It’s a battle for mid-season points as the competition heats up at the thrilling Rallye Baie-des-Chaleurs in New Richmond, Quebec (June 26-28), round three of the Canadian Rally Championship presented by Subaru.

Throngs of roaring crowds will turn out for the high-speed contest that features a fast and flowing course and one of the biggest rally jumps on the continent. These enthusiastic fans will be treated to some of the stiffest competition of the year so far, with a packed field of more than 50 entries from across Canada and the United States.

Subaru Rally Team Canada’s Pat Richard, of Squamish, BC, and co-driver Alan Ockwell are looking to defend their series lead after debuting his 2008 Subaru Impreza STI with a win at the last round, Calgary’s Rocky Mountain Rally.

“We’re still developing the car to make it a bit quicker and more reliable for the rough events,” says Richard, “but we are leading the series overall, so our objective this weekend is to come out of the event with some decent points towards the championship.”

But Antoine L’Estage and co-driver Nathalie Richard are going to be tough to beat. The St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, duo won this event last season and are prepared to battle back into the series lead. The Hyundai-supported team started the season with a win at the snowy first round, but dropped to second place in the standings after failing to finish in Alberta.

“Baie-Des-Chaleurs is a rally that I have always loved, with great roads and great fans,” said L’Estage. “Pat Richard and Ken Block are going to be tough competition here, but our goal is to come away leading the Canadian championship once again.”

Although not a Canadian series regular, Subaru Rally Team USA’s Ken Block has a pair of X Games Rally medals and competition experience from around the world. He’s a threat at any event he enters.

Likewise, Canadian Andrew “ACP” Comrie-Picard and co-driver Marc Goldfarb – the team that’s currently leading the fiercely competitive U.S. series — are also regular contenders for a podium result in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. They’re sitting in third in the points right now after they failed to finish Round 2.

“This is a great event and it has been really good to us in the past,” said Comrie-Picard. “We hope to continue that tradition again this year.”

With an entry list of over fifty cars, including thirteen Seed 1 and 2 drivers, these established contenders will be watching their backs. Local entry Martin Gauvin never disappoints at this event and could be among the challengers for the podium in his Subaru WRX. Veteran Quebec driver Jon Nichols is proving able in his Open class Mitsubishi and the ever-popular “Crazy” Leo Urlichich is always a driver to watch.

“The event is a classic and known for some spectacular stages,” said rally coordinator Marc-Andre Leblanc. “The crowds are some of the biggest in Canada and the fans really know the sport. It’s a high energy atmosphere.”

The event, held from June 26-27, includes 185 kilometers of competitive stages run near the town of New Richmond on the South shore of the Gaspe Peninsula.

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 kilometres 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 Tire 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.

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

For more information on the web: www.CARSrally.ca ; www.rallyebdc.com

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