Quebec driver Antoine L’Estage (of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu) and his co-driver Nathalie Richard (of Halifax, Nova Scotia) won this weekend’s thirty-fifth running of the Rallye Baie-des-Chaleurs, in Gaspesie, QC. At the midway point of the 2012 Canadian Rally Championship calendar, the Rockstar Energy Drink rally team has won all three rounds of the series thus far, marking Antoine L’Estage’s thirty-fifth career overall victory.
Leading the event from the first competitive stage all the way to the last, Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard drove their Mitsubishi Evo X to a third consecutive win in the Canadian Rally Championship. Unbeatable in Canada since last year, the duo has just won their third competition in five weeks, including their victory at Pennsylvania’s STPR rally at the beginning of June.
From the outside, this wekend’s victory at the Rallye Baie-des-Chaleurs seemed easy but Antoine L’Estage says it was anything but. “Of course it’s always nice to continue such a successful streak but I definitely can’t say this weekend was an easy one. Friday, as soon as the rally started, there was a major downpour in New Richmond, forcing us to race in horrible conditions. Quickly, the roads became very muddy and extremely slippery and driving accuracy became even more important. It was great to have my Yokohama tires.” The reigning champion adds, “We wanted to push hard on Friday night and try to build up a lead to make things a little easier for us on Saturday. Our competition pushed really hard and suffered from windshield fogging like us, but we were able to win all the stages and finish the night with a lead of almost one and a half minutes.”
Saturday, under sunny skies but on roads that were still somewhat muddy, the Rockstar Energy Drink team stuck to the plan and maintained their position. Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard built up an even larger gap between them and the rest of the pack, finishing the event by a dominating margin of three minutes and thirteen seconds.
This marks Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard fourth victory at the Rallye Baie-des-Chaleurs, tying them for the most wins at this popular event. It also increases their lead in the Canadian Rally Championship, as well as in the North American Rally Cup. “Nobody made any mistakes, the car was perfectly reliable from start to finish, and our service crew had very little work to do on the car all weekend. This weekend was a big win for the entire team and it places us in a great position for the second half of the season,” highlights co-driver Nathalie Richard.
Antoine L’Estage holds four North American championship titles (2007, 2008, 2010, 2011), four Canadian titles (2006, 2007, 2010, 2011), one American title (2010), and thirty-five overall victories in Canada and the US. Nathalie Richard holds seven overall national championship titles (4 Canadian and 3 American), as well as forty-one overall rally wins on both sides of the border. She also holds a record seven North American Co-Driving Championship titles (2004 – 2011, excluding 2006).
Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard participate in the 2012 Rally America and Canadian Rally Championships with the support of Rockstar Energy Drink, Formica Group, Fenetres Concerto, Mitsubishi Canada, Yokohama Tires, Drenth Motorsport Gearboxes, Garrett Turbos, Energie Cardio, VP Racing Fuels, Exe-Tc Suspensions, Hawk Performance Brake Pads, Driver’s Edge Autosport, and Libra Racing. For more information on the team or on rallying in general, visit antoinelestage.com.
Photos : Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard, winners of the 35th edition of the Rallye Baie-des-Chaleurs.
Photos: Antoine Belanger-Leclerc, Mike Proulx.