‘Classic: more than a success, a plebiscite!
With near on 200 cars entered in the ‘Classic’ category out of the 300 expected at the start on Saturday 18th February, the least one can say and write is that the ’60 km/h’ enthusiasts reacted to the organisers of the Legend Boucles @ Bastogne 2017 call! Proof that the ‘boost’ put in by Pierre Delettre and his team with a view to the 2016 edition has definitely borne its fruits …
“Since last year the elements pleading in favour of the ‘Classic’ category have ever increased, the organiser explained. There is obviously the arrival of Eric Chapa acting as the man responsible for these regularity specialists, but also the adoption of the Blunik system, which has already proven itself, not forgetting a communication specific to the ‘Classic’ category, providing a widely deserved visibility for the competitors in this category. We expected a fair success for 2017, and now we are faced with a true plebiscite. Proof that running closed RT sections of the Legend Boucles at 60 km/h also makes sense. And then Belgium is clearly the country of Regularity, more than ever confirmed … “
It is worth recalling that it was in Belgium that the regularity events for classic cars saw the light of day, with the Coupe des Sources treasured by Pascal Collard, who in fact is acting as the Competitors’ Relations Officer for the Legend Boucles @ Bastogne 2017. Over the years, certain co-drivers (essential elements for a Regularity team) have made a speciality of these games for big boys, and have now become masters in the art of calculating an average and ensuring that it is respected. In order for a team to have a maximum number of chances of excelling, a driver must be able to handle a car, attack when it proves to be necessary, but the car must also be able to take on any irregularities the terrain throws at it … especially in the beginning of the season’s event setting off from the Place McAuliffe in Bastogne. Nevertheless, the old-timer machines entered in ‘Classic’ are distinctly less costly than those battling it out for victory in ‘Legend’, which might also explain the category’s success.
Heading for a Belgium-France match, refereed by Italy?
If on the one hand Belgium is the homeland of Regularity – as shown in the Monte Carlo Rally Historic and the Rallye Neige et Glace -, it should be noted that over the editions of the Legend Boucles @ Bastogne, the French threat is becoming ever more real. Again this year three French teams are, on paper, in a position to thwart the plans of the Belgian specialists. Starting off with Frédéric Magdziarek and Philippe Lhomme, whose extremely gorgeous and original BMW 2800 CS nearly claimed gold last year. On the other hand, Christophe and Anne Baillet, who are sharing the cockpit of a Ford Escort RS2000 MK2, stood up to the Belgians on home ground, during the ‘Neige et Glace’ only a few days ago, and decided to take a revenge on Belgian territory! Jérôme Ambrosini and Montgomery Abel (Audi 80 GT) are other regulars of the Legend Boucles, and there is no doubt of their potential.
Among the transalpine teams, we can also state our views. Piero Lorenzo Zanchi and Giovanni Agnese can pride themselves on having won the Monte-Carlo Rally Historic in 2015. They have no intention of acting as tourists in Bastogne with their beautiful Lancia Flavia 1800 Coupé, In fact no more so than Alessandro Olivieri and Cesare Rainisio, whose Ford Anglia 105 E continues to surprise one and all over the course of editions and events.
We remain more curious when it comes to competitors emanating from Estonia and Latvia, not really knowing the level. Starting off with Thomas Kreekandt-Arvi Hain, who will be sharing an original VAZ 21011 of Soviet build.
Up against competitors from the south, they will – inevitably – be numerous trying to be a prophet in their own country. If on the one hand Yves Deflandre, winner of the 2016 edition in ‘Classic’, has migrated to the ‘Legend’ category this year, his co-driver Patrick Lienne is remaining faithful to Regularity, teaming up with Patrick Lambert (BMW 2002 Ti). He will surely be attempting a back-to-back, fully knowing that he will need to cross swords with some highly experienced duos, such as Gengou-Gathy (Volvo 142 S), Ninane-Simon (Opel Kadett C), Baugnée-Remion (Ford Escort MK1), Simon-Duchesne (Porsche 924 S), Crucifix-Caldeira (Porsche 911 Carrera or Ford Anglia 105 E), Reuter-Vandevorst (Porsche 914/6), Piraux-Monard (Renault 5 Alpine Gr.2), Van Rompuy-Vanoverschelde (Opel Ascona B), Chaballe-Chalsèche (Volvo 122 S), Franchi-Bernard (Audi Coupé Quattro), etc.
It would be a wise person able to predict the top-3 of the Legend Boucles @ Bastogne 2017 in ‘Classic’. Particularly as in the wake of these ‘experts’, we come across a just as impressive list of outsiders, such as among others Delporte-Bozet (Porsche 924), Van Dalen-Minguet (Ford Escort MK2), Dujardyn-Deplancke (Porsche 911 Carrera RS), Collignon-Felot (BMW 2002 Ti), Martens-Pyck (Volvo PV544), Dufrasne-Dogne (VW Golf GTI).
Worth noting the arrival in ‘Classic’ of Stefaan Prinzie, a specialist of historic rallies who for the occasion will be taming a BMW 320i with Sharon Vermeulen on his right.
In ‘Classic’ we will also come across various personalities treating themselves to a relaxed weekend – or almost – in the Legend Boucles. The former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, a heavyweight in European politics, has also become a regular entrant in the event, and if on the one hand he retains Guido Devreker on his right, this year he will be at the wheel of a Lancia Beta Coupé. An Italian machine entered by the Abarth Squadra Storica Racing of Guy Moerenhout, the latter ever-present in the company of Filip De Munck with a Fiat 124 Abarth Rally.
In its ‘Flower Power’ livery, the Ford Escort MK2 of ‘Mister J&Joy’, Pierre Hamblenne, and ‘Mister Orbea’, Bernard Dejaeghere, have little chance of going unnoticed. As for Jean Dewandre, always teamed up with Vincent Snyers, it is his profession of … vicar that makes him a distinctive competitor, madly keen on the Talbot Sunbeam Ti.
Ultimate quality of the ‘Classic’ category, the large variety of cars that will be taking on the course. To the great delight of the numerous fans, it will be a fair selection of the automotive heritage that will be striding it out along the course, with models ranging from the Citroën 2CV and the Renault 4 through to the Mercedes 500 SLC and the Datsun 240 Z, by way of the VW Beetle, the Simca 1000, various DAF 55 and 66, Skoda 110 and 120, the Saab 99, the Trabant P601, the Fiat X1/9 (in Prototipo Replica version!), not forgetting a purebred Austin Healey 3000. Without a doubt there will be something to everyone’s taste both on Saturday and Sunday … Make way for a new ‘Battle of the Bulge’ of Regularity at 60 km/h average, with teams crossing swords, struggling at times, but always enjoying themselves. It’s about to happen … (End)