The Belgian VW Club is heading towards
Sweden, and twice rather than once!
After its magnificent victory in the team rankings of the E-Rallye Monte-Carlo three months ago, the Belgian VW Club is setting off again for a new season in the Bridgestone FIA ecoRally Cup. On the Swedish snow of the Östersund Winter EcoRally, the two “Belgian” Volkswagen ID.3s will be entrusted to the duos Bernard Heine-Valérie Piette and Éric Cunin-Virginie Palizeul.
With its large expanses and snow conditions at this time of year, Sweden is a rallying country. For speed rallies, of course, but also recently for regularity rallies in electric cars. As in 2023, it is in Scandinavia that the Bridgestone FIA ecoRally Cup begins, a rapidly expanding championship supervised by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile. With the Volkswagen ID.3s of the Bernard Heine-Valérie Piette and Éric Cunin-Virginie Palizeul duos, the Belgian VW Club will be doubly represented on this Östersund Winter EcoRally, scheduled for January 26 and 27 in Jämtland County.
“We discovered this rally last year and had a blast,” says Valérie. “The landscapes are superb and the snow makes it a real sporting challenge. We had led the entire event in the regularity classification before an incident deprived us of victory in the last sector. When the calendar came out, we directly marked this date in our diary with the hope of taking revenge on fate. As a bonus, we are joined by Éric and Virginie, whom we will sort of guide for their premiere in Sweden. This is fully in line with the team spirit that characterizes the Belgian VW Club! »
With fresh snow forecast in the coming days and temperatures well below 0 degrees, grip conditions will be reduced, to the delight of the Belgian VW Club crews. “Bernard and I both have some experience in speed rallying and we appreciate events that highlight driving,” smiles Éric, who notably counts ten victories at the Semois Rally in his list of achievements. “In partnership with the Llorens by Autosphère group, I discovered regularity rallies in electric cars during the first Ardenne Roads ecoRally, held in the Durbuy region in June. I then continued with the legendary E-Rally Monte-Carlo. It was a treat and it confirmed my first impression: even if it is necessarily an adrenaline rush different from a speed rally, this discipline has a lot of charm and it is more sporty than it seems ! Always supported by Llorens by Autosphère and by Rent Speed Racing, this time I am taking my wife Virginie Palizeul on this Swedish adventure. »
It is indeed a question of adventure with a journey of more than 2,200 km – passing through Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Norway and Sweden – to reach Östersund. “We did the road together with Bernard and Valérie and I must say that, for such a long journey in an electric car, we are pleasantly surprised,” continues Virginie Palizeul, who has several speed rallies under her belt, but who will discover regularity. “The car’s navigation system shows us the places where we need to recharge and we were able to enjoy the landscapes and the Denmark-Norway ferry crossing. Using last year’s route, we are going to do some exercises this Wednesday with Bernard and Valérie so that I can fully understand my role as regularity co-pilot and master the crisartech system, which helps us manage the average. Then, there will be administrative and technical checks before leaving on Friday for two busy days! »
If Éric and Virginie took the studded tires in the trunk, Bernard and Valérie will have the adapted wheels fitted to the Volkswagen Berners dealership in Östersund, proof that the ecoRally remains, above all, friendly and accessible to all. “These studded tires won’t be a luxury,” laughs Bernard. “In addition to the locals, we will have to face around ten crews from the four corners of Europe. Among them, the Czechs Michal Zdarsky-Jakub Nabelek, 2023 champions of the Bridgestone FIA ecoRally Cup, the Italian Guido Guerrini and his Polish co-driver Artur Prusak, vice-champions and winners in Östersund last year, and the French Didier Malga and Anne-Valérie Bonnel. All of them are among the leaders of the discipline. On the manufacturer side, Volkswagen will be one of the nine brands represented. We hope to be able to aim for a place on the podium, but there will be sport! »
On the menu, more than 330 km of regularity sectors spread over two very intense days. To follow the adventures of the two crews defending the colors of Volkswagen and Belgium, subscribe to the Belgian VW Club social networks!