Subaru Rally Team USA driver Ken Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino beat out a strong field of competitors to win the 2008 Rallye Baie-des-Chaleurs this weekend in eastern Quebec.

In an event where many teams struggled with rough conditions and mechanical trouble, Block and Gelsomino put in a strong performance.

Though the pair struck a bridge on the first day of action, they were able to recover and carve out a large lead they held to the end.

“It’s my first win and my first finish at a Canadian event, I’m really stoked,” said Ken Block, who made the trip to New Richmond from San Diego, California.

Subaru Rally Team Canada’s Pat Richard of Squamish, B.C., and Alan Ockwell, from Toronto, ON, finished second in the event after continued teething problems with the team’s new Subaru Impreza WRX STI.

“Baie was a mixed rally for us,” said Richard. “When the car was working, we were doing well, winning four stages. I’m thankful we were able to stay in it to the end, and it’s great to have earned the maximum championship points.”

With Ken Block ineligible for championship points because he hasn’t applied for a Canadian competition licence, Richard and Ockwell take the top points for the championship.

Mechanical trouble threatened Antoine L’Estage and co-driver Nathalie Richard of St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, QC, on the first day of competition. Overnight repairs got the Hyundai-supported duo back into the contest on the second day, and they blazed back into third-place overall.

“Considering the problems we had, it’s a good result,” said L’Estage. “I wanted to get more points for the championship. Now we’ll have to fight very hard for the rest of the season.”

Andrew Comrie-Picard and co-driver Marc Goldfarb found themselves out of the rally on the first day due to a mechanical failure on their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IV.

“We’re working on developing our newer Mitsubishi Evolution IX for the X Games in August,” said Comrie-Picard. “The Evo IV’s a great car, but there’s always the risk of teething problems when you bring a car back into competition after a couple of years. We’ll be back in the action for the next one!”

Tim Penasack of New Hampshire, and co-driver Ole Holter from California, took the top spot in the Production 4 class, while the two-wheel drive honours went to Eric Grochowski and Leanne Junnila in their Group 2 Volkswagen Golf. The pair travelled from their hometown of Calgary, AB, to compete at this contest.

“This is exactly what we needed,” said Grochowski. “We had a ton of fun.”

The Rallye Baie-des-Chaleurs marks the halfway point in the Canadian Rally Championship and is known for its fast and technical roads as well as huge numbers of spectators. Competitors typically rank it among the highlights of the season.

“This is my new favourite event, great roads, great fans, it’s just amazing,” said Junnila.

The event included a demanding 185 kilometers of fast competitive stages over gravel and hard-packed dirt.

“I’m very happy about not just the number of entries, but the quality of the entries,” said Marc-Andre Leblanc, rally co-ordinator. “This event is a lot of work, and it would not have been possible without the volunteers.”

Patrick Richard and Alan Ockwell extend their overall lead in the Canadian Rally Championship, followed by Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard.

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 series stays in Quebec for the next round of the championship, the Rallye Defi, Sept 5-6, 2008, north of Montreal, Quebec.

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

For more information: www.carsrally.ca or www.rallyebdc.com

Rallye Baie-Des-Chaleurs Final Results (full results at www.rallyebdc.com)
1 ) Ken Block – Alex Gelsomino (Subaru WRX STI) – 1 hour 54 min. 27 sec.
2 ) Pat Richard – Alan Ockwell (Subaru WRX STI) – 1:56:32
3 ) Antoine L’Estage – Nathalie Richard (Hyundai Tiburon) – 1:57:50
4 ) Mathieu L’Estage – Yanick Napert (Mitsubishi EVO V) – 1:58:36
5 ) Joel Levac – Laurence-Fanny L’Estage (Subaru Impreza WRX) – 2:01:38
6 ) Craig Henderson – Lyne Murphy (Subaru Impreza STI) – 2:01:58
7 ) Bruno Carre – Yvan Joyal (Subaru Impreza STI) – 2:04:19
8 ) David Legault – Pat Lavigne (Mitsubishi EVO IV) – 2:06:20
9 ) Simon Losier – Maxime Losier (Mitsubishi EVO VIII) – 2:07:27
10) John Cassidy – Dave Getchell (Subaru Impreza STI) – 2:08:52

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