Home driver Freddy Loix has taken an early lead in the Belgium Ypres Rally, using his local knowledge to get ahead of fellow Peugeot driver Kris Meeke
Loix won the second stage of the evening, Hollebeke 1, following up with another win on the third stage, Lille-Eurometropole 1, to go 5.7 seconds clear of the Ulsterman, who had led after SS1 despite professing at the startline to having 'learnt his lesson' after tearing a wheel off the car in shakedown.
"The first stage was incredibly difficult," Meeke said. "I never knew it could be so slippery - the problem is that if you slide six inches you're going off. You can't afford to take chances and just have to hang in there because a lot of people are having problems."
The two Peugeots have pulled clear of Jan Kopecky's Skoda Fabia, while Abarth's Bernd Casier tumbled back through the order from fourth at the end of stage one to seventh at the end of stage three.
Defending champion Nicolas Voullioz heavily damaged his Peugeot 207 on the opening stage, suffering a high-speed moment that tore most of the nose of the car away.
"It's not steering so well now," he said. "We were going fast, hit a bump and we spun quite fast."
The Frenchman dropped to 59th at the end of the stage but recovered to set the fifth fastest time on the second and third stages.
Other early casualties among the frontrunners included the Skoda Belgium entry of former World Rally Championship winner Francois Duval, who crashed out a few hundred metres from the start, and the all new Opel Corsa of Alexandre Bengue, which suffered from engine problems.
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