this year. A fifth event could be added, there might also be some changes on the licensing system but for more details we have to await the meetings with RACB and VAS. We also look forward to the entries for the new Historic class for cars op to ‘91, and finally we will fix a date for the prize giving ceremony in spring. To be continued...


Clements scores ‘fourtrick’ in Kortrijk

What a final! With 3 WRCs, 6 R5s, 5 Porsches and a fleet of Evos en GTs, the 2014 season couldn’t dream of a better ending. A very tight battle for the top ten positions under a sunny blue sky made the picture complete. Since the title battle got decided in Hemicuda, several crews decided not to make the extra crossing to save on budget for next year, whilst mechanical headaches forced a couple of teams to stay in their workshop. The most important withdrawal was the one of Chris Peart, the only remaining driver able to beat Andy Dawe for the 2WD Cup. Late bookers stood no chance too: over 180 entries in two days for 130 starts, later extended to 150. With all the champions now known, the fight for a good overall finish was the main goal for those who were present.

Alex Taylor made a rocket start on the opening show stage on Saturday by setting a 15th time overall, a better result was ruined by a slower car blocking the Forester for over a mile. Over 2000 spectators enjoyed Frosty’s sideways speed however. The opening stage on Sunday was finished as 12th overall, until the third stage was not finished... A tricky bend and a deep ditch ended the hunt for top ten brutally, quite a lot of damage on the Subaru will make Alex know what to do this winter, the Belgian fans sincerely hope to see the man and the car back next year. 2014 Champion Clements decided to take a careful start on the tricky stages and finally clinched a 20th overall position, very well done given the massive horsepower present at the start. The trouble free run of Tony and Mark also resulted in a never seen achievement in five years of FIRC: a crew that wins all the events! A truly unique performance that will be hard to beat the following years. Finally Les Allfrey had his last run of the season too, finishing halfway in the Historic field. Next year, Les will focus on some home events with a new car, one rival ‘less’ for Historic FIRC then. After this hugely successfull Kortrijk Rally, we can look back at another great FIRC season and take some time to refuel and prepare next year’s events. We wish everyone a great end and beginning of the year, and also all the best in preparing, (re)building or buying rally machinery. See you in 2015!

Hattricks and champions at Hemicuda

We already had some important news before the start of the event. Peter Horsburgh decided to end his quest for the Historic title, regular Allan Smith couldn’t make it to the event while Alex Taylor had to throw the towel with a broken Subaru after a home event the weekend before, which reduced the title battle to only two remaining rivals: Evo men Tony Clements and Andrew Thomson. The former could ‘relax’ with two consecutive wins, while the latter desperately needed a victory to keep some small hopes remaining on a second title. The pace was great, both crews had their moments, but still no difference was made on stage. Only one sec divided both teams at the start of the last leg, but as we all know life isn’t fair. Andy Thomson and navi Richard Vincent were betrayed by an alternator refusing all duties on the third to last stage, leaving both very disappointed after quite an unlucky season so far. This anticlimax finally released all pressure from Tony Clements and Mark Andrews, who claimed their very first Challenge title in their first full season. With three wins in three events, they had a perfect season so far, many congratulations! Eighth overall is a neat result too, needless to say the crew was more than happy.

More congratulations for some smiling faces in a red Escort, where Keith Pettitt and James McCulloughs copied the results of the red Evo (again), taking their third consecutive win in the season resulting in their third FIRC Historic title. This makes them the most succesfull FIRC crew now, beating double champion Andy Rowe. Could this motivate Andy to a comeback next year? Second position went to regular Les Allfrey, while Mike Smith claimed third place after quite an eventful weekend, with the Avenger breaking down four times on and off stage, and doing it a fifth time before the final run on the podium. The unfortunate crew was classified anyway, so everyone happy after a day of hard work and loads of stress, some call this a hobby.

The only remaining title to be decided is the 2WD one. Andrew Dawe made a very quick start, even beating the Evo’s on the first stages, but all the efforts were for nothing after a broken break disc was discovered at service. Chris Peart couldn’t take any advantage of this situation, his Astra was also parked at service with an alternator on strike. This meant FIRC regular Garry Elswood could grab his first and much deserved win in the Challenge... hadn’t a broken gearbox mount decided otherwise! In the fitfth year of FIRC, this was his fifth start and fifth DNF of the season, we should invent a special award for Garry and ask 555 for sponsorship.

Only three of the seven registered FIRC crews reached the final podium, also guest driver David Campling in the magnificent Escort Cosworth fell victim to one of the many ditches, without damage however, let’s call it a typical Belgian debut. Certainly a car and a crew we hope to meet again in 2015, in the mean time we have 6h of Kortrijk first. Massively overbooked already, there is no more chance to register but all the main player will be there, so we look forward to finish off the season in big style, see you in November!

6 Hours of Kortrijk: book now!

We urgently advise all crews wanting to enter the FIRC final event to book NOW! Online two days after reservations opened, already 100 teams booked their entry, needless to say the limit of 130 cars will be reached very quickly... For all enquiries about the event, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. We look forward to see you again this weekend for a hopefully not too muddy Hemicuda Rally, but the rain gods seem to be very active the last few days!

preview Hemicuda Rally

One month to go for the start of the second season half, and Hemicuda rally already promises to be a big hit. Thanks to the efforts of the organisers, the number of SS has doubled, meaning the 5x2 schedule of the last years has been changed to 3x4. Two of the stages are brand new, meaning many crews are waiting to discover them. Challengewise we look forward to an excellent battle in every class, no one can afford a DNF with only two remaining rallies this year. There is no limit to the number of entries on Hemicuda, so we look forward to a great event!

Clements takes epic Wervik Rally

Nobody doubted Wervik Rally would give the same thrill we saw before in ORC Rally. Nearly 30 international teams booked in, including French top driver Laurent Bayard being the main favourite for overall victory, and all the FIRC regulars very much ready for some good action. Only Allan Smith had to cancel his entry, the Subaru did not get repaired in time after his moment in ORC Rally. Still, the opening leg did not exactly give the fight for seconds everyone expected. Both Andy Thomson and Alex Taylor took a flying start, but both lost time with some scary moments and a spin for Taylor. Tony Clements could have taken advantage of all this, but lost even more time with a broken rim on SS2, followed by a puncture on SS3 half stage. This meant the top six of the Challenge drivers, 2WD’s included, were all very close together after two legs, so some work had to be done. However, the field soon got startled with lesser news from Damien Perkins who hit a phone stack at high speed. Despite a totalled car, Damien only suffered some painful ribs and navi Guido Stroobant a broken leg. Things could have been a lot worse given the carnage, FIRC hopes the crew recovers well from this nasty incident. When the rally went back to pace, Andy Thomson had the most comfortable position leading the pack, followed by Taylor who had to calm things a bit down with a broken engine mount, hoping to resist to a storming Clements doing all he could to make up the lost time. However, the last two stages would deliver some serious drama, when Thomson lost time with a puncture, putting him next to Alex Taylor... who then lost it all by missing a loop on the last stage, a serious time penalty dropped the Frosty squad way down. Hard to believe but more bad luck was yet to come when Thomson saw his diff go on the very last stage, so a more than surprised Clements took his second consecutive win. A well granted victory still, after an eventful day on full attack modus. Would Tony do a hat trick in Hemicuda?

Wervik Rally was also one leg too long for Chris Peart, who gave Andy Dawe some good competition during the whole day. Mechanical issues stopped the Astra on the second to last stage, so Dawe took victory with FIRC newcomers David Town and Ben Greenfield finishing second 2WD on their Belgian debut, after a nice duel with guest driver Cunnington. Needless to say the competition in 2WD gets really interesting now, with 3 crews having one result and two rallies to go! Historic class looked promising too, but FIRC regular Hardiment did not end leg one with a Mini refusing all duties. Peter Horsburgh and Keith Pettitt had a battle all day long, but a straight trough from Horsburgh ended his attacks with Challenge points in mind. Pat Anderson made it to third, but the rest of his season is unsure due to a forthcoming surgery and the expected recovery. Certainly worth mentioning is the overall victory of French guest driver Laurent Bayard, who is the first non Belgian able to win Wervik Rally ever, while the John Jack Eden Trophy was dedicated to Damien Perkins after his unpleasant adventure earlier in the day. His Trophy got collected by Pat Anderson who celebrated his 76th birthday on the podium, accompanied with two bag pipe players performing the Australian anthem. FIRC will now head to Goodwood Festival of Speed, thanks to the efforts of the International Rally Drivers Club. Join us at the Rally Stage, some Belgian Beers will be shipped over for the occasion. For those who cannot make it, enjoy the summer and see you all back in a couple of months!

John Jack Eden Trophy in Wervik Rally

To do their bit in commemorating the Centenary, Wervik Rally Organisation has decided to establish a special trophy for UK teams the following 4 years, named after a soldier of the Great War. This Trophy will be given to a UK team of choice, decided after the rally by the organisers. The 2014 Trophy is dedicated to Lieutenant John Jack Eden, the brother of Sir Anthony Eden, prime minister from 1955 on.

Being on a patrol early morning on October 17th 1914, the platoon were attacked by a German division. John Jack Eden died instantly near the small village of Kruiseke and got buried on the spot. When his sister Marjorie visited the area after the Great War had ended, she couldn’t find the grave and only found out later the body was moved to Larch Wood Cemetery nearby. To commemorate her brother and the men who had fallen, she wanted a wooden cross to be placed near the church of Kruiseke. But being a very small town, Kruiseke did not have a church..., however thanks to a financial donation of the Eden family, a small chapel got erected in 1928, followed later on by a modest church in the village centre. The first ceremony was held on March 19th 1929. The church is still there and got a white stone Memory Plate in 1988, inaugurated by John Eden (the Lieutenant’s cousin) and Clarisa Churchill (Sir Anthony Eden’s widow and niece of Winston Churchill). The Wervik area roughly made part of the Plugstreet Wood area, where also Winston Churchill and a certain Adolf H. served, the last one got wounded and treated in the nearby village of Linselles, just across the French border near Wervik. Being occupied by the Germans, the whole area suffered constant attacks and suffered severe bombing damage. The St. Medardus Church of Wervik nearby the rally centre was used as a German headquarter including a hospital facility and horse stables, the church tower was used as an observation post.

This story (amongst many more) was written down by Wervik Rally organiser Filiep Forrest’s father, inspired on the stories being told by his father, who served in the Great War as a member of the Belgian Army.

Initials: J
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Lieutenant
Regiment/Service: 12th (Prince of Wales's Royal) Lancers
Age: 26
Date of Death: 17/10/1914
Additional information: Son of Sir William and Lady Sybil Frances Eden, of Windlestone Hall, Ferryhill, Co. Durham. Older brother of Anthony Eden, Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1955 to 1957.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: IV. D. 6.

Clements claims Canal Rally

The kick-off for our Jubilee year couldn’t be better. A total of 16 entries, with some new names, gave the best hopes for a great rally. Tony Clements, who decided to do the full series this year after some guest rallies in 2013, took the quickest start and eventually led from start to finish. Sounds like an easy win, but Alex Taylor and Andrew Thomson chased the Evo the whole rally within a handfull of secs. Clements squeezed everything out of his car the last leg, just to win with some 20” in front of Taylor and his occasional Belgian navi Frank Werner, directly followed by Andrew Thomson on...1”! This top 3 finished respectively on 18th, 22 and 23th position overall. Allan Smith could have made it to 4th FIRC, but a puncture led the Subaru stuck in a Flanders Field on the second to last stage. FIRC newcomer Damien Perkins, Australian (!) but Brussels based, never got that far. A broken diff forced him to leave the rally after SS2. Even more havoc in the 2WD class, where favourite Andrew Dawe did not finish stage 1 due to a broken driveshaft. Later on also Neil Dodd, guest driver this year, and Garry Elswood had to park their car with mechanical issues. This layed the road wide open for newcomer Chris Peart, who not only took victory in his first FIRC event, but also managed to finish as only 2WD drive car. Guest driver David Coulson eventually finished second, but only did ORC as a one-off and scored no points. We look forward to their plans for a full 2015 series, since the pace is obviously there.
The Historic division had its drama too. Peter Horsburgh lost 10’ on stage 2 with electrical issues but had a troublefree run afterwards. Newcomer Mike Smith was on his way for a good result too but saw his horses swapped into donkeys halfway the rally and had to throw the towel, followed shortly afterwards by 2013 Champion Pat Anderson with an alternator refusing all duty. All this gave double champion Keith Pettitt a rather relaxed run to the finish, taking victory in ORC after a coupe of less successfull events the years before. Peter Horsburgh lost too much time to fight back but took important points for the championship ending 2nd FIRC Historic.
Overall victory was for Patrick Snijers, followed on 1’ by local men Lefevere who too 2nd and Viaene, who made his debut in the brand new Porsche 997. Between the 140 teams, we saw more 997’s and WRC’s, amongst the traditional fleet of Evo’s and BMW’s. Rallying is more alive than ever in Belgium! The next FIRC event, Wervik Rally in a fortnight, can also count on an impressive entry list, including several R5 cars coming to prepare Ypres rally the week after. No doubt the FIRC line up will be good too, with the occasional guest teams doing this great event and the expected battle between the top drivers in all three classes. Close racing ahead!

2014 preview

With some two weeks to go, FIRC 2014 will kick off at ORC Canal Rally. The layout is identical to 2013, so nobody doubts our regulars will go even quicker than last year. Plans for a new stage were cancelled due to road works, a neverending story... A fortnight later we hope to see everyone back for the 40th edition of Wervik Rally, another anniversary this year. This rally will see a very different itinerary compared with previous years. SS Wervik only has minor changes, but SS Geluwe and SS Kruiseke will be entirely new. Wervik Rally will also offer a special cup for British crews to do their part in commemorating WW1, more news later.
After the summer break, we will be back for Hemicuda Rally, where the organisers have good hopes on returning to a three stages layout again, after a couple of years of Short Rally with only two stages. This might also affect the schedule of the rally in its well-known format, but it is still a bit early to get all the details. The same can be said from 6hrs of Kortrijk, where the organisers undoubtedly will finetune the very successful maiden edition of 2013. However, with some new names on the 2014 Challenge, we look, forward to have an excellent battle again, not to forget the great atmosphere afterwards!

5 years of FIRC: double free starts to win

To celebrate our jubilee year, each organiser will give two free starts for 2015. Two for the Champion, both one for Historic and 2WD Challenge, so four in total since Suikerstreek Rally will not be organised this year. This means we have four extra wildcards for 2015, those will be given to regular crews who never managed to win anything the last couple of years, despite all their brave efforts.

points system update

During last year’s season, we heard many suggestions for a further update. We asked everyone to sum up their ideas during the winter break, over two thirds of our regular crews responded to this survey (thank you all!!), luckily all the noses were pointed more or less in the same direction. Here are the most important results:
- most crews preferred to ban the regularity bonus of x1.2, x1.3,... and focus on the results per rally. So from 2014 on, this bonus is gone which means that teams who can not enter all the events stand a better chance in the championship.
- everyone thought that the points system per class + overall bonus was far too complicated. This system is revised too, points will be given in three classes only: modern 4x4, modern 2WD and Historic + overall bonus for the modern cars. This brings the fast 2WD’s even closer to the 4x4’s.
- everyone supported the idea of points for registered teams only, so this system will be kept at the same fee.
- a joker event (double points on a rally of choice) or a scratch result were both rejected, mainly because FIRC 2014 will count four events. This means a very good or very bad points score in one event can ruin the whole season.
- for the new 2014 Team Challenge, the two best results per team will be nominated. We have to know who formes which team before ORC, so there is plenty of time left. Each team can swich nominated cars per event, again, let us know in time...

Needless to say all the above has been simulated on the results of the past years. The top three per categorie stayed in any case the same, only the points differences were a lot smaller. This means we look forward to an even more tense Challenge in 2014. The full list of modifications will be published soon in the regulations, those who have particular questions, please refer to Ward.

Calendar 2014

31/5-01/6: ORC Canal Rally
13-14/6: Geko Wervik Rally
11-12/10: Hemicuda Rally
22-23/11: 6 uren van Kortrijk

Preview 2014

Next year is jubilee year : five years of FIRC! When we look back at the past four years, we can bring nothing but positive news. A steady growth in competitors resulted in big interest for certain events, with often more than twenty crews at the start. A nice evolution the last couple of years is the steady growth in guest drivers who enjoy one or two events and have very positive comments afterwards, not only about the rally itself but certainly about the great atmosphere around. The links with the Belgian rally scene have clearly been well made, with many new friendships as a result. The respect for the international crews is big, we just wait for the first FIRC couple now. Despite the Challenge mainly being an Anglo-Dutch association, we get more and more demand from French and recently even German teams, the ultimate proof that our Challenge concept is a winning formula. Who needs big machines if one can have loads of friends instead, some positive rivalry at the stages included?

The 2014 Calendar is ready too, we just wait on more news from Suikerstreek Rally. Further on we expect few changes to the presented dates. Wervik Rally will get a makeover next year, Kortrijk also plans an evolution on their successful debut. ORC and Hemicuda will remain largely unchanged. Needless to say we hope to welcome you all again for our fifth birthday next year!

The 2013 winners:

FIRC champions: Alex Taylor – Mike Herrington (UK)
Historic champions: Pat Anderson – Graham Tuer (UK)
2WD Challenge winners: Andy Egger – Val Thompson (UK)
Codrivers champion: Val Thompson (UK)
Best team: Borgers Rallysport (NL)
Best ladies team: Marrie Borgers – Wea Smilde (NL)
Best presented car: Arnaud Choquet - BMW M3 e30 (F)

Dawe and Taylor win in Kortrijk



Many expected this rally to be the success of the year, and proof was given in booking: a full house in three days, never seen before! All the Challenge contenders booked early however, so the battle for the two remaining titles promised to be quite lively. Rain and mud were well presented in and around Kortrijk, making the stages extremely slippery. The FIRC crews kept their heads cool however, and made it to a splendid final.
Maybe the most worried driver all day was Alex Taylor, who only had to finish to be sure of the title, but suffered from clutch problems from stage one, an oil leak and electrical problems didn’t really help either. In the mean time, Andy Dawe found a very good pace and led FIRC from start to finish, even beating several local 4x4’s, needless to say the champagne tasted very good on the podium. A double win is very rare, Andy is only the third driver to achieve this result. Andrew Egger attacked the whole event in an ultimate attempt to catch the title on Taylor, but finally got stranded in second place after having led the Challenge the second half of the season. Andy was rewarded with the 2WD cup title however, whilst navigator Val Thomson took the codriver championship, not bad for a little Nova and his very happy crew. Gavin Smith and Richard Vincent finally finished as fourth FIRC crew after a smooth run.
The overall title went to Alex Taylor, finishing 2nd, whose last rally of the season summarised more or less his eventful season including an off, an event without pacenotes and now without clutch. The least we can say is that this title is very well deserved, and we can be sure to see Frosty back on our roads next year.
Many congratulations to all the winners , now we prepare for 2014 where FIRC will celebrate his 5th birthday, time goes fast!

Preview 6 hours of Kortrijk

The final round of FIRC 2013 will be very interesting, despite only 8 international teams were able to enter this massively popular event, fully booked in less than 4 days with 130 crews on the entry list and a couple of dozens on the waiting list. The Historic boys already ended their season with Pat Anderson as the 2013 Historic Champion, now we have to wait who will catch the overall title and the 2WD cup. The battle will be decided between Alex Taylor, Andy Egger and Andrew Dawe. Online footage of the stages are online, as well as the entry list, see you all soon for the last rally this year. On Saturday Eve, we all gather for a pint, maybe we will need this to prepare for a rally day that announces itself to be very cold and wet.

6 Hours of Kortrijk: book early!

Bookings will open at the first of October for this brand new rally. If you want to be sure of your entry, book as quickly as possible given the massive interest for the event. Your contact is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. who will be in the good rythm after Hemicuda. Prize giving will be done on the ramp at the finish of the rally on Sunday. We are currently looking to organize a little party for our foreign guests on Saturday eve, more news later.

FIRC at Rally Day

This year, the Challenge will be represented by Alex Taylor at Castle Combe. We thank the Frosty squad for the effort and hope they have a nice day out with Challenge regulars Paul Boxall, Theresa Butler and Gary&Carol Lomas who announced their presence too.

Taylor takes two at Hemicuda

With Omloop van Vlaanderen the weekend before, the Béthune rally on the same date and Hellendoorn the weekend after, Hemicuda was squeezed in between too many events . The 2013 title will certainly go to the UK again without Dutch or French crews at the start. Alex Taylor had the best car for the tricky stages and drove a consistant rally, gently getting to grips with his new, much lighter Forester, finishing 9th overall. Andy Dawe won the 2WD Cup as expected and was very happy his Sunny ran like a Swiss clock the whole day. Challenge leader Egger came 3rd FIRC driver and still stands a very good chance on winning the Challenge and/or the 2WD cup. Allan Smith finished right behind Egger after an interesting day in and around Koekelare. Less luck for Gavin Smith who went off early in the morning, meaning a lesser Challenge points score for codriver Richard Vincent, leaving Val Thomson unbeatable now. Historic leader and 2013 champion Pat Anderson didn’t have his best event either making quite a crash on the opening leg, putting the road to victory wide open for Keith Pettitt, who took his second win in a row.



Preview Hemicuda Rally

The FIRC final starts at Hemicuda. Those who want the title will have to put down a good result to keep their chances high. Entries are coming in steadily for the moment for a rally that has not a limitation on entries. For more information about Hemicuda Rally, please check out with This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at the site www.hemicuda.be.

Taylor takes first win at Suikerstreek

Some unexpected withdrawals promised Suikerstreek to be a very interesting rally. French topdriver Choquet couldn’t make it due to missing parts to repair his M3 after the Wervik damage, so teammate Triplet decided not to enter too, leaving both very disappointed regarding their Challenge standings. Both Allan Smith and Martin De Vere-Packford were also forced to stay home, so Alex Taylor was the top favourite regarding the earlier announced abscence of Rowe and Thomson. First leader however was Paul Boxall, who even stormed his 205 in the top five overall. Andrew Dawe launched the big attack too, leaving the Frosty crew with some big questions. Blocked brake pads caused a lack of top speed, once this problem sorted Alex pushed very hard to finally clinch his first FIRC win, closely followed by Andrew Dawe who took 2WD victory only secs before a very disappointed Boxall. This trio also took an amazing 8,9 and 10th overall, with only 21 secs in between, closely followed by Dutch guest driver Verbaas. Especially the pace of Dawe and Boxall were absolutely amazing, leaving many quicker Belgian cars behind them (really no reason to be disappointed Paul!!). A bit further down, we find Eep and Marrie Borgers who take much needed Challenge points. Last FIRC position went surprisingly to Andy Egger, who set some great stage times but then seriously went off into a potato field. Despite many helping hands, it took almost half an hour before the Nova was dug out and put on the road again, impossible to make up such a loss of time. With three different winners on three events, the 2013 Challenge couldn’t be more exciting, also the 2WD battle is extremely close now.
The Historic squad finally saw Keith Pettitt back in action after severe engine troubles earlier this year. Keith took a much deserved win before Pat Anderson, who had nothing to do more than finish 2nd and grab a massive points score again. In the abscence of Peter Horsburgh who couldn’t repair his Mini in time after the Wervik crash, Pat looks to be virtually unbeatable in the Historic standings now. However the last word hasn’t been said for the runner up position. Next meeting in September, in the mean time we wish everyone a very happy holiday!



preview Rallyshort Suikerstreek

Round 3 could have a big influence on the standings. Andy Rowe cannot make it due to professional reasons and will probably not start in Hemicuda too, while 2012 champion Thomson gets a wrist operation days before. His codriver Richard Vincent is actually very keen on doing the event and is looking for a driver, if you have a seat for Richard please mail Kristof. Top favourites amongst the FIRC regulars are Choquet and Taylor, but the reappearing Paul Boxall will be very quick too, the same can be said about Andy Dawe if the Nissan gets repared in time. The organisers have arranged a big BBQ on Saturday eve, costs 20 euros pp, please refer to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to give the number of guests you bring along, Björn will also answer all your questions regarding this great little rally with a brand new stage. The plans for a rally hotel are a bit changed due to a lack of available rooms, this week all competitors will get an email with detailed information on accomodation and the BBQ, all in the city centre of Tienen. See you soon!




King Rowe returns in Wervik

With 114 cars and no less than 27 FIRC crews on the entry list, everyone looked forward to some great battles. Unfortunately, things went badly wrong very early. It all started disastrous for Alex Taylor on Friday, a pretty chaotic day ruined his recce plans and the Frosty crew started without any pacenotes, actually without any clue on Saturday. Things got even worse for Frenchman Triplet, who did not even make the start of the first stage due to an overheating engine, an emergency intervention could not solve the problem. Half an hour later, Didier was joined by his teammate and Challenge leader Choquet who suffered from a damaged front suspension and lost his front left wheel. The only remaining action was the fight between Wervik rookies Andy Egger and Tim Daltry, who made his debut to Belgian soil. Tim had an excellent rally and finished a couple of secs before Egger who threw his Nova around every corner again, much appreciated by the spectators. Tim is not registered however, so Andy took the 2WD Cup. Eep Borgers and Andy Dawe, who was forced to enter the Seat again due to a broken Nissan gearbox in ORC, both took a steady run and scored important Challenge points after their issues in the opening event. Less luck for John Wood, for the occasion navigated by Richard Vincent. The Subaru gearbox broke halfway the rally, also Subaru collegue Allan Smith suffered from the same problem but could still make it to the end, the first time Allan got to the finish in Wervik after three less successfull attempts. In front of the rally, no one could even get close to Andy Rowe. FIRC victory has probably never been easier for Andy and Cat, who decided to take their chances on the overall classification and eventually took a stunning 5th in front of many surprised Belgians, quite often in quicker cars... Second FIRC position was for Tony Clements who reappeared after a couple of years of inactivity and proved he still has the skills, 3rd was for Alex Taylor who made a massive progress on the day, even putting Frosty on 16th overall. Really great given the circumstances!
In Historic division, 2012 champ Alfrey immediately set the pace, but was closely followed by Peter Horsburgh who quickly adapted to the difficult stages. However, Peter got a bit overenthusiast and ditched the Mini, even putting the car on its roof. Luckily the spectators could (litterally) take the ligtweight car out and put it on the road again. Despite 12’ lost, Peter still finished the rally. But to finish first, you first have to finish, Less luck for Les on that topic, who made a mistake at the last leg and gave FIRC victory away to Pat Anderson! A fantastic present for Pat, who celebrated his 75th birthday! He also shares Historic lead now with Peter Horsburgh, whilst some modern guys made op some good Challenge points too, thanks to the new point system for registered teams. Suikerstreek will be very interesting...

Wervik & Suikerstreek news

On the Wervik Rally site, you can find onboard images from all the stages, this will allow you to make an excellent preparation. Bookings are rushing in now, so do not hesitate too long to enter. Regs for Suikerstreek Rally are also online on their site, the rally has a brand new stage this year. We are currently looking for a hotel deal to fit all interested FIRC crews in the same spot, and maybe have a little party on Saturday. More news soon.





Rookies dominate ORC Canal Rally

Despite a couple of last minute redrawals, the Jim Clark Rally and Epynt in the UK and ELE in Holland, we still got 17 crews at the start at Oostrozebeke. From the first stage on, the battle promised to be very interesting with double champion Andy Rowe, Andy Dawe in the improved Sunny kitcar, Paul Boxall in his brandnew 205, defending champion Andrew Thomson and newcomer Alex Taylor in the exclusive Forester all finishing within seconds. The second stage already made a very early shift however, Dawe’s gearbox broke and Taylor made a somewhat traditional entry in Flanders when ditching in one of the 1000 gravelcorners. Thomson found inspiration in this and did exactly the same later on, which left us only with a battle between a rather relaxed Rowe and Boxall who pushed his 205 on the limit on every corner on every stage, trying to beat the Evo. No one actually expected a return from a certain Arnaud Choquet in his smart M3, who took a cautious start and seemed to settle for third. The fast Frenchmen, who made his debut in ORC for a full FIRC this year, steadily put his rythm higher each leg and squeezed everything out of his beemer on the final stages, resulting in an overall win with only 10 secs in front of Andy Rowe, while Boxall took a much deserved 3rd overall, unfortunately just not enough to catch 2WD victory which also went to Choquet.
It is only the second time a crew takes both the overall FIRC win and the 2WD cup, this was done before in 2011 in Wervik by Henri Bève, French too. It looks like the French take all or nothing, but we can already be sure that Choquet will be a serious contender for the 2013 Challenge, doing all the events. A bit further down the field, we find Andy Egger who never had a really good chance to defend his chances due to shifting problems. Andy ended just in front of Allan Smith however, who had the scare of his life when he spun around at top speed early in the rally, despite this action he still ended in front of Didier Triplet, Choquet’s teammate in an identical M3 who made his reappearance in rallying after three years of inactivity. Dutch regular Borgers crashed his car with the finish in sight, also Martin De Vere-Packford didn’t see the podium despite a rebuilt car.
Historic was full rookie battle with Peter Horsburgh against maybe the oldest rookie in the world Pat Anderson. Without too many problems, both teams had a good rally and Peter already has his first win in his first FIRC event. Keith Pettitt will be back at Wervik though, after his engine blew days before the event and had to cancel his entry, also champion Les Allfrey will make his reappearance in two weeks. FIRC 2013 certainly looks to be very tense again!

IRDC Nations Cup

FIRC is proud to announce the 2013 Nations Cup, an initiative supported by the International Rally Drivers Club. The Britons look to have the best chances since they outnumber the other nationalities, but only the 3 best results per country count, so one never knows....

Preview ORC Canal Rally!

This season’s opener promises nothing but good. Being fully booked, we can look forward to a great battle between our regulars who are all there again. However, champion Thomson and his quick collegues Rowe, Dawe en Borghers could get some stiff competition from a certain Alex Taylor in his original Subaru Forester gr.A. Alex made an easy 10th at Monteberg and is determined to set some powerful results this year. Another promising newcomer is Frenchman Arnaud Choquet in his BMW M3 E30, who already proved his speed in Staden two years ago and also does a full FIRC season now. From the same country comes Monsieur Triplet with a similar car. Further up north, Dutchman Van Middendorp is back, in the company of Van Vreede on a same car. In the historic division, Peter Horsburgh is new to FIRC and has to defend the UK Mini pride and try to beat double champion Pettitt, in the abscence of Les Allfrey who will back in Wervik.
The battle for the general positions will fierce too, with both ex-winners Lietaer (Sub WRC) and Belgium’s fastest lady Debackere (Focus WRC), who will be challenged by local men Cornelis (Sub WRC), Soenens (Fiesta WRC), Braeckevelt (M3), Claerhout (Porsche 997) or Bal (Evo X). The organisers are also very proud to have national stars Freddy Loix (E36 M3) and Patrick Snijers (BMW 1M) at the start, along with the traditional fleet of M3’s and other Evos.

Full house again for ORC Canal Rally!

Last call for the UK teams who want to register for the 1st FIRC round. The event has already noted over 100 bookings, so do not hesitate to enter if you want te be sure to start. It looks like the rally will be overbooked (again) by the end of next week.

preview 2013

We still have an end to go before our first event kicks off, but the first newsfacts are coming in. Important to know is that newcomer 6 hours of Kortrijk has a new date: November 24th. The other events keep their date, so the 2013 calendar is confirmed now. ORC Canal Rally returns to a ’one day’ format, the SSS will no longer be organised in 2013. It was really cool for the crowds, but required a big effort from the organisation without a real added value for the competitors. The 4x3 stages will be as good as identical to the 2011 edition. Round two, GEKO Wervik Rally will have the same schedule, while also Suikerstreek Rally keeps the ‘short’ format with 5x2 stages. Hemicuda Rally is working on their stage plans yet, but we can already confirm that FRC-contact Jan Verschaeve will have the same function in the 6 hours of Kortrijk, so at least you will have a familiar face to respond to your questions. We are happy to announce that interest in FRC 2013 is remarkably big. If all plans get realised, we can look forward to an impressive international delegation this year.
*UPDATE* Hemicuda Rally changed dates. The new date is September 15th in stead of 29th!

VAS-contribution 2013

The technical regulations remain unchanged for this new season, but new to FRC 2013 is the VAS-contribution of 80.00 euros per (co)driver per FRC-season. This is due to the increasing number of (inter)national teams who take part in VAS-events. The federation misses a lot of licensing rights this way, earlier negociations with RACB failed. This contribution, to be paid on any FRC event to VAS, will then automatically count as an FRC-registration, so one-shots can no longer grab points from the FRC regulars. The VAS-contribution for one single rally will be 55.00 euros for all none VAS drivers, so 80.00 euros for five events is a bargain, FRC thanks VAS for this exception. We also revised our points system slightly, a start will get a better reward, resulting in more points for the regulars. A non-finish will cost you less. More info about this with Ward.




provisional fixtures 2013

The FRC calendar 2013 is online now, please note the dates are provisional and have to be confirmed the following weeks by VAS. Although we do not expectect major changes, some dates might change. If this happens, you will be informed asap. We have five rallies again for the new season, with a great newcomer: the ‘6 hours of Kortrijk’. This legendary rally was organised in the 70’s and 80’s, and had a serious reputation within the rallyscene, due to the very difficult stages, tricky, hilly and superfast. The city of Kortrijk has a new mayor new, Vincent Van Quickenborne. Not only a motorsport fanatic, but also an occasional codriver alongside local star Tuur Vandenabeele. Needless to say the organisers can’t wait to kick off this great new event. More news about the organisation will be online in the following months, but we can already confirm the rally will have a compact style similar to the other FRC events.

FRC Party & Award Cermony 2012 in Ypres,

As already mentioned, we welcome all of you for our annual FRC Party on November 24th . To make things easy, we meet in “De Klepper”, the same Hall as we did last year, here you will find a link to the location. De Klepper is only a 10’ walk from Ypres town centre, also easily accessible by car for those who stay out of the centre, with a large parking. Avoid the Menin Gate area, blocked for road works. Look forward to self made food again, this year we will serve you Cassoulet, traditional Flemish stew, of course our local vegetable stew will be back, all made fresh on the day. Afterwards a coffeetable, but we also proudly present a wide selection of special Belgian beers, accompanied by local cheeses. All the beers can be tasted and bought on the spot. As usual, co(drivers) enjoy for free, guests pay 20 euro pp. Do not wait too long to book, since we already have over 50 reservations now. We look forward to see all of you back soon!

Thomson wins Hemicudan thriller

The 2012 final started off in the worst possible conditions. Heavy rain the week before the rally turned the stages into ice skating rings, already resulting in some havoc during recce. The Sun on Sunday was only a good fact for the spectators. All teams started rather careful given the very tricky conditions, but still we had an early victim. Fabrice Wattinne kept his Saab on the road, but saw his his brake fluid go on the podium after the first leg. 2012 is clearly not the best season for our French regular. This meant the Historic battle had to be fought out between the remaining UK crews of Allfrey, Petitt and Lomas. Gary decided not to interfere in the fight for victory and keep the TR7 in showroom condition, it worked very well and made the crew 3rd FRC historic. Keith Pettitt and Les Allfrey both had a Challenge plan before the start, but then decided to forget about it after the first couple of stages and simply go for the pace. After a superb bit of rallying, Keith finally won FRC Historic class after quite an unlucky season, while Les took the FRC Historic title despite some scary moments with a stuck throttle cable. Very well done in the small Mini, even without doing the full season! Congratulations!

The biggest fight was expected with the modern machinery with three Champ candidates, and what a final we got! Dutch challenger Eep Borgers was very motivated to go flat out, but the car decided otherwise. Balance on the Corsa Max is a known issue with the team, and this sadly got very clear on the mudbath in the morning. No grip at all resulted specifically in a meeting with an electricity pole, and generally with some very modest times for the Dutch crew, sliding all over the place and losing every chance on winning FRC 2012. But the team is building a brand new Corsa for next season, so some people will be warned. With Eep way back, the title battle got concentrated between Andrew & Andrew: Thomson in the Focus and Dawe finally in the rebuilt Sunny. The Focus 4x4 looked to be the best car in the slippery conditions, but the lighter Nissan surely had some serious power under the bonnet. After getting used to the car, Dawe decided to go on full attack on a rather surprised Thomson. Both drivers then ignored classifications, points standings, etc., and simply went for the honours, keeping their right foot down the whole afternoon. All risks were taken, including some spins and minor offs, constant head to head action resulted in an... equal overall time with one stage to go!! So the last stage of the last rally was decisive for FRC 2012, how close can you get? They went flat out again, Thomson did the best run and managed to keep off Dawe’s Nissan, which arrived having a misfire on the last kilometers. This means Andrew Thomson is now the 2012 FRC champion after a very tence battle, while Andrew Dawe takes the 2WD cup, after almost a full (but very consistent) season in the standard Seat Arosa, undoubtedly the slowest car in FRC this year. Another proof you do not need a WRC to take a top FRC position. Both ended great on the general classification too, Thomson took a splendid 7th overall, his best result so far, followed by Dawe on 9th. Both drivers surprised some Flemish spectators again. We thank both teams for the thrills they gave us during this incredible final, and congratulate them with their very well deserved championship titles! Nothing but happy people after the rally confirmed this season was great again, perhaps this one is the best we had so far.

The rest of our guests did a good job too in this very difficult rally, with Smith, Elswood, the Borgers family and the French Marquilly brothers finishing in the middle of the field, not bad in an event where a third of the competitors had to retire, mostly because of accidents. Hemicuda 2012 was won by Andy Lefevere in the M3 CSL, second came Cornelis in the Subaru S5, followed by Coene in the Evo X. We thank everyone for this great 3rd season of FRC, 2013 is already approaching. All preparations are made to make next year as good as it was the last years, more news about fixtures will be online the following weeks. In the mean time, we are preparing a great party for all of you on November 24th, no reason for not to be joining us! See you soon.

Preview Hemicuda

he FRC final gets really close now, impossible to predict who will be champion 2012. Andrew Thomson looks to have the best chance, with only Allan Smith in the same class. Andrew Dawe finally enters his long expected Sunny GTI with a fully rebuilt engine, which gives dutchman Eep Borgers direct competition in class. The Historic fight seems to have ended, if all goes well, Les Allfrey has the best chance. However, one never knows in rallying. It’s pretty sure that the points margin will be superclose if everyone finishes Hemicuda, which is ran on brand new stages this year. Major road works forced the organisers to reschedule to two stages, however the total distance against the clock remains pretty much the same compared with 2011. The weather forecast is reasonable after the wet conditions this week, a link to an onboard view of the stages is online at hemicuda.be

FRC party & Award Ceremony on Saturday, November 24th 2012

Just to let all of you know we have our annual party in Ypres again. Given the very positive comments on the location last year, we organise the party in the same hall, with an extended selection of local specialties, and a nice party with DJ afterwards. Like last years, drivers & codivers who took part in at least one FRC round eat free, guests pay 20 euro pp. More details will be online soon!

Rowe takes first win in Staden Rally

The big FRC field in Staden faced tropical heat, with stages that looked superfast though the dust and gravel faced many traps. First victim was Paul Boxall, superfast in the top 20 again, but forced to retire with electrical failure, soon followed by the French Lehouck and Perrin, who both crashed, as well as Martin de Vere-Packford, betrayed by an exploding tyre. John Legg later returned to the servicepark with a broken head gasquet, Huw Reed with a clutch failure, Marcel Borgers with a broken driveshaft and dad Eep with engine damage. Numerous crashes made a mess of the timing, but in all the chaos we could still find some teams who kept their heads cool. Andy Rowe struggled with an engine rather powered by donkeys instead of horses, but still squeezed out his first season FRC victory in front of Allan Smith, his great second place is the best of his season so far, also Frenchman Guillaume Vandamme took his best classification ever with a 3rd FRC position overall and the 2WD victory as a well deserved bonus. Garry Elswood finished a steady rally on a great 4th overall. Andy Dawe took a massive points score in the Seat again, as well as Andy Thomson in the occasional Civic. The Challenge never has been so interesting as it is now, with Thomson, Dawe and Borgers superclose to each other overall. One of those three will be the 2012 champion, but the differences will be minor.
The Historic battle was fought out between Keith Pettitt and Les Allfrey, only a handful of secs divided them troughout the rally. This competition did not get an end in style, with the last stages cancelled due to another crash. Keith took his first win of the season, while Les does an excellent job in the Historic Challenge classification, since Henri Hardiment had to retire with an overheating engine. The quickest Frenchman and FRC regular Wattine had to abandon with his beatiful Saab with a broken clutch, this meant an unexpected third overall for his countryman Yaneck Damé in the humble Peugeot 104. No doubt Hemicuda will be very interesting...

FRC at Rally Day

On Saturday the 18th, Inge, Ward & Kristof will be present again at Castle Combe Raceway for the annual Rally Day. We will be based at the PEC stand, needless to say we ship some Belgian Gold over.
We hope to meet many of you!

We had a fantastic day again at Rally Day, great to meet Gary and Carol Lomas, Richard and Irene lewsey, Bill and Jane Cook, Andy Thomson, Tom Hutchins, Andy Gwynne, the Dawe family, Neil Dodd, Val Thomson and many others who came to say hello, including several new teams interested in FRC 2013. We thank Dave Wheeler and the PEC team for the hospitality, their beautiful stand and the great promotion they made for FRC!

Preview Staden Rally

No less than 26 FRC entries set a new record this season, Staden can also claim a new entry speed record, with a max of 130 teams booked in only a couple of weeks. All FRC regulars are back again, including the return of Andy Rowe, John Legg (proud dad!) and John Morgan. Another interesting name is Dutchman Ferdi Biesheuvel testing with his new Subaru WRC, he will find some competition with a handful of Belgian WRC’s, including national pride Freddy Loix, driving a 307 WRC this time. The french delegation is interesting too, with also some new names on the seeding list. No matter what the results of Staden Rally will be, the Challenge will remain very interesting. The FRC leaders all drive in different classes, with Andy Dawe still stuck in the Arosa, Andrew Thomson in a Belgian Honda Civic and Eep Borgers in his usual Corsa Max. The Historic boys will also write an interesting story. Keith Pettitt can take back a top Challenge position if he beats Les Allfrey, who could do the same job in the absence of Gary Lomas. The stages did not change much, you can have an onboard preview via these links:





Dutch revolution in Suikerstreek Rally

Some surprises occured even before the start of the event. Andy Dawe heard weird noises coming out of the Nissan engine during a final testrun and had to enter the Seat again, while both Keith Pettitt and Chris Rixon did not even cross the channel due to unexpected trouble on their cars. The brand new Historic entered Mk.1 of Richard Lewsey seemed to be powered by a Mondeo engine and a sequential gearbox, so the modern cars had an unexpected extra rival. Although 10 FRC teams at the start looked a bit poor, the battle was great and the results for the Challenge very surprising. The first half of the rally was dominated by Andy Thomson and FRC newcomer Edwin Abbring, a fight that ended abruptly in a ditch for Andy. The car was hardly damaged, but six minutes were lost while the spectators tried to get the car back on the road. The team did everything to make up the lost time, but saw their efforts ruined by a broken front suspension at the end of the rally. Another unlucky man was Martin De Vere-Packford, who saw his clutch go with the finish in sight. Also Marcel Borgers had to abandon with a broken gearbox. Edwin Abring took a very well deserved win in his first FRC event, after six years of inactivity. That time was well spent on boosting the career of son Kevin, who is now one of the VW works drivers. Maybe there can be a similar future for daughter Kelly who navigated this weekend? Eep Borgers took second position and a great points score after a perfect rally, before Allan Smith who was very happy to put down his first result of the season. Richard Lewsey ended fourth, testdriving his fast Mk.1 without any single problem. Andy Dawe did undoubtedly the best deal in the Challenge this weekend. Another class win puts him on top of the Challenge now, the same can be said about Henri Hardiment who shares a top position with Historic collegues Lomas and Allfrey. Marrie Borgers ended last of FRC, but consistent point scores now put the Borgers family on three positions in the Challenge top five. Suikerstreek Rally was new to every FRC team, the superfast smooth concrete roads full of blind turns came very close to UK style stages. The compact layout of the rally, the great athmosphere in the servicepark and the perfect organisation made everybody very happy about the weekend, FRC thanks the organisers for their hospitality and hope to see everyone back next year.

preview Suikerstreek Rally

Bookings are nearly closed now, TRT expects about 80 teams at the start. Andy Thomson can do an excellent job in the Challenge, since main rival Rowe will not start in Tienen due to professional reasons. Main challenger will be Andy Dawe, who brings back his Sunny with a rebuilt engine. Regulars Allan Smith and Martin De Vere-Packford will be there too, as well as the Borgers family who bring along Erwin Abbring, a Dutch newcomer to the series with an M3. Historic gentleman Pettitt and Hardiment have an excellent opportunity to score good points after their unlucky rallies so far. Or will Richard Lewsey, also a new name, make a big entry to Historic FRC? The weather forecast promises great sunshine, so we should have a great rally again.

Geko Wervik Rally: Thomson takes it all

Some last minute withdrawals promised a very interesting rally. Pattisson couldn’t make it due to electronic issues, champion Rowe did not have enough time to repair his engine after the severe damage in Canal Rally, also Chris Rixon had some work going on. Challenge leader Andrew Thomson could do a great deal in these conditions. French top driver Chieusse took the lead as expected, but had to withdraw halfway the rally without oil pressure, so Thomson won FRC relatively easy before Eep Borgers and newcomer John Wood, who made his comeback after 22 years (!) of inactivity in the sport. John suffered some gearbox problems, but finished the rally after a very good pace. Less luck for Allan Smith, who had to stop the Subaru after a fire. Also Martin de Vere-Packford did not make it due to a broken clutch, while Marrie Borgers had to abandon in the very last round with an electrical failure. Eep Borgers dominated 2WD class, but son Marcel and frenchman Losfeld took nice points, as well as French drivers Dhaine and Marquilly. Andy Dawe in the humble Seat scored well too, his fast Sunny will be back for Suikerstreek.
Historic boys Lomas and Pettitt had a great battle during the whole rally. It looked like champion Keith would clinch victory, but mechanics decided otherwise and forced the Mk.1 back to the trailer on the last stage, rally can be a cruel sport. This way, Andy Thomson and Gary Lomas both took rally victory and the lead in the championship. Overall win went surprisingly to Belgian top driver Mathias Viaene, who just entered the 207 S2000 to test for Ypres rally in two weeks... Local man Tanghe took second place in his powerful BMW Compact, before Historic winner Janssens in the 911. None of the 7 WRC cars finished, over one third of the entries in this very hard rally had to abandon.

Regulations Suikerstreek Short Rally

Regulations for round three of FRC can be downloaded now. Accomodation can be found via this link.
Do not hesitate to contact Björn for further informations.

Wervik Rally preview

Right after ORC Canal Rally, entries for Geko Wervik Rally are flooding in. Amongst the 100 teams already booked in, we welcome new FRC names Dave Patisson and John Wood, we look forward to their stagetimes. All FRC regulars are present again, unfortunately without Chris Rixon who can not repair the Saxo in time after the big hit in Oostrozebeke. We wish Chris all the best and hope to see his nice team back again as soon as possible. Also Andy Rowe is uncertain, all depends on the damage on the engine after the early retirement two weeks ago. Traditionally, Wervik attracts a nice french delegation, with Paul Chieusse in the 307 WRC as top name. Paul will meet some nice opposition in the three Subaru WRC’s that are entered, joined by the Peugeot S2000 force. Not less than four of these machines race in Wervik to prepare for Geko Ypres rally the end of June, Belgian star driver Freddy Loix is obviously one of the top favourites for the event. The stages did not change that much compared to last year, also grass & herbs along the stages have had a good cut, so all looks good for some high speed cornering.

Great start for Thomson in ORC Canal Rally

The 2012 opening round was full of surprises, unfortunately unpleasant ones for some drivers. Double FRC Champion Rowe proudly presented his new Evo 3, the same look as the old one but without rust, tape, dents and scratches, but soon got into trouble on the overcrowded opening showstage on Saturday Eve. Weird noises promised nothing good, a broken cambelt was the cause. Despite massive efforts, Andy was forced to retire with engine damage. Also Garry Elswood did not make it to the Sunday stages, with oil leaking out everywhere, also on the exhaust causing a small fire. Newcomer Chris Rixon decided to start in style and hugged a concrete block due to a blocking gearbox, but the severe damage could be repaired, Chris would also finish the rally. On Sunday, Dutch topdriver Swaanen took the fight for overall victory in the Focus WRC, ended second, but easily won FRC. Swaanen will not do the full Challenge, so Andy Thomson who made second FRC overall does the best deal in the Challenge. The other FRC newcomers, the total lunatic Paul Boxall and the completyely crazy Andy Egger made the FRC top 3 complete, humiliated some Belgian teams on faster machinery, and were therefore hugely encouraged by the local crowds, but both of them will not do the full Challenge either (shame!), so FRC regulars Eep Borgers and Andy Dawe, on a humble Seat Arosa for the occasion, made an excellent start to in the 2WD Cup. The French delegation also performed very well, but again no one of the teams do the full Challenge.

The Historic boys followed the same scenario as the modern ones. Double Champion Pettitt retired on the first Sunday leg with a broken gearbox, leg three ment the end for Henry Hardiment too. So Les Allfey dominated FRC Historic, Dutch newcomer Pennock finished as second in his first ever Belgian rally despite some nerves. Not easy to start as the first car on a showstage, but in the end Paul had a consistent run and promised to be back for the following rounds. See you all in Wervik in two weeks!

Numbers ORC Canal Rally

2 Swaanen Jeroen NL Buysmans Robin* B Ford Focus WRC 08 3I
6 Rowe Andy UK Lund Cat UK Mitsubishi EVO3 3I
19 Thomson Andrew UK Vincent Richard UK Ford Focus 3I
36 Borgers Eep NL Van De Wardt Peter NL Opel Corsa C Max 3G
48 Smith Allan UK Graham Stanley UK Subaru Impreza STI 3I
52 Dawe Andrew UK Waldron Ernie UK Nissan Sunny 3G
63 Duponchel Marc FR Turpin Dominique FR BMW 325 I 3I
71 Boxall Paul UK Butler Teresa UK Peugeot 205 3G
73 De Vere-Packford Martin UK Bruyneel Yves* B Peugeot 306 Rallye 3G
74 Lehouck Bernard FR Vandamme Philippe  FR BMW 320I 3G
75 Borgers Marcel NL Lipholt Patrick NL Opel Astra 3G
79 Wheeler Dave UK - - Peugeot 106 3F
80 Vandamme Guillaume FR Delessale Sylvain FR Peugeot 205 Rallye 3F
81 Egger Andy UK Thomson Val UK Vauxhall Nova 3F
84 Borgers Marrie NL Van den Heuvel Monique NL Opel Corsa A 3F
87 Elswood Garry UK Graham UK Citroen Saxo VTS 2C
89 Rixon Chris UK Hutchings Tom UK Citroen Saxo 2C
Total: 17        
5 in Class 3I          
6 in Class 3G          
4 in Class 3F          
2 in Class 2C          


Preview ORC Canal Rally

The opening round of FIRC 2012 is traditionally fully booked. Quantity is assured, but quality is there too with no less than 6 WRC cars at the entry list, which gives Canal Rally a national character. All WRC are Subaru, apart from Dutch top driver Swaanen on a recent Focus in top condition. Add this to a fleet of GT’s with two Porsche GT3 amongst the usual lot of BMW M3, followed by an army of fast Mitsu Evos, and you will understand the battle for victory will be serious.

The FIRC delegation counts no less than 23 teams, it looks like Andy Rowe will be the fastest man around, but will he be able to beat Swaanen? No doubt Andy Thomson and Eep Borgers will do their bit too. Andy Dawe still waits on his new Nissan engine, and will start in a Seat Arosa. Maybe not what he wanted to, but an Arosa has never been seen on a Belgian rally before, so at least it’s something special. The Historic boys Allfey, Hardiment and dutch newcomer Pennock will undoubtedly have their usual fight with double champion Pettitt. The biggist novelty fort his year’s edition is the new Super Special Stage on Saturday evening. The majority of the teams will race in daylight since the cars start in reverse order. On Sunday, it’s the classic way by number.

To get some good athmosphere during the extensive service after the SSS on Saturday eve, there will be a free gig at the rally centre. Also on Sunday, there is a lot to do around the servicepark, with free Polaris demoruns (all terrain vehicles) and the 24 hrs R/C race in the rallycentre. More than enough to keep everyone entertained, if the weather is ok, we look forward to a big party once again.


Challenge news

The last FRC meeting resulted in some changes for 2013. The last two years, only the overall champion won 5 free starts. This will be changed, the 2012 Modern champion will win 3 free starts for the following season, the Historic champion will get 2 free starts. The 2WD Cup remains. FRC is looking for extra sponsors to offer more prices, not easy however in the current economic climate. Some teams asked for a registration system for regular Challenge drivers, whilst other tems did not want this. Also an issue between the organisers, so we simply voted, the result was clearly for an open Challenge, so there will be no registration. Some might have noticed we changed our logo, this on demand of some supervising organisations to avoid interference or misunderstanding with other international championships.

Preview ORC Canal Rally

Still one and a half month to go for round one, but bookings already passed over 100. No doubt the rally will be fully booked again, and very soon. So if you want to compete, book NOW, if not you risk to be on the waiting list. Quantity is ok, so is the quality, with already 3 WRC's entered, one for double winner Melissa Debackere, and the usual sideways RWD machinery with showman Vanparijs in the Porsche GT3, the M3 fleet and so on. Also the very popular Historic division is well filled with 3 BDA Escorts and some fast Porsches. It looks like the FRC battle will be fought out between Andy Rowe in the revised Evo3 and John Morgan in the well known Escort Cosworth. SS Oostrozebeke has seen some serious changes, but the other two Sunday stages remain the same. Entrance will be free again on Sunday, a ticket to watch the Superspecial on Saturday evening will cost you 5 euros. Enclosed, you will find the regulations for ORC Canal Rally.

GEKO Wervik Rally 2012

Only 2 weeks after ORC Canal Rally, it's FRC time again. Entries for Wervik are gently coming in, we expect a rush after ORC however. One big name has already been announced: french top driver Paul Chieusse in the Peugeot 307 WRC. Geko Wervik Rally keeps the same structure of 5x3 SS, not many has changed. The rally now has 100kms of SS and 100kms of road section, also the entry fee has been reduced. Very important news for FRC teams who plan to participate in Ypres Rally: a non-local teams that wins the general classification will get a reduction of 1000 euros on the entry fee of Ypres Rally. Wervik and Ypres are situated in the same area, so if you don't manage to win in Wervik, you still will be very well prepared for Ypres rally...

ORC Canal Rally 2012

The first round of the 2012 Challenge is only 2 months away now. On Sunday Mai 27th, ORC Canal Rally welcomes you all again for a good day of fast action. The biggest novelty for this year's rally is a brand new, four lap Show Stage on Saturday evening, right after scrutineering. This stage is layed out on an industrial estate with a spectacular passage right trough the Declerq Company, who specialises in concrete and gravel for the construction industry... Nice drifts are expected, that's why a spectator arena will be set up to give the vast number of spectators an excellent overview. The Sunday Stages (4x3) remain the same as last year, apart from one or two minor changes. The service park will have a new layout too, to improve car & spectator traffic. Bookings are now open, the first entries already arrived. We all remember very well the overbooking disaster in 2011, ORC being the first Motor Club to cope with this unexpected problem. Although timing has been stretched to 150 teams now, it still looks like 2012 will face the same problem, so do not wait too long to confirm your entry. Finally, we repeat that 500 euro prise money is reserved for any non-belgian team able to win the general classification. Hard, but not impossible.

FIRC 2012: the first newsfacts

We only have couple of months to go before the third edition of FIRC kicks off, the organisers of the first rounds are already very busy preparing their rally. The first heat, ORC Canal Rally on Mai 26&27th offers again a price for any non-Belgian team that is able to win the overall classification. 500 euro prize money is waiting for the team that can beat the Belgians. Who takes this challenge? More important changes will be added to the rally, if all goes well with the necessary authorisations. Though all looks good, it's a bit to early to reveal the plans, more news later. The second heat, GEKO Rally of Wervik on June 8&9th, will be comparable to the 2011 edition. Two stages will have minor changes, including a new show section. We also have the pleasure to repeat that all the teams who made it to the FIRC Award Ceremony shall get their promised reduction on their entrance fee.

The news headliner for FIRC 2012 is undoubtedly heat 3, the Suikerstreek Rally on July 1st. This newcomer is situated in Tienen, near Brussels. This city is a bit further away than the usual rallies at the coastal area, but Belgium is a very small country..., the road connection is very good with motorways from Calais or Zeebruges straight to Tienen. Only rush hour around Brussels could slow you down a bit, but traffic jams are not massive (not M1 or M25 style). It should only take an hour extra drive if you are lucky with traffic. A new rally in a new region means different roads too. Forget about the bumpy tarmac and welcome smooth and ultranarrow concrete roads. Most of them are hidden between banks, so prepare for a vast number of high speed blind turns. Clearly stages for drivers with balls, but also the role of the codriver is of main importance here. The servicepark is situated in the rural village of Hoegaarden, right next to the famous White Beer Brewery, quite an interesting plan B for those who retire early. Suikerstreek Rally keeps the reputation of being one of the most cosy rallies in Flanders, with very limited road sections and a high rally pace (5x2 stages, both about 8kms long). Reasons enough to be there, for info on hotels and campings, check http://www.tienen.be/showpage.aspx?id=820 or contact the local FIRC officer Björn Dotremont: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

By the end of the month, we have a meeting with all the organisers to update some technical questions, do not expect big changes. Some remrks and ideas of competitors will be discussed, mor news in a couple of weeks. In the mean time, we want to stress again that HANS is mandatory for all teams in all rallies in Belgium.


FIRC Award Ceremony

FIRC wishes to thank the vast UK delegation who made the effort to travel all the way to Belgium for the Award Ceremony, and more specifically for the great evening! Congratulations to Cat & Andy, Val & Neil and Keith & James for their well deserved titles. Let's meet again in 2012 for another great FIRC season! We also thank GEKO Wervik Rally for the early Christmas gift to all the teams present. The 2012 calendar is now online. See you soon for more information on the 2012 series.

FIRC prijsuitreiking

FIRC Award Presentation 2011


The FIRC team wishes to thank all drivers, codrivers, mechanics and rallyfans for their support to the 2011 Challenge! For the second consecutive year, we can look back to a great Challenge full of action. Before we burn rubber again, we are happy to invite you and your friends to the 2011 award ceremony. The FIRC boys & girls will cook for you, assisted by two local chefs! We look forward to present you a great selection of hot & cold local specialities, prepared with love... Be there on Saturday 26th November @ 'De Klepper', Kanteelpad 4 - 8900 Ieper. Doors open at 19h00. FIRC drivers and codrivers eat for free, guests pay 20 euro pp. FIRC welcomes you with some bubbles. Great choice of local dishes, walking dinner style. The FIRC Rally organisers will be there, joined by many local teams. Drinks at honest prices, we look forward to a big crowd to enjoy a fine night in true rally style. Constant rallyvideos all night with the 2011 VAS clips and some rare & classic footage of local action. We kindly ask you to confirm the number of guests you bring along to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. before the 20th of November. Feel free to forward this mail to your friends. The capacity of the venue is limited to 100 people. Many teams already booked in, so do not wait too long to confirm. There is a big Camping & Campervan Yard (Jeugdstadion) right next door, vast choice of hotels and B&B's in the City Centre and the wider area. Just check www.ieper.be, and discover our beautiful city and the countryside while you're here (again). De Klepper is situated at walking distance from the City Centre (10'), right next to the furniture store 'Crack', there is a big parking.



Hemicuda Rally: some history repeating

The final results at a sunny Hemicuda Rally confirmed what should be: Rowe/Lund for the second year in a 'rowe' as champion, after undoubtedly being the fastest around again. The retirement at Wervik Rally earlier this year meant they had to finish to be sure of the title, so they decided not to fight for a top position overall (being second in the morning section!) and keep the heads cool. The reward is great however: a second title! Congratulations, and go for the hattrick next year? About the same story can be told about Keith Pettitt in the Historic division: only a finish would ensure the title, Keith & James did it in style and won the FIRC Historic title, beating their main rival Les Allfrey. Allfrey has more victories, but one result less, came costly at the end. FIRC was a full Brit Fest this year, with Neil Dodd winning the 2WD class, beating frenchman Henri Bève and Andy Dawe. Neil and Val also finished as second in the championship overall, the ultimate proof you do not need a WRC to score high in FIRC. Andy Dawe, FIRC rookie, becomes 3d overall, and 2nd 2WD. Not bad after a maiden year, we look forward to their pace next year..... We also mark top final positions for Garry Elswood (5th) and Ben Howlett, 9th overall with only two rallies ran, but two great results pushed him and bro Simon high up on the final ranking.

With John Legg not present this weekend, both Andy Thomson and Alan Smith could do a good deal in the series, but technology decided otherwise. Alan's car got stuck in first gear, while Andy saw his clutch exploding. More bad news for Gary Lomas, who made an excellent start dominating Historic (overall!), but then went off. The Dutch delegation was rather limited in Hemicuda, with many teams deciding not to start because they couldn't do much anymore pointswise, although some still stood a chance in 2WD. Team Borgers couldn't be bothered about this, and decided to have some fun again, this resulted in a great final score for Marrie Van Dorland and Wea Smilde, the first ladies team in the series, on a very impressive 6th overall. Team Chief Eep finishes on the 8th spot overall in FIRC, not bad on a total of 26 teams scoring points. The only Frenchman left to play a role in the series, Henri Bève, was not rewarded for his run and finally finishes third 2WD, and 4th overall. However, Henri won FIRC overall in Wervik this year, the first time a 2WD car could do it, who can repeat that?

Overall win in Hemicuda went to Mathias Viaene in a Sub S12, before Pol Lietaer (Mk.2 BDG), Bert Coene (Evo 10) and Dirk Vermeirsch (Sierra4x4 gr.A). We thank everyone for their commitment to FIRC, more news about the 2012 series will be online in a couple of weeks.


FIRC @ Rally Day

Like last year, Inge, Ward and Kristof will be there again to present the 2012 FIRC series. We will also ship some of our national pride, so if you want a belgian lager, just ask....


preview Hemicuda Rally *update*

The organisers count 160 entries now, this means a new record. It is over a decade ago that so many teams started in a Flemish Rally. The timing has been rescheduled, so everyone will have the chance to start. All regular FIRC-teams are present, for what will be a thrilling final to the series. FIRC also sets a new record in Hemicuda with 33 teams present. Mainly Dutch and UK teams will fight for the honours, the French have a FFSA-Rally the same weekend. Henri Bève, FIRC-winner in Wervik, will be there however. He still makes a chance to become champion, amongst with for colleagues, but it is clear that Andy Rowe has the best chances. While the Historic champion is already known, Keith Pettitt again after a very consistent season, no one can predict who will win the 2Wd-category. It looks like anyone can clinch the title. The Flemish teams also present some nice cars. Four WRC's are expected, amongst with some quick gr.N's, a lot of sideways material called BMW and the full lot of Historic top drivers. Newcomers in FIRC are Gary Lomas, a regular runner in Hemicuda, and multiple Dutch Champion Jan Vander Marel, driving a Porsche RS. We just hope the weather is ok, if not, prepare for some mud baths. Those who were there last year: the stages only had some minor changes.

** Only one WRC will start,  two did not get repaired in time after Omloop Van Van Vlaanderen two weeks ago. Debackere prefers a french raly in the Focus this weekend. So we can look forward to a very open rally this weekend, even the sun will be there!


Rally of Staden: third overall for Rowe!

Staden rally saw 130 teams starting (with 55 on the waiting list!). Sunshine, rather muddy stages in the morning after heavy rainfall the days before, lots of spectators, in short all ingredients for a fine day of rallying, for a classic recipe: if there is no big issue concerning Rowe/Lund, they win. After the only mishap so far, a broken turbo in Wervik Rally, the engine got a complete rebuild. This job only got finished the evening before the event however, in traditional 'last minute' style. Apart from some oil coming out of the clutch, all went great for Andy and Cat, finishing on their best overall result in Flanders so far: third behind Belgian all-star Loix, 'only testing' for the IRC Barum Rally next week in a works Skoda S2000, and local hero Geert Beauprez in a Subaru WRC S5. Huw Reed put his smart Escort Cosworth as the second FIRC car and 14th overall, Ben Howlett won 2WD class and got third FIRC finish on a 20th position overall, an all British podium. 4th FIRC driver was Dutchman Broekhuizen, who lost a lot of time in the opening stages without powersteering, followed bij Andy Dawe who complained about a very high number and some engine management troubles, and John Legg, who closed the top 50 in his usual spectacular style. Early in the rally, we lost Andrew Thomson with a broken sensor, Martin de Vere-Packford with a blocked gearbox, and Eep Borgers who went off in the opening stage, leaving one of his front wheels in the Flanders Fields. Halfway, we noticed a great FIRC fight between the rest of the best: Allan Smith, Garry Elswood, Sander van de Hel, Neil Dodd and the French Tankere en Vandamme. Garry Elswood was the fastest of the lot, though Neil Dodd made the best deal in the championship: a series of class wins without retirements brings him and codriver Val to the second place overall in the championship for drivers and codrivers! The Historic boys had a good battle too: Les Allfrey won again, while Keith Pettitts second place should be enough to win the Historic FIRC- series for the second time. Henri Hardiment finished third FIRC, father and son Wattine took last positions in historic, both in FIRC as overall. The Hillman Imp duo, Mike Smith and Ian Fisher were less lucky and had to retire with mechanical failures.

With one rally to go, the championship looks pretty interesting. Andy Rowe has got the best chances, but some guys are waiting for that one little mistake that could proof costly: Thomson, Dawe, Dodd en Legg. In 2WD class, it looks like everyone could win. So, for the second season in FIRC, all will be decided in the last rally again. See you soon at Hemicuda!

Rally of Staden: preview

 As expected, the first Rally of Staden is already fully booked. Now 183 teams engaged for a timing of 130. All FIRC regulars wil be there again, apart from Challenge leader Henri Bève. Henri plans to return to the final round in Hemicuda. Adrien Wattine, Huw Reed and Ben Howlett are some of the newcomers. Staden was a short rally last year, and has now become a full rally thanks to a third new stage. This means the rythm will be a lot higher, and with a rescheduled road section, traffic jams and long regroups should be history. Also the Challenge could take a decisive twist, or can we expect some surprises again like we ha before on Wervik? Let's wait and see...

4 rounds for 2011 Challenge

After the North Sea Rally got cancelled, the organisation looked for a rally that could replace the event. Before we took any decisions, we first consulted the teams who run the championship. It soon came clear that several teams could not reschedule their calendar, leaving nthem unable to compete ine extra (final) round later in the season. So the 2011 Challenge will only have 4 rounds, we look forward to have 5 rounds again for 2012.

Geko Wervik Rally: French Revolution!

Round two of FIRC started in the worst possible conditions: rain, wind, and even some sunshine... This made the stages totally unpredictable, which resulted in a big number of crashes. First leader was Andy Rowe, not really a surprise. The Evo 3 took 4th overall in the first stage, in between WRC's and S2000's, on slicks in the rain..... Another top result could be expected, until a broken turbo stopped the car in stage 5, over and out. Despite the disappointment, Andy took things rather philosophically, since this was his first non-finish in 20 events. Second leader became Andy Thomson, who kept this position over half the rally, but then lost over 3' with... a broken turbo. A spare one of Belgian MIES Racing Team kept the Focus running, but a good positiion seemed to be ruined with Dutchman Broekhuizen way ahead. Unfortunately, the Dutch Mitsubishi was stopped a well, due to... a broken turbo in the last leg! A heavily disappointed Broekhuizen saw a massive points score disappear, to make matters worse, the engine damage seems to be very bad, and could end his season. In the mean time, John Legg and Alan Smith managed to crash in the very same corner, both straight forward after a big breaking zone. Both teams will undoubtedly be very busy in the following weeks, repearing the well bent cars. With all the 4x4's delayed or out of FIRC, Frenchman Beve took a totally unexpected win overall in his fast Opel Manta, followed by his countryman Hazebrouck, another new name in FIRC behind the wheel of a Saxo. Congratulations to both the teams, who only planned to do some FIRC rounds. This result might change their minds however. The battle in 2WD was very intense troughout the whole rally. Dutchman Eep Borgers lost a lot of time in the rainy morning, sliding in every direction on slicks, but managed to take a lot time back when the staged dried up. Not enough however to threaten Andy Dawe, very fast again. We see good results too for Neil Dodd and Nicolas Cunnington, as well for Dutch crews Van Dorland and Marcel Borgers. Sander Van de Hel was going very fast too, but saw his rally stopped due to a broken oilpump. His brother Mark was the only VRSTeam-driver who could finish. Martin de Vere-Packford was again on his way to great result, but suffered an exploding tire in the last leg, wich resulted in a big crash, luckily without consequences for the crew. The car seems to be reparable, we sincerely hope the fast 306 is back in Staden. In Historic division, the french were less lucky. Damien Gromez had to retire with a broken carter, while Fabrice Wattinne had an engine failure in the Saab V4. Keith Pettitt was undoubtedly the fastest man around, followed by Henri Hardiment. FIRC newcomer Haseldon made a lot of heads turn in his very smart Austin A35, a unique car never seen before in Belgium. The gearbox did not want to collaborate, making the pretty red bubble stop in stage 2. Despite its short appearance, the Austin was the talk of the rally for many spectators, we really hope to see the team back on an other occasion. After two rounds, the classification looks very interesting, we look forward to the Rally of Staden in August, see you soon!

 preview Geko Wervik Rally *update*

With a couple of a days to go, we all are ready for some good action. The weather forecast does not look too good, with heavy brain predicted on thursday, so prepare for some slippery conditions. For those who are new in Wervik: watch out where, and where not, to cut, and pay attention to the condition of the road. We also repeat that recce stops at 17pm. Refuelling can be done in the serrvice park, this means BBQ and/or open fires are strictly prohibited. FIRC bar will be there again with food & drinks at unbeatable prices.

Geko Wervik Rally is as good as fullly booked. All the FIRC regulars are back again, apart from John Morgan and Less Allfrey, who compete in the Ypres Historic Rally the week after. Dominic Frattaroli had the same plan, but he even has to cancel his committment to Ypres Historic. The crash at ORC Canal Rally hurt the car so badly it will be impossible to repair for the event. We wish the team all the best in rebuilding the beautiful Datsun 240Z. Also some french teams will not be there, due to a rally for the "Coupe de France" in Normandy the same weekend. They will be back for Staden Rally in August. The stages around Wervik are identical in style of those of his big brother GekoYpres Rally (IRC/ERC) only a week later, this means many top teams will be present to work on the setup of their cars. Uptil now, we already see 3 S2000's on the entry list, and there will be no shortage of gr. N's and WRC's too. Although FIRC has nothing to do with the general classification, we still look forward to the times of Rowe and Thomson, or Dawe and Borgers in 2WD. We are also very interested in the classification of some FIRC newcomers, mainly Dutch. The stages in Wervik are very challenging, things could be even worse if the wheather is bad.

The regulations are online on www.scuderiavervica.be , we would like to stress that there will be an extra control on the fire proof shirt. In ORC Canal Rally, some teams still did not have one. The Association accepted this, but for the very last time. We also want to point out that codrivers who already have HANS do not need a neck support. Finally, it is good to know that recce is only allowed until 5pm, due to a local cycling race that crosses the stages in the evening. Roadbooks can be collected from 10am, so there should be time enough. Scrutineering starts at 6pm.

ORC Canal Rally: Rowe again!

Round one of the 2011 Challenge was a massive success ! Eventually, 28 teams booked for FIRC, almost triple as much than last year. In a massively overbooked rally (183 entries for 150 timed cars) with 3 WRC’s, 2 S2000’s , plenty of fast gr.A’s and N’s, a handful GT’s like M3, Porsche GT3 and the unique Nissan 370Z by Van Woensel,  Andy Rowe and Cat Lund finished 6th overall, dominating the FIRC troughout the 12 stages. Who can beat them ? Andy Thomson made it a very good second, after some time loss with a broken paddle shift, while dutchmen Broekhuizen and Borgers in his brand new Corsa Max followed relatively close behind. 

Also FIRC rookies John Legg, with belgian codriver Degroote , and Andy Dawe who made his comeback after a seven year break, had a great rally. Andy could have finished on a much better position if he hadn’t ditched the car for over 3 minutes... He was not the only one however. Behind them, we saw many teams in a close FIRC-battle, like Allan Smith, Martin De Vere-Packford, mixed with the dutch delegation with Van Middendorp and youngster Van Loo in an ex-Weys Citroen C2 S1600, and the french with Beve winning the national fight before Duponchel, Vandamme and Tankere, last FIRC but very happy being the first Citroen AX on the finish, also being the only one at the start. Garry Elswood, who suffered ignition problems on Saturday, and Neill Dodd made a nice finish too, something that can not be said about the Dutch brothers Van de Hel and Marcel Borgers, the three of them did not finish and joined the other 40 retirements. Historic division was dominated by Dominic Frattaroli, who even made it up to a incredible 16th overall in his beautiful Datsun 240Z, in between several local Mk.2 BDA and other fast Porsches, before ditching the car with the finish in sight… 2010 Champion Keith Pettitt suffered from brake problems on his new Mk.1 and could never really defend his chances. After the retirement of Hardiment, stopped by an electrical problem, Mini mate Les Allfrey won Historic class after a very consistent run, before the heavily surprised frenchman Damien Gromez in his first belgian rally, behind the wheel of an Alfa Romeo GTV. Keith Pettitt finally ended 3rd overall, before father and son Wattinne, also from France. John Morgan had to retire at the end of the rally with a broken alternator. Next round, Geko Wervik Rally, is organised just one week before his big brother, Geko Ypres Rally. Some UK drivers wil not be present, due to their commitment in the Historic Ypres rally, such as Morgan, Allfrey, and Frattaroli, while Wattinne is competing in a French Rally. So we can look forward to an intense points battle in Historic for the rest of the season. More news about Wervik will be online soon.

preview ORC Canal Rally

 FIRC 2011 starts with a record breaking organisation. Compared with 2010, the number of FIRC teams has tripled. Also Flemish bookings exploded, with a final number of 183 entries and only room for 140 cars (which has risen to a max of 150 now). A unique situation, even to Flemish standards. Quality is important too, and we have no complaints: Pol Lietaer and Melissa Debackere go for a reissue of their thrilling 2010 fight, then won by Belgium's fastest lady, only some secs in front of Pol. Both run a Subaru WRC this weekend. Chris Van Woensel is a potential winner too, driving a superb Nissan 370Z, 400+ bhp! There are many outsiders however: Bruyneel (207 S2000), Debyser (Porsche 996 GT3), Cools (EvoX), Cornelis (Escort WRC), or a member of the big BMW-family, like Viaene, Prinzie or Braeckevelt. The GT3 "0" car will be driven by showman Tim De Bock.

Also the FIRC boys & girls make a great turnout. Champion Rowe is back to defend his title in the Evo3, and will be the main target for Dutchman Martijn Broekhuizen in his rebuilt Evo6 Mäkinen. Also 2010 2WD Cup Winner Eep Borgers is expected to go very fast with his home made Corsa Max 2.0, a car that will make his debute in rally. His son Marcel and partner Marrie are back again too. More drivers we welcome again are Andy Thomson, John Morgan and Martin de Vere-Packford with a rebuilt engine in his 306. We also look forward to the results of FIRC/ORC-rookies like the Van De Hel family from Holland, Frenchman Marc Duponchel in a 325i gr.A, and UK drivers Andy Dawe and Allan Smith, who will be joined by Garry Elswood and Neil Dodd.

Historic Rallying is very big in Flanders, but several FIRC drivers can mark a top position in the army of BDA's, Porsches and BMW's. Top favourite here is John Morgan with his Escort Mk.2 BDA, Dominic Frattaroli, new in FIRC but familiar with Flanders roads, will undoubtedly be quick too in his smart Datsun 240Z. Historic Champion 2010 Keith Pettitt, who planned to go on retirement after last season also comes back to defend his title, this time with an Mk.1 Escort pinto. How stubborn can the rally virus be? More historic action can be expected from regular Flemish guests Hardiment and Allfrey and the French delegation formed by Fabrice Wattinne en Damien Gromez. The weather forecast looks promising, so we all look forward to a great rally party next weekend!

Noordzee Rally cancelled

The third round of this year's FIRC, Noordzee Rally on 16& 17th July, is cancelled. Due to major road works, the organisation faced big difficulties organising the event. The stages and sections had to be entirely redesigned, included using other Council's roads. Getting permissions proved to be as good as impossible, so the 2011 event is definitevely cancelled. Whether there will be a replacement rally will be announced later, for the moment FIRC 2011 is about 4 rallies.


 ORC Map




Marshalls needed for Flemish Rally

The first round of this years FIRC is searching for marshals & between us we have worked out a great deal. Please see the attached PDF for further details and please pass it on if you know anyone who might be interested. If you need to know anything else please give Fairfield Motorsport a call on 01656 725000 or download more information.




ORC CANAL Rally fully booked

 The first round of the FIRC 2011 is a massive succes. One week before closing the entry list, we already have far too many teams.  We are sorry to inform you that it is not longer possible to enter ORC Canal Rally. If you have already booked, but for some reason can not be present at the rally, please let us know via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. This way, we can give someone else the chance to start. More news and a complete preview will be online soon.



French entries in ORC CANAL Rally

Frenchmen Richard Tankere and Phlippe Vandamme will make their debut in the Flanders International Rally Challenge. The French-Flemish team enters the ORC Rally after a enjoyfull Flemish tarmac experience (as spectator!) last month in the Rallysprint van Moorslede. Tankere and Vandamme will drive a Citroen AX GTI and will battle with Marrie Van Dorland and Wea Smilde, who are also competing the ORC Rally for the first time in an Opel Corsa A, in Class 3F.


Tankere - Vandamme                                                                                                  Van Dorland - Smilde (Hemicuda 2010)




First entries for ORC Canal Rally and ORC Cup arrive

 The first entrants for the first round of the FIRC 2011 ORC Canal Rally arrive in very large numbers. This organisation is traditionally fully booked (max.140 entrants), so do not wait too long to return your entry form to Ilse Vanmarcke, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Practical information will soon be online, for any question about the rally, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Total entry fee will be 250 euros for FIRC competitors, all-in including discount, for 4x3 SS, 100% tarmac/concrete. The organisation presents a special cup for FIRC drivers : anyone who manages to beat the Flemish top drivers and take the overall win, will have his entry fee refunded on the day. The last foreign driver able to win a Flemish Rally was Mike Pattisson in 2006, winning the Hemicuda Rally in front of John Morgan. In 2010, John came very close to winning FIRC round 3, Oudenburg Rally (now Noordzee Rally). Ready to take this Challenge? 

We can already welcome a very nice entry list from our Dutch neighbours. As mentioned before the Rally Team of Eep Borgers will drive the FIRC in their Opels. Also Joost Custers and Alex Eisenberg enter the ORC Canal Rally with a Ford Sierra Cosworth! Richard Tankere en Vandamme Philippe will start their FIRC debut in a Citroen AX GTI. The Team Van Middendorp and Broekhuizen have also announced re-entering the Flanders International Rally Challenge in 2011. That will be another 6 cars entering the second FIRC. Broekhuizen had his car even redecorated, more news to follow shortly!

The British delegation is also arriving. Andy and Andy (Rowe and Thompson) will enter again the challenge. Rowe is looking for a second title while Thompson want revenge for the many electronical trouble in 2010. Neil Dodd and Val Thompson will have an expanded programme in the FIRC. Last year they drove 2 rounds.




Historic Champion again in FIRC 2011

 The Dutch are not the only ones who's interest in the FIRC is growing, on the other side of the Channel many things are stirring. Many different drivers already expressed their interest in the Flanders International Rally Challenge. Keith Pettitt, 2010 Historic Champion will again tackle the 5 rounds of the Challenge. Keith, who was initially going to retire end 2010 after a huge rally carreer, couldn't resist defending his title. He will again compete in 2011 with his well-trusted Ford Lotus Cortina.

He will not be the only one fighting for the Historic title in 2011. Fast Brit Bill Cook, who had in round 2 in Wervik a terrible crash with his beautiful Talbot Lotus Sunbeam, informed us the completely new-build Talbot is ready to rally the Flemish tarmac. Same as last year Bill will be codriven by Stadenaar Yves Bruyneel, who will be driving for familiar audience on the 4th round this year. They want a rematch with Flanders and in the FIRC and they are ready.


Bill Cook and Yves Bruyneel before the crash in  Wervik 2010                           Keith Pettitt in ORC CANAL Rally 2010 




Eep Borgers is contesting the FIRC 2011.

 After a succesfull debut in the inaugural Flanders Rally Challenge the Dutch Borgers-Van de Wardt team is proud top announce that they will be again competing in the FIRC 2011. In 2010 they took 2nd place overall. in 2011 and with a brand new car they want to go for the overall win and fight the many British competitors already interested in the Challenge.


The rallyteam already announced not starting alone in the 5 rounds of the FIRC. 5 cars, one driven by Eeps son and on for his wife, will contest all 5 rounds of the Challenge!! 





Highlight of the four-day Autosport International motorsport show was on Saturday 15th January, when BBC Sport’s Formula 1 television presenter Jake Humphrey announced the winners of the GoldStars on the BWRDC stand, in front of a huge crowd.


Opening the first envelope Jake announced - Alice Powell, Formula Renault BARC Champion as the winner of the coveted Elite GoldStars Award (the second year in succession). Opening the second envelope Jake announced Cat Lund, FIRC & Club rally co-driver Champion as the winner of the coveted Club GoldStars Award, a canon of foil confetti showered over them.

Helen Bashford-Malkie presented Jake with a gift and thanking him for presenting the GoldStars. With minutes to spare before his next engagement, Jake said:“I just want to say - well done to all of the girls and all of the people involved in organising today. I really do think it’s about time that these women who are making waves in motor racing are recognised at the very top. So good luck in 2011 to all of you.

  Liz Halliday stepped in and took over interviewing the GoldStars winners for MotorsTV. “It’s brilliant!” Alice exclaimed. “I came up against great competition again this year. Obviously Louise and Jess have both done a fantastic job. But to win it for the second year is great and, the best possible way to start the year. It’s so exciting to have Jake to present the awards, he’s a great guy and it’s a really great endorsement for the Club.”

 GoldStars Elite Mentor, Susie Stoddart who was unable to attend Autosport International, sent the following message: “A very big congratulations to Alice Powell on winning the prestigious Elite Category once again. In 2010 Alice really made people sit-up and take notice. She scored pole positions and race wins in BARC Formula Renault before going on to clinch the championship, which is a tremendous achievement. I am proud to mentor her once again in 2011 and I wish her all the best this season.”

  “I am so pleased to have won this amazing award,” enthused Cat. ”It is such a prestigious award and both Louise and Amy had fantastic seasons. But I’m thrilled that I have brought the rally section into the limelight. It was amazing to have Jake Humphrey here to spend time with us and present the GoldStars; very exciting. The prizes are fantastic; a year’s supply of oil, a lovely stop-watch, the GoldStars webpage and testing at Donington. And to have Liz Halliday as a mentor is brilliant. I’m looking forward to working with her.”


GoldStars Club Mentor, Liz Halliday said: “It’s brilliant. Cat looked very surprised but she has earned it; they’ve had a tough year and a very successful year and I think it’s kind of cool that we’ve give the award to a Champion rally co-driver. It just goes to show how much a co-driver’s talents are genuinely recognised. I know she’s got a few questions to ask me, so I hope she will find me useful this year.”




Phots courtesy: Jakob Elbrey


For more information please contact: 
BWRDC PR Georgie Shaw e: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
BWRDC Exhibition Co-ordinator Lynn Jones e:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Source: BWRDC Press Release




Cat Lund nominated for the BWRDC Goldstars Club Award

 ROCKINGHAM’S Head of Operations will be lining-up among some of the fastest females in UK motorsport at the British Women Racing Drivers’ Club (BWRDC) stand at this year’s Autosport International Show. Cat Lund has been nominated for the coveted BWRDC GoldStars Club Award, following her double rally championship-winning season together with driver Andy Rowe. The rally co-driver was crowned both the Flanders International Rally Challenge (FIRC) and BWRDC Rally Co-driver champion.

The 39-year-old, who joined Rockingham in 2007, enjoyed her most successful season to date co-driving for Andy in the pair’s Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 3, contesting the five FIRC rounds in Belgium and winning two rallies outright in the UK. Only one of these prestigious awards is presented annually to club competitors and Cat faces stiff competition from fellow BWRDC racing driver members, BRSCC Mighty Mini Champion Louise Inch and BWRDC Championship runner-up Amy Barker. Cat said: “I am absolutely delighted to be nominated for the BWRDC GoldStars Club Award. To be included as a rally co-driver clearly shows the club’s support for the achievements of women in all disciplines of motorsport.  “If I was to be presented with this prestigious honour, it would be the perfect end to an incredible 2010 season. “The BWRDC exists to support and advise women in all forms of motorsport and as a member I’ve found it a great source of advice and inspiration.”

The BWRDC Goldstars Awards will be presented by BBC Sports Presenter Jake Humphrey, anchorman for the broadcasters’ coverage of the FIA World Formula One championship on BBC1. The award ceremony will take place on Saturday (January 15) at the BWRDC Stand 6840, Hall 6, at the Birmingham NEC. The presentation is due to take place at 2.55pm and all visitors are welcome to attend. The GoldStars are the BWRDC’s way of flagging up talent within motorsport and to help the nominees and winners promote and progress their careers. The winner of the club award will receive mentoring from international dual sportswoman and broadcaster Liz Halliday. They will also receive a generous package of sponsor’s products and a special BWRDC Goldstars sticker for their competition cars. In addition all nominees will benefit from a dedicated webpage at www.bwrdc-goldstars.co.uk to attract potential sponsors.

Source: Rockingham press release

More information about the British Women Racing Drivers’ Club (BWRDC) on http://www.bwrdc.co.uk 






HRCR Open Day in Gaydon


Same as last year the first event the organisation of the Flanders International Rally Challenge will attend is the HRCR Open Day next weekend in Gaydon (Warwickshire). They hope to have a lot of interesting Historic Drivers wanting to compete against Keith Pettit, who was 3rd overall this year.

More information about the HRCR Open Day: www.hrcr.co.uk/Club_News.
More information about the Museum: http://www.heritage-motor-centre.co.uk/ 




Hemicuda Rally: Rowe/Lund Champion


The Hemicuda Rally in Koekelare, near the belgian coast, was the last and decisive round for the FIRC Challenge and had a lot of foreign attention with 20 cars on the start. Rowe had to finish as 3rd FIRC in class to become champion. If he failed to do so, the title could still go to Dutchman Borgers, who had a good chance to win class 3G again. Not an easy job for Andy with stiff competition in class 3I, coming from Morgan, Reed, Thomson and FIRC newcomer Pattison, who won the event in 2006. To make matters worse, the rally started with heavy rainfall, meaning big watersplashes and some parts of the stages inundated. It must be that FIRC drivers have a sixth sense for danger, since all of them survived the first, extremely hard leg. 

Surviving means in this case: staying on the road. Some turns had their traditional ditches transformed in car parks, luckily without foreign numberplates. Despite good driving, both Thomson and Reed had to retire after the first leg, with respectively transmisson problems and an electronical failure. They were soon followed by Marcel Borgers with braking problems. Marcel is Eep's 20-year old son who made his debute in Flanders in the worst possible conditions, and told us he had the best handbrake fun ever. Martijn Broekhuizen had to retire a bit later too, due to a strange problem however: a very ill codriver, unable to concentrate on anything anymore. By noon, the competitors finally saw some sunshine, leaving the stages in very tricky circumstaces. Dry parts suddenly changed in slippery mudbaths, causing more accidents. Morgan and Pattison avoided all the traps and had a very nice battle for the FIRC win, for third overall they were joined by local men Vermeirsch (Sierra 4x4) and Coene (Evo9). Finally Pattison won the battle with only a 6secs advantage on Morgan, making them 3rd and 4th overall.

Rowe ignored the fight for a top position and did what he had to do: finishing as 3rd FIRC driver and take the inaugural title, although a 7th overall still is a position to be proud of! His main rival Borgers also made it to the finish, on a great 23rd place overall and 5th FIRC driver. Overall win was for Bart Maes in an Octavia WRC. The historic part of the Hemicuda was a nailbiter too: the extreme weather conditions decimated the top 7. Teams who made a gentle start could later start their battle for winning back the time they lost in the morning. FIRC newcomer Egerton not only took a splendid 2nd overall in Historic, he was also the fastest FIRC 2WD car, beating unbeatable Eep Borgers. More impressive performances were made by Mini Cooper drivers Allfrey and Hardiment, beating a 'modern' Cooper S and a Porsche 911! 

After the rally, we only saw happy people, the luckiest crew obviously being Andy Rowe and Cat Lund with their fantastic FIRC title. They win a free entry on all the FIRC rallies in 2011. The Dutch delegation can look back on a great season too, with Eep as runner-up in the Challenge and fastest 2WD team. Finally, the unofficial title of best FIRC Historic driver goes to Keith Pettitt after a very consistent season. We heard many plans and rumours about the FIRC regulars for the next season, we promise to inform you about all the newsfacts in the following weeks. The 2011 season should have the same five rallies again and, as we heard from our British and Dutch friends, with more drivers entering the Challenge! 2011 will be great...

The Final results of the Hemicuda can be found on the site of Hemicuda: link

The General Classification of the inaugural Flanders International Rally Challenge can be found here







FIRC preview Hemicuda Rally


The last round of the FIRC looks very promising: 2006 winner Pattison is back and will be a serious contender for Morgan, Reed, Thomson and Rowe. Steve Hendy will be there too in the Focus WRC to play with the local WRC drivers Dirk Vermeirsch (Subaru S5) and Bart Maes, (Octavia). FIRC regular de Vere-Packford makes his final belgian run, more british names are Elswood and Smith. The strong dutch delegation is ready too, with frontman Borgers in a final attempt to clinch the title. Miss Borgers will drive herself in a Corsa, along with Van Middendorp, Broekhuizen (Evo 6) and Smulders in a promising BMW Compact M3. In the historic division, we welcome again Keith Pettitt and Henry Hardiment, along with some new names like Egerton, Jones and Allfrey. We just hope the weather will be nice. If not, the traditional mudpool could cause serious havoc.



FIRC info Hemicuda Rally 2010-08-19


The organizes of the Hemicuda Rally have prepared a very special deal for all foreign teams. More info on: http://www.hemicuda.be/uk/rally%202010/FIRC%20Folder%20-%20UK.pdfIf you still need a place to sleep, a very detailled list can be seen trough the next link: http://www.hemicuda.be/uk/rally%202010/Logies.pdf

The Hemicuda Rally will again have a very strong entry list. Already 8 teams entered the rally and many more will follow! 



FIRC Party at November 20th, book now!

To thank you all for your effort to make the first edition of this series a succes, the organisers are happy to offer you and your team a party night in Oostrozebeke, on saturday November the 20th. They will cook for you a great selection of fresh dishes, and obviously select the best belgian beers. To make things even better, everyone can spend the night for free if desired, since we booked the "Vogelzang" hall, offering 60 beds. Just bring along some sheets. Shower facilities are available, breakfast will be offered as well. All this comes for free. For those who arrive early on saturday, coördinator Ward and press man Kristof will be happy to offer you a nice tourist tour along the great area around Ypres. Please confirm if you come over, and how many you will be via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. FIRC means in this case Flanders International Rally Cuisine!



SR Staden: 4th win for Rowe!

With the poor weather conditions, many crashes were expected on the slippery, muddy roads. First FIRC victim was Guy Anderson, who ditched the VR4, just like dutchman Swaanen with the Octavia WRC, both without too much damage however. One third of the 145 teams had to retire... Some didn't even make it to the start, like John Morgan (late delivery of brake components), Martin de Vere-Packford (broken transmission) and David Wheeler (license issue). For the rest of the FIRC teams, things were better than the weather: Andy Rowe dominated the series again, followed by Huw Reed, who had and excellent run too, resulting in a 8th and 13th place overall, and a 1st and 3rd FIRC position, frenchman Choquet divided the two brits with his smart BMW M3. Dutchman Eep Borgers dominated the 2wd series again with maximum score points too, while Keith Petitt won the Historic FIRC session, before the smart minis of Hardiment and Cameron. Fabrice Wattinne unfortunately saw a good qualification ruined after 3' time loss on stage due to some electrical problems, his son Adrien who made his debute as adriver didn't see the finish, but will be back on the next occasion.




preview Short Rally Staden

With almost 150 cars on the entry list, Staden looks to set a new record for this season. The weather forecast doesn't look too good uptil now, the chance is likely that many parts of the stages will be muddy. Top favourites in these conditions are Paul Lietaer (Subaru WRC) and Bernard Munster (Octavia WRC). Many outsiders will wait for a mistake however, Dirk Vermeirsch (Sierra 4x4), Andy Rowe (Evo3), John Morgan (Escort) and Eddy Snaet (Evo10) are keen on a good result too. If the roads stay dry, we can also look forward to a top result for Vincent Verscheuren (top M3), Wim Soenens (Porsche GT3) and especially Andy Lefevere with his 400 bhp M3 CSL. All depends on who stays on the road, Staden has a crashy reputation when wet.


Numbers FIRC drivers:

7. Rowe-Lund

8. Morgan-Llinos-Jones
17. Reed-Sargeant

33. Anderson-Baker

65. Borgers-Van de Wardt

66. De Vere-Packford-Fellowes

86. Anderson-Mansfield

87. Pettitt-McCuloough

139. Hardiment-Baker

140. Wattinne-Rochat

141. Wattinne-Leroy

142. Cameron-Grimshaw





usefull information Short Rally Staden

Following adresses can be interesting: the servicepark is located in following streets: De Carninstraat, Bruggestraat and G. Gezelleplein. Scrutineering: Carrosserie Hoirelbeke at Grote Veldstraat, trailerpark on the parking of the company "Obumex", Diksmuidestraat 121, just outside the city centre. The rallycentre is situated at "Zaal Blommenhof", G. Gezelleplein (right behind the church, just past "service in". Finally, the FIRC village is located at the front parking of the school, on your right hand, "before service out" .

It's still possible to book, but the timing is based on 130 cars. With already 146 teams booked in, it will be a full house again at Staden. More news after the press conference next friday

overview chart Staden: link





usefull information Short Rally Staden

Following adresses can be interesting: the servicepark is located in following streets: De Carninstraat, Bruggestraat and G. Gezelleplein. Scrutineering: Carrosserie Hoirelbeke at Grote Veldstraat, trailerpark on the parking of the company "Obumex", Diksmuidestraat 121, just outside the city centre. The rallycentre is situated at "Zaal Blommenhof", G. Gezelleplein (right behind the church, just past "service in". Finally, the FIRC village is located at the front parking of the school, on your right hand, "before service out" .

It's still possible to book, but the timing is based on 130 cars. With already 146 teams booked in, it will be a full house again at Staden. More news after the press conference next friday

overview chart Staden: link





Broekhuizen/Teunissen confirm full FIRC in 2011 2010-07-28

The fast dutchmen, who made their debut in Ettelgem a couple of weeks ago, confirmed they will be back for a full season next year. Attracted by the fast and demanding stages, Martijn and codriver Frank look forward to 2011 and hope to become one of the main contenders in the series. They will join the team of Eep Borgers. In Ettelgem, they were aiming for 15th overall in their Evo 6, before they had to retire with gearbox problems. Normally, we should see them again at Hemicuda Rally, the last round of the FIRC Series.




rally report Short Rally Ettelgem 2010-07-20

The third round of the FIRC was the biggest thrill uptill now. Both John Morgan and Andy Rowe were very keen on a victory, wich meant they started on 'full attack' modus. After the first round, results already got very interesting. The top seven was only divided by 15"..., with John 2nd and Andy 4th, between the local specialists. 

After a day full of action, fighting for every second, John finally made it to the 2nd place, only 10 secs behind Chris Cools, the local hero and surprising winner after almost a year of inactivity. Only 6"' behind John came national legend Paul Lietaer, with one of the fastest Mk.2's ever built. Andy Rowe made it to the 5th position, 5"' 
in front of another flemish ace, Dirk Vermeirsch, driving a very fresh Ford Sierre (Sapphire) Cosworth. Mathias Boon, one of the upcoming belgian talents, ended 4th, some 25" in front of Andy. Great results from our fast brits, who both lost a handful of seconds here and there due to some classic (but minor) visits to the scenery... 
Andrew Thompson was the 4th FIRC man, right before the flying dutchman Eep Borgers, who won 2wheel drive class again. We also note maximum class points scores for David Wheeler (3F), David Hardiment (4H1), and Keith Pettit, who also was the fastest FIRC Historic driver, beating Fabrice Wattine from France. Nice payback for his early retirement in Wervik. Everyone looked to be very satisfied again, after a great and sunny rally in a very friendly athmosphere. 
No one bent his car, mechanical mishaps were no issue, apart for dutchman Martijn Broekhuizen, a new name in FIRC, who broke his gearbox during a great drive... With two rounds to go, the tension in this new championship is getting really hot!



Usefull adresses for round 3 2010-07-08

Rally Centre: Schoolstraat 45B, Ettelgem
Scrutineering: Garage Dekeyser, Zeeweg, Roksem
Document Control: Roman Archeological Museum, Marktstraat, Oudenburg



Preview Short Rally Oudenburg-Jabbeke 2010-07-06

The next FIRC round looks to be a nice one again: Andrew Thompson  will be back in his Focus, also regular contenders Morgan, de Vere-Packford and Rowe have already booked in. We also welcome Huw Reed and Alan Smith. French historic driver Wattine, who raced in 'french classic touring car series' during Wervik, will be there too in his smart Austin Healey, if all goes as planned, his son will make his rally debut in a historic Alfa Romeo. Also dutchman Eep Borgers is keen on scoring more points for the series, and looks to become a strong contender. Traditionally, the 'summer rallies' in Flanders get less powerful machines than usual, since many drivers are on holiday or have to repair their car after belgium's biggest rally in Ypres (or suddenly have a budget problem, Ypres is a very hard rally...), this means top drivers like John Morgan and Andy Rowe do have a very good chance to win the overall result. We also look forward to the times of Thompson and Reed! With some weeks to go, more drivers will book to Oudenburg Rally, usually, there are about 100 teams taking the start. For those who make an early retirement: the belgian coast with his famous tropical beaches is only 15' driving from the service park...



Update Report GEKO Rally of Wervik 2010-07-06

Some more news about the last FIRC round: Hw Schewe left the rally quite early with engine problems on his Porsche, soon followed by John Morgan who had an electronical failure, it turned out to be a broken sensor that costs about 25p. Another early retirement on 
technical reasons was for Keith Pettit. David Wheeler met a flemish 
ditch and got stuck into it, just like Skoda man Lodder on the very 
last stage, maybe the most unlucky driver of the field. Also the 
Irish crew, Barry-Brady, who rented a local Toyota Starlet to prepare for the Ypres Rally, didn't see the end. A couple of weeks later, mechanical problems ruined a good result in Ypres, clearly an unlucky belgian adventure for our Irishme Martin De Vere-Packford was not mentioned in the final classification, since he left early to get his ferry back, he will get the FIRC points however, since he finished. It was actually a whole effort to make it to Wervik after quite a big hit in Canal Rally, but two weeks were just enough to fix the car and be back in FIRC, congratulations to the mechanics!

Finally we have to say goodbye to two regular FIRC-contenders: Chris Rixon will be out for the rest of the season due to a broken arm (and car...), but hopes to be back at Hemicuda later this year. Sadly, also Bill Cook will no longer be there this season, after his massive hit in Wervik. The car is totally written off, Bill's crew already started constructing a new Talbot for the next season.



Rally report Geko Rally van Wervik 2010-05-06

This second round of the FIRC Championship saw 20 teams competing. Traditionally, the Wervik Rally is visited by some French teams, and we received 4 French entries, along with most of the Brits and Dutch who raced at the Canal Rally in May. We also welcomed some Irish drivers who made it all the way to Belgium: Daniel Barry and Martin Brady. In terms of mileage, the Wervik Rally is the biggest rally in the Flemish championship, and perhaps the hardest one, with it's fast and narrow lanes, and tricky situations on every stage.

The first victim was unfortunately Bill Cook, who once again was accompanied by a 'last minute' co-driver, Yves Bruyneel. After performing very well  in the first round, they smashed against an electricity pole,  resulting in a virtually written off car. Thankfully the crew came  out of it better than the car!! Bill made a quick visit to the hospital but turned out to be OK with only bruises.

In fact, only 8 FIRC teams out of 20 (40%) made it to the end of the rally, in the following order: Rowe (UK), Mortier (F), Borgers (NL), Cunnington (UK), Legrand (F), De Vere-Packford (UK), Dodd (UK) and Van Middendorp (NL). In total, 76 teams out of 114 (66%) finished Wervik, so the rally continued its tradition for our foreign guests..... The best overall result was again for Rowe/Lund who finished on a fantastic 6th overall, in front of much faster cars with experienced locals, including a WRC. 

Certainly, the name 'Rowe' has been much mentioned on Flemish 
rallyforums the last few weeks! Anthony Mortier from France also 
performed very well in his humble Saxo kit car with 15th place 
overall, the next FIRC position was for our dutch friend Eep Borgers, who made a great 35th overall, nearby the UK duo Cunnington with the Chevette.

More news will be online soon, we invite all FIRC competitors to send their stories, suggestions and remarks to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Entry List Geko Rally van Wervik 2010-05-06

The entry list of the GEKO Rally van Wervik van be found online: link

20 crews enter the second round of the FIRC:

  1. Brady Martin – Barry Daniel Toyota Starlet
  2. Borgers Eep – Van de Wardt Peter Opel Astra
  3. Cunnington Nicolas – Cunnington Christopher Vauxhall Chevette
  4. Cook Bill - Bruyneel Yves Talbot Lotus
  5. De Vere-Packford Martin – Calvert Michael Peugeot 306
  6. Debove Jean-Luc Opel Astra
  7. Dodd Neil – Thompson Val MG ZR
  8. Heeren Patrick – Kastelijn Mark Opel Corsa
  9. Howlett Ben - Howlett Simon Peugeot 306 Kit
  10. Legrand Francis – Legrand Mathieu Renault Clio
  11. Lodder Mark - Spicer Michael Skoda Estelle
  12. Morgan John – Llinos Jones-Edwards Ford Escort Cosworth
  13. Mortier
  14. Parmentier Francois – Alliet Timoty Peugeot 106
  15. Pettitt Keith Ford Lotus Cortina
  16. Rixon Chris – English Andy Peugeot 106 Rallye
  17. Rowe Andy – Lund Cat Mitsubishi Evo3
  18. Schewe Heinz-Walter – Blondeel Frank Porsche 996 GT3
  19. Van Middendorpe Andre – Van de Wardt Henk Opel Astra
  20. Wheeler David – Nuyttens Eline Peugeot 106 Rallye
  • 3 Dutch crews
  • 1 Irish crew
  • 4 French crews
  • 1 German crew
  • 11 British crews



Rally Report ORC Canal Rally 2010-05-06

The first round of the FIRC was a great success. Thanks for all the 
the teams to be there! The english drivers made the biggest turnout, we were also very happy to meet our german friend Heinz-Walter Schewe with his impressive Porsche, Eep Borgers from Holland, and father and son Wattine from France, racing a nice Healey Sprite.

Before the rally, both Schewe and Andy Rowe claimed a top ten 
position, not easy regarding the tricky weather conditions, and the 
even more tricky flemish roads. Both teams didn't miss their start, 
with the german Porsche immediately at the same pace as the 
experienced belgian teams of Bruyneel and Mylle, in the same cars.... 
All went well uptill the 3rd stage, when HW Schewe made a classic 
'flemish' error: missed a turn and ditched the Porsche. Altough the 
car was hardly damaged, it was impossible to continue the rally since the car was blocked, no way to get it on the road again. Over and out for the german/belgian team, we hope they do better in Wervik next week. The speed is already there, when HW avoids a little mistake such as this, he will be a very serious contender.

Speedwise the same can be said of the nice english duo Andy Rowe and Cat Lund in the pretty much antique Mitsu Evo 3. Most of the flemish drivers thought about ignoring that old jap, very soon all of them were surprised when they saw the stage times. They got even more surprised when they saw their position at the finish. 6th overall simply is a fantastic result,  a massive achievement that surprised simply everybody! We hope they will be there on all rounds to show some driving lessons to some with much more powerful cars.

Right behind Andy, John Morgan had a short innocent visit in the 
local scenery and decided to cool down a bit with Wervik pretty 
close. Guy Anderson had a good run too, avoiding all the typical 
traps. They made their very honourful way just outside the top ten, quite a result with 124 teams at the start.

A bit further finished Bill Cook with 'last minute' codriver Nico 
Hoflack. After quite a wild run, they finally made up the best FIRC 
deal, together with their french collegue Fabrice Wattine. Finishing 
both high up in their (historic) class, they are now leading the 
current standings at FIRC. With four rounds to go, and the next one next week, it looks like FIRC promises to be a vivid championship, with possibly a surprising winner...
After ORC Canal Rally, some teams will have to repair some cosmetic or mechanical damage, however the organisation is releaved all of the contenders had a nice rallying weekend, and hope te meet you again next year!

FIRC-drivers who want to post their comments on this site: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Results en standings ORC Online 2010-05-06

The results of the ORC Rally are now online: link



ORC CANAL Rally info 2010-05-06

Four days before the first FIRC event we can conclude that a very nice entry list can be presented:

- Anderson Guy - Bull Andy (Mitsubishi Galant VR4)
- Cook Bill - ... (Talbot Lotus Sunbeam)
- De Vere-Packford Martin - Calvert Michael (Peugeot 306 Rallye)
- Elswood Garry - Greenland Andy (Citroen Saxo VTS)
- Morgan John - Jones-Edwards Llinos (ex-Snijers Ford Escort Cosworth)
- Pettitt Keith - Hannah Ellis (Ford Lotus Cortina)
- Rowe Andy - Lund Cat (Mitsubishi Evo III)
- Schewe Heinz-Walter - Blondeel Frank  (Porsche 996 GT3)
- Thomson Andrew - Vincent Richard (Ford Focus)
- Wattinne Patrice - Wattinne Adrien (Austin Healey Sprite)
- Wheeler David - Smith Allen (Peugeot 106 Rallye)

Entrant Chris Rixon will not compete in the event due to an accident last weekend.

In the ORC CANAL Rally a FIRC village will be set up to have all FIRC drivers. More information will be provided on arrival in the ORC Rally.

The full entry list can be found on the ORC website or through this link: http://www.orc-rally.be/?pagina=deelnemerslijst.



ORC CANAL Rally entries 2010-05-06

FIRC-entries in the ORC Rally are coming in very well:

- Anderson Guy - Baker Kim (Mitsubishi Galant VR4)
- De Vere-Packford Martin - Calvert Michael (Peugeot 306 Rallye)
- Elswood Garry - Greenland Andy (Citroen Saxo VTS)
- Morgan John - Jones-Edwards Llinos (ex-Snijers Ford Escort Cosworth)
- Rixon Chris - English Andy (Peugeot 106)
- Rowe Andy - Lund Cat (Mitsubishi Evo III)
- Thomson Andrew - Vincent Richard (Ford Focus)
- Wattinne Patrice - Wattinne Adrien (Austin Healey Sprite)




New and final regulations FIRC 2010! 2010-04-06
After long technical meetings with VAS we have the final technical regulations concerning the entries in the FIRC.

Please have a look via this link



First entrant ORC CANAL Rally 2010-03-25
The organization of the ORC CANAL Rally, first round of the Challenge, has announced their first FIRC entrant. Patrice Wattinne already announced his participation on the full Challenge.



First participants 2010-03-20
The first competitors of the brand new Challenge are announcing their intention of driving one or more rounds in Flanders. British, French and even one German has expressed his interest.

Heinz-Walter Schewe (D), co-driven by Belgian Frank Blondeel, will start in at least 2 races: ORC CANAL Rally and Rally van Wervik with a Porsche 911 from 1976.







Special Cars 2010-02-25
Special Cars (like Metro's, Darrians, "Hybrids",...) may be granted permission individually to drive the FIRC.

You need to send a copy of the road insurance AND road scrutineering to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., a file will be submitted to the VAS and the Flemish Autosport Federation will or will not grant you permission.







Regulations online 2010-02-19
As from now you can find the regulations for the Flanders International Rally Challenge via the link below:



HRCR Show in Gaydon 2010-02-19
Visiting the HRCR in Gaydon was fantastic. Many flyers and posters were handed out. The interest of British drivers in FIRC is huge! Also had a chat with some sponsors and partners.

FIRC will be fantastic :)







FIRC is born 2010-02-19
The Flanders International Rally Challenge has been born. The new series, only open for foreign drivers, will be driven in 5 Flemish tarmac rallies between May and September.

The Calender:
ORC Canal Rally 30 May
Rally of Wervik 12 June
Short Rally Oudenburg-Jabbeke 18 July
Short Rally Staden 15 August
Hemicudarally 25 September







Site is launched 2010-02-19
The organizers of the Flanders International Rally Challenge are proud to present you their website. If you have any remarks or suggestions: info (at) firc.be





Update after SS6


After 6 events we can give you a review  of the first event of the FIRC Championship 2011. In modern classifications the reign of Andy Rowe and Cat Lund is not over. After winning the inaugural Flanders International Rally Challenge in 2010 they are well underway winning the first event of this years challenge. He is still driving the old Evo 3 and is 7th overall in the ORC standings. A fantastic performance knowing there are 3 WRC cars in front of him. Second – and new in the challenge – is Joost Custers, who follows on 1’08. The other fast Dutchman Martijn Broekhuizen driving an ex-Bijvelds Mitsubishi Evo 6 in Makinnen design is third but already after 1’59. Eep Borgers, last year second in the challenge has a gap of 2’12 on Rowe-Lund. However, with the pointsystem he does not have to despair. He is still first in his class while Rowe, Kusters and Broekhuizen are competing in the same class and are therefore fighting in similar cars. At the Historic Division Dominic Fratarolli is leading (15th place overall in ORC classifications) in his unique Datsun 240Z. Together  with Flemish Codriver Jannick Breyne he has an FIRC overall lead of a minute and half on John Morgan who is making his debut in the FIRC Historic part. Third overall is John Legg and is almost two minutes behind Fratarolli. Legg is codriven by Colin Degroote making his debut in English Pacenote! Keith Pettitt, winner of the Historic Cup in 2010 is making his debut in the new Ford Escort MKI and is in 6th overall, behind the Mini Cooper S of Les Allfrey. All FIRC Drivers – except Marcel Borgers, son of – are still in the race. Fantastic given the many ditches, the slippery roads and the stiff competition.












Nog twee weken geduld, en we kunnen opnieuw FIRC-rallyrijden. De inschrijvingen lopen vlot binnen, ook in Wervik komen meer dan 100 teams aan de start. Zowat alle FIRC deelnemers zijn er opnieuw bij, Morgan en Allfrey geven forfait wegens hun deelname aan de Ypres Historic Rally, ook Dominic Frattaroli zou er om deze reden niet bij zijn, maar moet zelfs in Ypres Historic aan de kant blijven. De schade aan de Datsun 240Z is te groot na zijn zware crash in ORC Canal Rally en zal niet op tijd klaar zijn. We wensen het team veel moed in de heropbouw van deze unieke, pijlsnelle wagen. Ook een aantal franse teams is er niet door hun deelname aan een wedstrijd voor de 'Coupe de France' in Normandië hetzelfde weekend, we zien hen later terug in de Rally van Staden, midden augustus. De KP's rond Wervik hebben hetzelfde karakter als grote broer Ypres Rally, dit betekent dat heelwat toppiloten hun wagen komen afstellen. Nu al zijn er 3 S2000's ingeschreven, er komen nog een paar snelle gr. N's bij, ook aan WRC's geen gebrek. FIRC is natuurlijk een wedstrijd in de wedstrijd, maar toch kijken we uit naar de tijden van bvb Rowe en Thomson in het algemeen klassement, of Dawe en Borgers bij de 2WD . We vragen ons ook af welke tijden de nieuwe namen in de FIRC gaan neerzetten. Wervik is een erg uitdagende rally met moeilijke proeven, als de weergoden niet willen meewerken is het hek helemaal van de dam. Het kampioenschap zou er erg interessant kunnen uitzien na deze tweede manche...


De reglementen vindt u terug op de site van de wedstrijd, www.scuderiavervica.be Nog even vermelden dat er opnieuw zal toegezien worden op de brandvrije pull, dit keer zonder uitzondering. In ORC Canal Rally waren er nog enkele teams die deze niet bijhadden. Toen werd er nog een oogje dichtgeknepen, nu niet meer. Ook nog even verduidelijken dat copiloten die al HANS hebben, geen neksteun moeten dragen. Tot slot is het belangrijk om weten dat de verkenningen slechts toegelaten zijn tot 17u 's avonds, dit omwille van een wielerwedstrijd die het parcours dwarst later op de avond. Het roadbook kan evenwel opgehaald worden vanaf 10u, dus er is tijd genoeg. De technische keuring start vanaf 18u.


Update after leg 3 of GEKO Rally van Wervik

After three legs of the 37th GEKO Rally van Wervik, second round of the FIRC a lot has already happened. For Andy Rowe and Cat Lund, who have won the inaugural Flanders International Rally Challenge in 2010, it is the first time the Mitsubishi Evo3 did not finish. A broken turbo forced them to withdraw from the race. Andy and Cat, obviously disappointed, will not take any points in this round except the two points for not finishing. The two points are given to any driver who doesn’t finishes an event but with these two extra points the championship may not be lost. Andy and Cat won the first event in ORC and were again at the top of the classifications of this challenge. Who knows what it will give at the end of the season with not scoring points at the FIRC today.

Eep Borgers, winner of the overall 2WD cup in 2010 and also winner of the 2WD cup in the first round of 2011 is at this time 4th in the 2WD cup, but has to accept his superior to the newcome Hazebrouck Pierre Antoine and Buisine Marine in their Citroen Saxo. Henri Beve is 2nd and Martin De Vere-Packford is third. It looks like Eep is not going to win the 2WD cup in this event. “I had a bad tyre choice this morning and we lost a lot of time during the first round. The car is doing better and better and we go faster and faster every round.” said Eep at the entrance of the service park. It looks like the Frenchmen Hazebrouck and Beve are pushing hard to get this trophy!

In the Historic cup the Brit Keith Pettitt and James McCullough are leading before Damien Gromez, Henry Hardiment and Fabrice Wattinne. Wattinne, who is intending to do every FIRC round in a different car started with a Saab 96 2 Stroke.

John Legg, driving with his regular codriver lewis Davies has had a very bad accident. He went for a total check in the hospital but is gladly uninjured! Also Allan Smith and Graham Chapman had a huge crash but also both driver and codriver are unharmed.

A full review will be posted this week on the FIRC website, also with the points and pictures.




Rowe : 7








FIRC Award Presentation 2011


The FIRC team wishes to thank all drivers, codrivers, mechanics and rallyfans for their support to the 2011 Challenge! For the second consecutive year, we can look back to a great Challenge full of action. Before we burn rubber again, we are happy to invite you and your friends to the 2011 award ceremony. The FIRC boys & girls will cook for you, assisted by two local chefs! We look forward to present you a great selection of hot & cold local specialities, prepared with love... Be there on Saturday 26th November @  'De Klepper', Kanteelpad 4 - 8900 Ieper. Doors open at 19h00. FIRC drivers and codrivers eat for free, guests pay 20 euro pp. FIRC welcomes you with some bubbles. Great choice of local dishes, walking dinner style. The FIRC Rally organisers will be there, joined by many local teams. Drinks at honest prices, we look forward to a big crowd to enjoy a fine night in true rally style. Constant rallyvideos all night with the 2011 VAS clips and some rare & classic footage of local action. We kindly ask you to confirm the number of guests you bring along to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. before the 20th of November. Feel free to forward this mail to your friends. The capacity of the venue is limited to 100 people. Many teams already booked in, so do not wait too long to confirm. There is a big Camping & Campervan Yard (Jeugdstadion) right next door, vast choice of hotels and B&B's in the City Centre and the wider area. Just check www.ieper.be, and discover our beautiful city and the countryside while you're here (again). De Klepper is situated at walking distance from the City Centre (10'), right next to the furniture store 'Crack', there is a big parking.




Ellis/Fowler 4x4 -
Jones/Jonathans 2wd -
Reddington/Fitzgibbon 2wd -
O’ Brien/Mc Daid 4x4 -
Thomas/Jordan 2wd -
Dawson/Dawson histo -
Ranby/Bass histo -
Cook/Bos histo -
Stringer/Soanes histo -
Brown/Stringer 2wd -
Sharp/Ablitt 2wd -
Smith/Moriarty histo -
Thomson/Devlin histo -
Tinn/Dykes 4x4 -
Wood/Kettle 4x4 -
Campling/Ducker 4x4 -
Van Middendorp/Bril 2wd -
Smith/McIlroy 2wd -
McDevitt/ histo -
Clatworthy/Clatworthy histo -
Hands/Bezuidenhout 2wd