Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard, from St. Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, overcame a blown turbocharger and heavy competition from the Subarus and Mitsubishis to guide their 2007 Hyundai Tiburon to victory at the 32nd running of the Waste Management Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally presented by Citizens & Northern Bank and sanctioned by Rally America

L’Estage, driving the lone Hyundai in the field, settled in early in the two-day rally through the state of Pennsylvania Department of Natural Resources forests and Waste Management property roads while the top points drivers either crashed or had mechanical problems, and was there at the end to take 17-second win over the 2006 Subaru Impreza WRX STI of Tanner Foust (Capistrano Beach, Calif.) and co-driver Christine Beavis (San Diego, Calif.).

“We had mechanical problems all day,” said L’Estage, a 35 year-old fitness center owner who scored his second win of the season (the other was Sno-Drift in Michigan), “but our crew kept accepting our wounded chariot in service and giving us back a perfect car for the next stage. With the heat and humidity, and all our problems, this was really a team effort.

Ms. Richard, who is a multi-time Canadian and U.S. rally champion co-driver, said her driver took what the conditions allowed, and saved his best driving for the end of the rally, when the stage time battle was close and the conditions were rough. The winning duo won four of the rally’s 12 stages. She also becomes the first woman co-driver to win overall at STPR.

“Antoine had a slim lead when we entered the next-to-last stage, Waste Management #12, and he knew he had to go fast enough to stay ahead, but could not afford to make a mistake. Several cars had broken on that stage over the past two days, and we knew we couldn’t let the rough roads beat us – that’s what performance rally is all about,” she said.

That particular stage – 12 miles through the Waste Management land south of Wellsboro, was more like a World Rally stage, where drivers have to learn to give what the course offers because of rapidly changing surfaces and grip conditions. Several of the international drivers who have competed in rallies all over the world said this was one of the most interesting and competitive stages they have ever seen.

It was that stage early in the rally on Friday that claimed the brand new 2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STI of Ken Block (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.) and Alex Gelsomino (Santa Clarita, Calif.). The car, a new Subaru 5-door running its first rally ever, broke a weld on a lower control arm in the rear suspension on stage two (the same as Saturday’s stage #12) and was eliminated from the competition. Block, only three points out of first place in the championship standings, missed a golden opportunity to move into first place as the two drivers ahead of him in the standings also did not finish.

Block returned to the rally action on Saturday, although he was officially out of the rally and his times did not count in the standings, he “won” two stages with his repaired Subaru, showing that the new car is fast as advertised, and giving his Subaru Rally Team USA some valuable test miles under the fire of competition.

The Travis Pastana (Davidsonville, Maryland)/Derek Ringer (England) 2008 Subaru Impreza – identical to Block’s car – also had suspension problems of Friday, and then rolled halfway through the opening stage on Saturday, causing their DNF. Travis entered the event only one point behind the leaders in the championship chase.

Points leaders Andrew Comrie-Picard (Toronto) and Marc Goldfarb (Atkinson, New Hampshire) were leading the rally in its early and mid-stage periods, lost time because of an impact on stage five, and then overheating caused them to lose their engine in their 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9RS on stage eight, putting them out of the event.

So the Rally America national points chase for the top three remain the same (plus one point for starting the event): Comrie-Picard with 59 points; Pastrana – 58 points; and Block with 56 points.

Foust and Beavis had a shot at winning the rally as the stages wound down, but busted a turbo intercooler hose on their Subaru and lost valuable time on stage eight. The pair won five stages, including both Subaru Super Special stages – a closed course circuit set up at the Tioga County Fairgrounds.

Fourth in the point standings is now Matthew Johnson (Apex, NC)/Jermey Whimpey (Blacksburg, VA), who finished third in the rally in a 2007 Subaru WRX STI. Johnson and Whimpey now have 51 points, and have vaulted themselves into the championship points chase. They were one of the few teams that had a flawless run on a day where the temperatures in the cars exceed 110 degrees F.

The Andrew Pinker (Perth, Australia)/Robbie Durant (Oxfordshire, England) 2006 Subaru Impreza WRX STI, which led the early stages of the rally, lost three minutes during the early Saturday afternoon segments due to a faulty turbo, and finished fourth, four minutes off the pace.

Class winners include Patrick Moro/Mike Rossey in 2002 Subaru WRX (Production GT); John Conley/Karen Wagner in a 2003 Dodge SRT4 (Group 5); Silvio Alva/Benjamin Slocum in a 1994 Nissan Sentra SE-R (Group 2).

In the regional rally events (stages scored for regional drivers within the national event), the brother and sister team of Russ Hodges and Cindy Krolikowski, driving a 1995 Subaru WRX STI, won the Sherwood Forest Regional Rally (best score on stages one through eight); and Scott Wilburn/Aaron Crescenti in a 2003 Subaru WRX won the Finger Lakes Region Rally (stages 9 -13).

“We were thrilled to host the Waste Management Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally this year,” said Waste Management Area Vice President Jim Dancy. “The competitors, fans, and rally officials really showcased their sport for the fans in North Central Pennsylvania, and our company was pleased to be a part of it.”

“We share the same commitment to conservation, stewardship and environmental protection. Just as the rally during its long history has brought changes and improvements over time, Waste Management historically thought of as a trash company is much more. It has evolved to an environmental services company increasing waste-based energy production, increasing recyclable materials processed, supporting the local economy, and reusing our resources by preserving and restoring increasing acreage for wildlife habitat, with presently six Pennsylvania landfills and close to 7,800 acres in Pennsylvania certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council.”

Complete results, stage times, incident reports, media notes, video and photos can be viewed on the official event web site – www.stpr.org.

Comments

comments

Powered by Facebook Comments