Quebec driver Antoine L’Estage and co-driver Nathalie Richard, both of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu (Quebec), participated in this past weekend’s Rocky Mountain Rally, the second of six rounds in the 2009 Canadian Rally Championship. Overall leaders after the first rally of the season, the duo was unable to complete Calgary’s event due to mechanical problems. Their performance prior to stopping was confirmation of their competitiveness, despite competing on gravel for the first time in the new Rockstar Royal Group Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X.

Often contested in winter-like weather conditions, the 2009 Rocky Mountain Rally was blessed with sunny skies and mid-summer temperatures. Antoine and Nathalie started the rally as first car on the road, forcing them to “sweep” the thin layer of gravel coating the competition roads, much to the advantage of their adversaries. “We knew we would drop some time on the first couple of stages but our Yokohama tires allowed us to excel under these conditions,” explains Antoine. “This is also the first time I drove my new Rockstar Royal Group Evo X on gravel and to see that were we mere seconds – or tenths of seconds – off the pace confirms our competitiveness and is reassuring for the future,” he adds.

Under blue skies the following morning, the L’Estage/Richard team closed the gap to within four seconds of eventual winners Pat Richard/Alan Ockwell. Everything came to halt after the fourth stage of the day, during which the team’s rear differential broke, causing them to drop a minute off the lead. “Our mechanics attempted repairs during the service break but on the penultimate stage of the rally, we were sidelined in spite of our minute and a half lead ahead of third place. It’s disappointing because our objective was to earn valuable championship points but now I leave Calgary tied for the championship lead with Pat. The good news is that I learned a lot about the car and how it handles and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season,” concludes L’Estage.

Before heading to Rallye Baie-des-Chaleurs later this month, Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard will compete in round 5 of the Rally America series, Pennsylvania’s Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally (STPR). L’Estage and Richard won this rally in 2008 and commencing Friday, June 5th, they will attempt to defend that victory amongst a talented field of US and international drivers.

Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard participate in the 2009 Canadian Rally Championship with the proud support of Rockstar Energy Drink, Royal Group, Mitsubishi Canada, Yokohama Tires, Mobil, Energie Cardio, Libra Racing, OMP Racewear, and MBF Racing. For more details on the team or general rally information, please visit the Coyote Rallye Website.

Photo: World Rally Sport, http://www.worldrallysport.com/



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