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Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard (St Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Que.) steered clear of danger to win the 2009 Rallye Defi, the fourth round of the Canadian Rally Championship, presented by Subaru and supported by Yokohama. With the win, the pair also move into the points lead for the 2009 championship.

“We’re very happy with what is the best possible result,” said L’Estage. “We have retaken the lead in the championship, and also have tied the record for the number of wins at Defi. The Mitsubishi Rockstar Energy Drink Concerto car was perfect for the entire event!”

L’Estage has won the event four times. Only rally legend, John Buffum, has achieved the same record.

Second place went to Craig Henderson and Lyne Murphy (New Richmond, Que.). The two had worked their way up the order in a car different from what they normally use.

“The support from Sylvain Erickson for the use of his Subaru Impreza STI, and for crewing for us was the best part of the rally,” said Henderson. “We were learning about how to drive the car all day, because it has much more power than my car. There is a lot more speed in that car, but for our first national event with this car, it is a great result.”

Third place was awarded to Steeve Hobbs and Jean Mathieu Tremblay (Lac Sainte Jean, Que.) in their Subaru Impreza WRX. In only his second national event, Hobbs worked his way up from a 29th place start position.

“This is amazing, we had no idea how well we could do,” said a jubilant Hobbs. “We tried to drive safely and smart but still fast and it has paid off.”

The top two-wheel drive entry was Jan and Jody Zedril (Winnipeg, Man.) in their Mitsubishi Lancer. The two built a steady lead early on and continued to expand the margin to the finish.

“We were really lucky, we had no punctures, and no problems at all,” said Jody Zedril. “There is some good competition in two wheel drive, like Eric Grochowski and Peter Kocandrle, so we knew we couldn’t give up any time or they could have passed us.”

The closest competition to L’Estage came in the form of Subaru Rally Team Canada’s Pat Richard (Squamish, B.C.) and Alan Ockwell (Toronto, Ont.). The two had been leading after the first day’s action, when a transmission failure on Saturday morning sidelined the team.

Andrew Comrie-Picard (Toronto, Ont.) and Robbie Durant (Oxford, U.K.) were a close third until they damaged the oil cooler on their Mitusbishi EVO X on Saturday morning, forcing their retirement from the event.

Top contenders Ken Block (Encinitas, California) and Alex Gelsomino (Los Angeles) of Subaru Rally Team USA ended their event on the first stage, when mechanical problems struck their vintage Ford Escort.

Rally organizer B. Gilles Lacroix was keen to congratulate the finishers. “This event was very demanding on teams and the cars, and is not an easy one to finish,” said Lacroix. “The teams that made it to the end are to be commended for their skill in managing the rough conditions.”

Rally car racing is often described simply as “real cars, real roads, real fast.” The all-season motorsport sees drivers and their co-drivers take modified road cars to the limit as they achieve blistering speeds over closed-road courses that typically cover more than 150 kilometers of gravel, dirt or snow-covered roads. Fans can get up close to the cars in the service areas and catch all the action from specially designated spectator points located at the best spots on the route.

The Canadian Rally Championship is comprised of six events held nationwide in a season that extends from February to November. The series is presented by Subaru Canada, supported by Yokohama Canada and features contingency programs from Subaru Canada and Mitsubishi Canada. The Canadian Association of Rallysport (CARS) is the official sanctioning body for rallying in Canada.

The next event on the Canadian Rally Championship is the Pacific Forest Rally, in Merritt, B.C., October 2 – 3, 2009.

Rallye Defi Final Results (full results at www.rallyedefi.com)
1) Antoine L’Estage – Nathalie Richard (Mitsubishi EVO X) – 1 hours 11 min. 20 sec.
2) Craig Henderson – Lyne Murphy (Subaru Impreza STI ) – 1:14:27
3) Steeve Hobbs – Jean Mathieu Tremblay (Subaru Impreza STI) – 1:17:38
4) Leo Urlichich – Martin Headland (Subaru Impreza STI) – 1:18:08
5) Simon Losier – Francois Morin (Mitsubishi EVO VIII) – 1:18:18
6) Maxime Losier – Philippe Poirier (Mitsubishi EVO VIII) – 1:19:04
7) Bruno Carre – Yvan Joyal (Subaru Impreza) – 1:19:10
8) Hardy Schmidtke – Adam Vokes (Subaru Impreza WRX) – 1:19:47
9) Martin Losier – Patrick Losier (Mitsubishi EVO V) – 1:20:29
10) Martin Donnelly – Dave Schindle (Subaru Impreza STI) – 1:21:21

Full coverage of the championship will air on RDS and TSN. Check local listings.

For more information: www.CARSrally.ca ; www.rallyedefi.com

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