Recent winner of the Norh American Rally Cup for the fourth time in his career, Quebec driver Antoine L’Estage (of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC) is set to contest the second last round of the Canadian Rally Championship this weekend with his longtime co-driver Nathalie Richard (of Halifax, NS). With a 41 point lead over their closest title rivals, the duo’s objective is to clinch the 2011 Canadian Rally Championship at this event. In their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, the team has won every single Canadian Rally Championship event since September 2010, including all of the events already held this year. Although scoring a perfect season in Canada is very tempting, their primary focus this weekend will be to secure the title, the second of the year after clinching the North American Rally championship earlier this month at the Rallye Defi.
Since the 2006 season when Antoine won his first Canadian championship and the year that he and Nathalie began competing as a team, Antoine L’Estage has been victorious at twenty-one of the thirty-four events in the Canadian series, giving him an impressive winning score of 62%. Unbeatable in Canada since the 2010 Rallye Defi, the Rockstar Royal Group team does not need to finish higher than tenth place at the Pacific Forest Rally to once again have their names engraved on the Canadian Rally Championship trophy for 2011. “Many of our fans are encouraging us to continue our winning streak and go for the victory at the Pacific Forest Rally this weekend. But, sometimes we have to make choices and this time, our priority is to get enough points to secure another Canadian title,” explains Antoine L’Estage, who adds: “Naturally, if circumstances play in our favour and present the opportunity to win this rally, it’ll be hard to just sit back and not go for it.”
Weather conditions often play a big role in this event, located in and around the town of Merritt, British Columbia, a few hours northeast of Vancouver. “It is not rare for us to compete on gravel roads in the flatter areas and then find ourselves in a foot of snow in the higher altitude competitive stages,” confides Antoine. “It has already happened in the past but our team has always been prepared for this and with our Yokohama tires, we didn’t have any problems.”
The Rockstar Royal Group team has been driving a Mitsubishi in the Canadian, North American, and Rally America championships since 2009. Each season, Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard contest between ten and twelve performance rally events on both sides of the border and each time, they are one of the favoured to win.
Antoine L’Estage holds four North American championship titles (2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011), three Canadian titles (2006, 2007 and 2010), one American title (2010), and thirty-one overall victories in Canada and the US. Nathalie Richard holds six overall national championship titles (3 in Canada and 3 in the USA), as well as thirty-seven overall rally wins on both sides of the border. She is also a seven-time North American Co-Driving Champion (2004 – 2011, excluding 2006).
Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard participate in the 2011 Rally America and Canadian Rally Championships with the support of Rockstar Energy Drink, Royal Group, Yokohama Tires, Mitsubishi Canada, Drenth Motorsport Gearboxes, Garrett Turbos, Energie Cardio, Libra Racing, Driver’s Edge Autosport (OMP), VP Racing Fuels, Exe-Tc Suspensions, Seibon Carbon and Hawk Performance Brake Pads. For more information on the team or on rallying in general, visit antoinelestage.com.
Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard on their way to clinching the North American Rally championship earlier this month.
Photo Credit : Mat Janiak / WorldRallySport
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